#FantasyFunMonth


FantasyFunMonth Intro
It’s been a long time since I’ve written about fantasy, a topic close to my heart. A couple of writer friends, Jill Williamson (The Blood Of Kings trilogy) and Patrick Carr (The Staff And Sword trilogy), have designated March, Fantasy Fun Month. They developed a calendar of questions/topics for fantasy readers to answer/discuss. To make it easier for other fans to find our posts on social media, we’re using the hashtag #FantasyFunMonth.

Well, of course I came late to the party, but I thought maybe I’d do a little catch up today. So here are the questions I missed:

1. Fantasy Currently Reading

I have to admit I haven’t done a great deal of reading lately (football—including Peyton Manning’s retirement press conference, political debates, last season of Downton Abbey, and STUFF), but the book I’ve begun is Oath Of The Brotherhood by E. E. Laureeano—which I won, by the way. In fact I won the entire Song of Seare trilogy in a drawing. Very cool!

2. Fave Fantasy Series

This one is easy—Lord Of The Rings, hands down. It’s the story that hooked me on fantasy, so even though I’ve read any number of other good fantasies, this one remains at the top of my list.

3. Fave Fantasy Quote

I’m not great on remembering memorable lines. Probably my favorite scene is from Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis. The Pevensie children have returned to Narnia, but a thousand years have passed there and things are quite different. While the others are asleep, Lucy sees Aslan. He reproves her for not following him earlier, even though the others chose to go a different way. It’s a wonderful scene about trust and stepping out in faith.

But the quote I’ll use here is from the beginning of Lucy’s first conversation with Aslan:

“Welcome, child,” he said.

“Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.”

“That is because you are older, little one,” answered he.

“Not because you are?”

“I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

4. Favorite Fantasy Hero(ine)
My favorite character is probably Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I loved him so much after reading the book that I was quite disappointed to learn that he would not be the main character of The Fellowship Of The Rings, first in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. In fact, I took quite a while warming up to Frodo. I was a little jealous that he’d taken Bilbo’s spotlight. And for a while, I held out the hope that Bilbo would in fact join the quest and would again take center stage. When he didn’t, I gradually warmed up to Frodo, but I don’t think I ever felt as invested in him as I did in Bilbo.

For numbers 5 and 7, I refer you to my post at Speculative Faith today in which I revealed my favorite book cover and my favorite sidekick. Which leaves us only with yesterday’s topic.

6. Fave Fantasy Map

glipwood-map1I love, love, love fantasy maps. I scour them before reading a word and refer to them often. I love having a sense of place. In fact, when I started The Lore Of Efrathah, I started with a dream and a map. To this day, I have to say that the map of Efrathah is my favorite, but it’s not public, so I don’t think it counts. So I have picked Tolkien’s map because that’s where I learned to love maps. It’s not the fault of all the other fantasy writers that I didn’t first see their maps.

Perhaps the maps I’ve enjoyed the most of late are those in Andrew Peterson’s The Wingfeather Saga. Here’s one of the more illustrative type.

So now we’re caught up. I’ll be posting my answers to the rest of the Fantasy Fun topics on Facebook, of course using the hashtag #FantasyFunMonth. Hope you follow along, or even better, jump in and join us. Here’s the calendar.

FantasyFunMonth_calendar

The Warden And The Wolf King – CSFF Tour, Day 3


Warden and the Wolf KingI’m going to eschew a formal review of The Warden And The Wolf King by Andrew Peterson, this month’s CSFF Blog Tour feature. I may renege and write one later (I do want to put one on Amazon, so it seems sensible to post it here, too), but today I want to tell you why I gave an unqualified recommendation of the book at the end of my Day 2 post. I mean, I called it a MUST READ book. What makes this one a MUST READ?

For me there are a couple requirements. First, it has to be a good story.

I was a lit major in college and during my four years of study, I read a lot of “must read” books, but not all of them were good stories. Some of them were flat out boring. Some I tried and tried to plow my way through and still came away with only the vaguest idea of what the “story” was about (Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad comes to mind. Don’t get me started on Melville’s Moby Dick or Ulysses by James Joyce.)

Another thing that puts a book into the highest category as far as I’m concerned is a character or characters with whom I can relate and for whom I begin to care. In Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga, I came to care for, not one character, but three. And I cheered on several others.

In my review of The Monster Of The Hollows, I gave one particular criticism—for a middle grade book, I was disappointed that the youth at the center of the story didn’t take the active part in bringing resolution to the story question. I’m happy to say, I have no such criticism in The Warden And The Wolf King.

