Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book Reviews - North or Be Eaten & Monster In the Hollows

I finished books 2 & 3 of the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson last week.   This is the much awaited review of them.  Again, I'm trying not to spend a lot of time on plot so as not to give too much away.  My review of book 1 can be found HERE.

Here's the Links for the books.

I must say the further I went into this series, the better they got.  The first book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, was at times silly and whimsical as you learn about the world the characters live in.    There are still funny moments in these two, like the Castle Décor based on kittens or Podo Helmer’s story to a group of thieves about their famed founder, but the danger is greater and the pace of the books is faster. 

Best of all, of the features that made the first book so good from a parental perspective are still there and built upon.  The characters are in greater danger so in a sense, these books are darker, but there is also a great sense of hope.

There were times in these remaining two books that I was moved to tears.  The tears were inspired by good writing and wasn’t always caused by something sad, but often being proud of the characters, or rejoicing with them.

North or Be Eaten starts with the family soon to be on the run.  The story focuses more on the older brother Janner and how he responds and reacts to things like duty, honor, expectations & responsibility.  Many times his sense of these ideas becomes judgmental toward his younger brother Tink as the two boys come to terms with their roles.  Janner is the protector of his brother and sister and he struggles with being brave or strong enough to fill the role, but especially when he is frustrated by his brother’s actions and decisions.   But throughout, love, the closeness of family and honor overcome even sibling rivalry.

Again, this is one aspect that is powerful in all the books: the connection and closeness of family, something that is typically lost in our modern culture.  Multiple Generations rarely stay together and interact like we used to.  Here in America, our lives are less likely to be in jeopardy in ways that the family has to stick together to watch out for each other in order to survive.  There are fewer causes for which risking our life to save the others is necessary.  But in many instances, it is those types of hardships that make the bond of family tighter.

There are several instances, especially in the third book, when the brothers and sister stand up for each other that brought me to tears for being proud of them.

Another aspect that is powerful is the reality that actions and decisions have consequences.  And sometimes, those consequences will create problems later.  For example, in the second book, the family gets separated and it is agonizing for all involved.  The boys get separated from their mother, sister & grandfather.  This uncertainty makes for difficult decisions—should they continue in the journey or wait and risk capture?  Then the boys get separated from each other because of bad decisions.  Both boys suffer consequences.

Janner’s experience brings to light the tragedy of child slavery that is still too prevalent in the world today.  It also shows how hope of escape must not be lost and can be an inspiration to others.
Tink’s experience brings to light elements of prejudice but also how one’s own suffering can and should move you to greater compassion.

Other characters struggle with the fear of failure and wrong actions from their past.  They fear what will happen or if anyone will still love them if the truth is found out.  There are some powerful moments of redemption and forgiveness in these moments.

Another powerful element is that the kids especially are repeatedly told not to forget who they are.  They have a unique identity that the pressures they are under are going to try and tear away from them.  No matter what the world throws at them, the darkness of their circumstances, it is their identity that unites them, gives them strength and hope to face the moments.  They face capture & bullies because of who they are, but it is out of that identity that they overcome.

This is a powerful lesson to those of us “In Christ”—our identity should define us and not our circumstances.  We are adopted into the family of God, a child of the King: Ambassadors for our true Kingdom and Priests to serve and worship the Most Holy God.  We fall into despair, purposelessness and failure when we forget who we are.

By the time book 3 rolls around, there are fewer footnotes and that’s OK as I wanted as little as possible to distract from the story.

Overall, I’d say these are some of the best and most moving books I’ve read.  Even though these are targeted for a “younger” audience, there are impressive moments, insights and lessons of great depth that adults can draw from.

I am greatly looking forward to the 4th installment of the book that Andrew Peterson is supposed to begin work on soon, out either late this year or spring of 2013.  I look forward to that and hope he is able to finish it even sooner!  No pressure…

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