North! Or Be Eaten, a Review – CBBT, Day 3

Andrew Peterson, author of the Wingfeather Saga, is a talented musician as well as an author and illustrator. If I’d interviewed him for the Children’s Book Blog Tour of North! Or Be Eaten, the CBBT August feature, I would have asked if he finds it hard to head in so many varied directions. Of course, they aren’t all varied, since clearly Andrew brings his art to his stories and his writing to his music.

Be that as it may, as suggested in the title of this post, I want to review the second in Andrew’s middle grade fantasy series.

The Story. North! Or Be Eaten picks up the story of the Igby family where On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness left off. With their lives in danger and their town in turmoil, the Igbys are hiding out in Uncle Peet’s Castle. As they make plans and preparations to depart for the Ice Prairies, a place where they believe they will find a resistance force mounting against the Fangs of Dang, they are discovered. And chased.

In the process they find help when they least expected it, betrayal when they had no reason to look for it, and separation that tests them all in ways they could not have anticipated.

Strengths. As you might guess, one of the big positives in this story, from my point of view, is how unpredictable the story becomes. Just about the time I think I know the direction it will take, a new twist develops.

I also really connected with the characters, especially Janner. He understands his role now, and he takes decisive, though not always wise, action. I want to see him succeed. I worry for him when I think he’s making a wrong move. I want to smack him when I think he’s being a show-off. But throughout, I’m in his corner.

The setting continues to be a huge draw for fantasy fans. The world Andrew Peterson has developed is dense. It has a history and tradition, politics and poets. There are notable landmarks that influence and affect the story. The world becomes nearly as important as the characters.

Ultimately, I think Andrew hit a home run in presenting Christian themes. I doubt very much if anyone not looking for them will say, Oh, that book has Christian themes. Rather than noticing, readers, I believe, will be impacted by the truths inherent in the story. Andrew wove those truths with a masterful hand. They are at the core of What Happens, yet they do not call attention to themselves.

(I’m trying to be circumspect so as not to give spoilers. This is one of those books that, first time through, will be more fun if you don’t know what’s coming next.)

Weaknesses. While the story started with lots of action, I felt some seemed a little unnecessary. The Igbys spend time preparing for their trip north, only to leave much of their supplies behind, for example. The Gargan Rockroach seemed like a hideous monster thrown in for the sake of having a hideous monster.

Of course, the target audience readers will undoubtedly find such to add to the excitement, but since everything after the bridge seems to fit so tightly together, these earlier chapters feel less significant.

One more. There were some motivation and plausibility problems in those early chapters, too, I thought. For example, Oskar’s ability to find the family to warn them seemed a little unbelievable, given his wounded condition.

Recommendation. When I like a book as much as I do North! Or Be Eaten, it would be easy to leave out weaknesses, but my guess is, fewer people would believe the positives I have to say. I can only hope none of the weaknesses I pointed out would dissuade anyone from reading this series. It would be a shame because I think this is one of those keepers, the kind you buy in box sets some day and reread every few years. Wonderful books. Must read if you love literature.

For those interested in a “second opinion,” see what others on the tour are saying:
The 160 Acre Woods, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Booking Mama, Cafe of Dreams, Dolce Bellezza, Fireside Musings, Homeschool Book Buzz,, My Own Little Corner of the World, My utopia, Novel Teen, Olive Tree, Reading is My Superpower, Through a Child’s Eyes

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