The players who made things happen, who faced the evil head on, were the main characters—the children, the Jewels, the would-be King, Warden, and Song Maiden of Anniera. The cool thing, though, is that despite the presence of a host of adults—who also were fighting—the fact that the children took such a pivotal role was not forced or artificial. It was natural and believable.

So I really liked this concluding volume of the Wingfeather Saga not only because the characters were ones that engaged me, but also because they were active.

There’s more. This story—the whole of it, but particularly The Warden And The Wolf King—made me think. As noted in my previous posts, I contemplated the importance of song and the place of the Church in the broken world. But I also thought about sacrifice and courage and redemption and temptation and kindness and prejudice and unforgiveness and bitterness and responsibility and commitment and . . . well, a host of other topics.

The thing is, nowhere in the book was there a lecture on any of these subjects. Rather, I saw characters living out life in hard, dangerous circumstances. Some chose well—admirably, even. Some chose poorly with disastrous results, though they themselves didn’t know how ruinous the consequences would be.

I love books that catch me up short and call me to a higher standard. They make me wonder if I would be brave enough or wise enough or steadfast enough.

One more. This book made me weep. Yes, I laughed too, in different places. And I read far longer into the night than I’d planned to read, but I cried. And cried. This was not a little tearing up. This was full out, get the snot rag, because I needed to release some emotion this story generated.

I tell you, when a book makes me think AND feel, it’s a winner.

As Jason Joyner mentioned in one of his tour posts, these Wingfeather Saga books are great for reading aloud to kids. There are places to do a pirate voice and others for a Zorro-like rescuer. There’s Troll poetry to read and whispers to dogs and the sad ramblings of the SockMan tortured by memories of the past.

And the books are great for adults to read on their own, too.

So how about it? Are you ready to take the plunge?

Not a fantasy fan, you say? So what? If you’re a reader, these books are for you. They start light, and they become progressively more serious, but that’s the nature of conflict. It builds to a crescendo (I thought a music term would be appropriate here, considering we’re taking about an Andrew Peterson book. πŸ˜‰ )

But now I’ve probably built up your expectations too high. Why not check them out for yourself and see if you agree with me or not.

The Warden And The Wolf King – CSFF Tour, Day 2


Warden_Wolf_King-banner

The Warden And The Wolf King by Andrew Peterson is an ambitious young adult fantasy, the conclusion to a wonderful four-book series called The Wingfeather Saga. Several participants in the CSFF Blog Tour, which is featuring this book that officially releases today, have given a summary of the first three books. I think that’s extremely helpful, and I encourage those interested in the series to check out posts by Jason Joyner and Meagan @ Blooming Books for starters.

Part of why I like the Wingfeather Saga so much is because Andrew Peterson does so much with his story. He’s painted a fantasy world with some depth; created characters that are interesting, even endearing; infused his story with humor and poetry and song; given us action and adventure. Above all, he’s given us something to think about.

I want to expand on one of those “somethings.” When I read book three of the Saga, The Monster In The Hollows,” I noted in my Day 1 CSFF Tour post that I saw parallels with the Green Hollows and the Church. I’ll reiterate here, Andrew Peterson is not writing allegory. However, there are similarities between his fantasy world and the real world.

One of those is the existence of a community defending against despoiling evil. However, without their king, they were merely hunkering behind what they believed to be an impenetrable barrier and living life without seeming regard for the rest of the world that struggled against slavery and kidnappings and transformations into evil creatures. They were content with their own safety.

Until, of course, the Igbys arrived and evil came after them. Remarkably, the Churc, I mean, the Green Hollows, came to their defense and fought to the point of sacrifice. In other words, when evil pushed in on them, they pushed back.

But they liked their evil clearly defined. Hence, the King of Anniera who looked like a Grey Fang was someone they didn’t fully trust—until he saved them. And when he decided to leave, there was a pretty clear indication that the Hollow folk were glad to see him go.

Of course, their feelings for Clovenfast, the neighboring community which they never realized existed, and for the clovens who inhabited it, were equally distrustful. After all, these were half changed citizens, trapped between the transformation from human to fang. What were they? Enemy? Monster? Friend? How much easier to pretend they did not exist, to drive any who wondered into the Hollows back into the dark forest.

I’ll admit, the section of The Warden And The Wolf King about the clovens had me both excited and uncomfortable. Excited because I had an inkling of what might take place (I was only partly right), and uncomfortable as the story unfolded because I saw the Church too clearly in the Hollish folk.

