CBBT – Wayfarer by R. J. Anderson, Day 3


Wayfarer, the Children’s Book Blog Tour feature for June, is R. J. Anderson‘s second novel. I had the privilege of reviewing the first, Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter back in March, which is why I jumped on the opportunity to participate in this tour.

Despite the fact that my initial reaction to stories about faeries was negative, I found myself wholly engrossed in the world and the characters Anderson created. So that brings me to the review of Wayfarer, the sequel to the book that introduced me to the Oakenwyld and the faeries without magic.

The Story. Fifteen years after the end of Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter Linden, the step-daughter to the main character I grew to love, is ready to take on an adult role in the Oakenwyld. But she faces a dying world. Her queen, the only faery with magic in the Oak, is dying, and along with her, the glimpse that keeps predators from knowing that a colony of faeries lives inside.

Linden receives a portion of the queen’s magic and the assignment to find other faeries who can restore the magic to the dwindling and endangered group.

Meanwhile, a new human moves into the big house—Paul’s young nephew Timothy, the son of missionaries who is experiencing a crisis of faith. In days, feeling confused, betrayed and alone, Timothy strikes out on his own.

Except unbeknown to him, Linden goes along. And so their adventures begin. Both their lives and the ones they love are at risk unless they team up to find help.

Strengths. It’s hard for me to say how much I loved this book. At one point as I was reading, I had to put it down and think about how well crafted it was. I was fully engaged, the plot complications naturally ratcheted the tension higher, and the stakes became greater.

How did she do it, I asked myself. One event naturally grew out of another event, one choice naturally let to a greater problem. And the story bloomed before my eyes.

Danger, intrigue, surprise. These are the hallmarks of a great plot. But this story was more. It also had great characters—believable, troubled, courageous, ultimately sacrificial. They became admirable and I wanted so very much to see them succeed.

And still there was more. Wayfarer addresses some deep issues, perhaps the central most being the need to take a risk on behalf of others rather than to seek a selfishly safe haven for a few like-minded folk (or faeries).

Weakness. A few reviewers said they liked Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter a bit more than Wayfarer. I didn’t feel that way. I loved them equally.

If I had to give a criticism, I’d say this one started a little slow. I was shocked to be in the point of view of a human boy in the first chapter (I blame this on the girlie-girl cover). I also thought he was an unreliable narrator because he found fault with the characters I loved in the first book. So it took me a little while to warm up to Timothy.

The turning point for me was when Linden did the first heroic deed. Because I wanted her to succeed, I also wanted Timothy to succeed, and I was hooked.

Recommendation. I consider this one a must read for fantasy lovers. I give the book my highest recommendation to anyone, young or old, male or female, who loves a good story.

Finally, I’d like to invite you to see what tour participants are talking about (several have some excellent author interviews).

Special thanks to HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, for supplying me with a review copy of Wayfarer.

CSFF Blog Tour – Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, Day 3


CSFF’ers are having a good time on this tour for Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter by R. J. Anderson. There’s some excellent content to enjoy. You won’t want to miss YA author Sally Apokedak‘s review, Tim Hick‘s thoughtful summation of its value, or Fred Warren‘s humorous take on manly men reading this faery story.

Now it’s my turn to review this wonderful middle grade/YA/adult book. Already I tipped my hand—I think this is one of those stories that qualifies as a crossover. It is not limited to a certain-aged reader or to a specific gender or to a particular worldview. All this book needs, in my opinion, is more recognition.

The Story. The main character is called Bryony after her egg-mother, but when she becomes a teen, she chooses to go by Knife. However, her real name, known only to her and to those to whom she wishes to give it is … well, when you read the book, then she will have chosen to tell you, too. 😉

Bryony lives in a faery colony, one that has a number of oddities about it. For one, the denizens are all female. For another, only the queen has magic. Then too, they are no longer making any thing new or creative. And they stay in their home, a large oak tree situated near a house inhabited by Humans the faeries are deathly afraid of—so much so that the queen only allows Gatherers and her Hunter to venture outside.

Ah, but Byrony wants so much to fly free into the wide world. When she comes of age, the queen assigns her an adult job, and to her surprise she is chosen to be the Hunter. And so her adventures begin as she protects the Gatherers, hunts meat for the colony, and encounters a human. Or, more accurately, re-encounters him.

And there I’ll stop. You have enough to get the flavor of the story and perhaps the drift, though it takes an astute reader to see where this tale is going. Which brings me to the next part of this review.

Strengths. In my opinion, Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter has everything a reader could want. The characters are realistic—yes, even as faeries; if I didn’t know better, I’d be tempted to check the tree outside my window to see who was living there! 😛 I especially loved seeing the human world through the eyes of the faeries. So a boy is a monster and a wheelchair a throne.

The plot was excellent too, and for me, that means, unpredictable. Lots of surprises, but all of it was so well foreshadowed that none of it seemed outlandish or jarring. There was intrigue, twists, mystery, friendship, self-sacrificial love.

The themes of this book were wonderfully woven into the fabric of the story. No authorial commandeering to make sure the reader “gets it.” And of course, not everyone will get it all. I’m sure I didn’t. But that’s OK. The central themes are ones that come from the ultimate choices and actions of the characters and will have an impact, one way or the other.

The Christian worldview influences I saw include the Gardner, though he is invoked more as a curse word than anything. The faery colony has all the earmarks of a world that has experienced a Fall. Great loses, to the point that the faeries no longer remember what life was like Before or how things got to be The Way They Are Now. They certainly don’t know how to fix things, though the queen tries. And as is true about self-effort, she makes a hash of things.

There’s also a picture of the Incarnation, though I don’t want to say too much about that so as not to spoil the story. I already mentioned the self-sacrifice, and the cool thing is, these two—incarnation and self-sacrifice—are shown by two different characters, two different types of Christ. In other words, the story is not attempting to be allegorical, but there is typology for those who wish to see it.

Weaknesses. In my opinion, the only weakness is the limitations put upon the book by calling it Middle Grade fantasy. The implication is that the story is for children only. Not so. Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter needs to find a wider market because it is that good.

Recommendation. I suppose you can already tell I’m enthusiastic about this one. I’m going to go out on a limb. Even as Narnia is a series written for children but enjoyed by young and old alike, so too is Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter. I recommend this book for anyone who loves a good story.

CSFF Blog Tour – Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, Day 2


Commercials first, or if you’d rather, announcements:

  • To find a list of other bloggers participating in the CSFF Tour for R. J. Anderson’s Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, see yesterday’s Day 1 post.
  • If you haven’t voted in the Titles—Which Captures Your Attention? poll yet, please click on the link and take a minute to give your opinion. Thanks. 😀
  • And now back to our regularly scheduled blog post—more discussion about Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter—well, to be accurate, discussion about the author of Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter, R. J. Anderson.

    Yesterday, in her tour post, Donita Paul said, “I have got to meet the lady who wrote this book.” That made me think, I bet a lot of our participants would like to know more about R. J. (Rebecca—cool name, don’t you think? 😉 ) Anderson.

    The sad thing was, when I approached her about availability to do interviews, she had to decline because she’s on deadline. I certainly understand, but it is our loss. R. J. is an intelligent, thoughtful writer; an interesting person; and a committed Christian.

    I’ll just mention here in passing how much I love the first part of the Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter dedication: “To my father, the voice of Aslan.” Is that perfect for a Christian writing fantasy, or what!

    Prompted by Donita’s comment, I did a little research to see if I could learn more about R. J. Happily, there are several interviews online, and each one has a different slant. In the first, I learned some fun facts.

    Which of the following, would you guess, influenced R. J. in writing Faery Rebels: Spell Hunter: J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, the X-Men, the Flower Fairies books? If you said, All of These, you’d be right!

    And how long do you think it took this book (titled Knife in the UK where it first came out) from inception to publication: 2 years, 8 years, 10 years, 15 years? Not, All of These, you goofs. 😆 But the book was 15 years in the making.

    If you’d like to read the interview for yourself, you can learn more.

    Of course you can also visit R. J.’s blog at LiveJournal or you can follow her on Twitter. (I think we’ll have to see what we can do about getting her on Facebook too).

    HarperCollins has a great author interview posted as well. In it, R. J. answers the “why fantasy” question, something I’m sure CSFF’ers and other fantasy fans would be interested in:

    I’m always fascinated by questions of “What if?” It interests me to play around with possibilities and new ideas, and I’m also interested in the meaning behind those ideas. To me, fantasy and SF offer a chance to explore emotional, philosophical, and moral issues in a fresh and interesting way. You can talk about good and evil in a fantasy context, for instance, in a way that it’s difficult to do believably in other genres. And besides, it’s fun. I love seeing the ingenuity of other authors who invent new worlds and new magical systems for their stories—building a really believable and consistent fantasy world is one of the purest expressions of creativity I know.

    Another interview taking a “behind the scenes” approach, with this teaser:

    But as far as the story itself goes, I think I’m most pleased with the way that certain themes and… I hesitate to say “morals” because that makes it sound preachy, so maybe “ideals” is a better word… came out naturally in the course of revising the manuscript. I didn’t want to force anything in there, but on the other hand, I didn’t just want to write an exciting story with no depth or substance to it, so it was a relief when I realized that there actually was more going on than just “tough faery action heroine kicks crow butt, saves world, details at eleven”.

    One more centered more on the writing process. Here’s the teaser:

    The book changed a lot between the draft that sold and the final published version. The basic framework of the story was the same, the order of the main events and so on, but my editor challenged me to make sure everything was tight and consistent and that I’d thought through every aspect of the plot and how it affected the characters, which resulted in a much more layered and nuanced story. I was just feeling all proud of myself after taking the book to pieces and rebuilding it from the ground up, and then she said gently, “Well, we’re about half done. But what about this and this and this? Let’s do it again.” It was definitely a rethinking-and-rewriting process, rather than just tweaking bits here and there. But it was so worth it, and I learned a great deal from the process.

    Enjoy getting to know R. J. Anderson. She’s an author I think we’ll be hearing about for a long time.

    Special thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of the book.

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