The fact is, evil wounds more often than it kills.

In the Wingfeather Saga, some people were transformed into Fangs, making them as good as dead to the life they’d known as humans. Now they lived to server Gnag the Nameless and to do damage to everyone else in the process.

But then there were the cloven, those injured in the transformation. They were broken Fangs, no longer human and no good as servants of Gnag.

In real life there are those who love the King of Kings and follow Him, and there are those who purposefully battle against Him, choosing instead to serve the Enemy of their souls. A great host in between make no choice, not realizing that standing still means they are not following. Hence, their not choosing is a choice.

They are the ones often damaged. They aren’t surrounded by the protective community of the Hollow, uh, of the Church. They live in the in-between, not wielding evil to get what they want, but not protected from those who plot against them.

They live in forgetfulness—an unconscious choosing of ignorance rather than the painful remembrance of what could have been, what they have lost and what they have no hope to recover.

But why don’t they have hope? What if the Green Hollows took them in? What if the Church welcomed the afflicted and needy? What if the Church put an arm around the homeless lady or the ex-con or the foster kids or those with disabilities and brought them inside? What if the Green Hollows was the place of comfort and a place to point them to the life-giving water that would make them whole?

Seeing the Green Hollows and their fight against evil, their reaction to the clovens, before and after the battle, I am challenged. I want to spread the word that the Church can be different—braver in the face of evil, kinder too, less focused on ourselves and more giving. More like Christ.

These thoughts about the Church are only some of the Big Things The Warden And The Wolf King brought to the forefront. I’m of the opinion that any book which challenges me in my real life, in my spiritual life, is a true winner.

I’ll get into a proper review tomorrow (or not), but I don’t want to hold off on my recommendation. This book—actually this series, because The Warden And The Wolf King really can’t be read in isolation—is a must read. No limits—a must read. This story is the next thing to Narnia. It’s one you won’t want to miss.

The Monster In The Hollows, CSFF Blog Tour Day 3 – A Review


Andrew Peterson doodled this picture of Leeli in the midst of writing The Monster In The Hollows

Fun aside, important meanings aside, is The Monster In The Hollows (Rabbit Room Press) a book you should buy? If you’ve visited other CSFF Blog Tour participants this week, you know there is universal acclaim for this book, within a range of an enjoyable read to an inevitable classic. But what does that tell you?

Reviews are as good as the reliability you ascribe to them. It’s good to know a reviewer’s standards and tastes. The closer they are to your own, the more reliable the review.

But when you see reviewers of different strips all agreeing, that says something powerful. What I find especially interesting is that tour participants enjoyed this book for different reasons and on different levels. Some of us think it’s light and fun and full of humor. Some think this one was the darkest and most adult of the Saga books so far. Some were captured by the artistry, others by the themes. Some cried, others laughed. But regardless, the reading experience seems to have been universally enjoyable. Here are some of the most recent “don’t miss” posts.

  • Thomas Clayton Booher voices the “it’s a classic” opinion in his day three post, together with an excellent look at why adults read children’s fiction.
  • Shannon McDermott gives a series analogy of one of the secondary characters — Sock Man Peet who is actually Artham Wingfeather — explaining how a character can capture the hearts of readers.
  • Sarah Sawyer discusses the use of the arts in The Wingfeather Saga. Very appropriate since Andrew himself is a singer/songwriter and artist as well as a writer.
  • As she did with book one, Nichole White reviewed the second in the Saga. What marks this as special is the way she weaved her own reading experience into the article. I experienced the delight all over again as I followed her from page one to the days of contemplation after reaching the end.

With all these great posts for you to read, I’ll keep my review brief.

The Story. The Igibys sail the Dark Sea of Darkness to reach the Green Hollows where Nia Igiby grew up with her crusty pirate father, Podo Igiby and her mother, now deceased. After surviving a harrowing attack, they are initially welcomed warmly by the Hollowsfolk — until Nia introduces her son, Kalmar Wingfeather, heir to the throne of Anniera and outwardly still very much a Grey Fang.

When Nia invokes an old tradition and forces the hand of the Keeper and the chiefs of the Hollows, the Igiby/Wingfeathers are allowed to take refuge in this last stronghold standing against Gnag the Nameless.

If only the Hollowsfolk didn’t stare at Kalmar as if he were a monster. If only the brutish bully at the school didn’t persist on taunting him. If only the Cloven loose from the Blackwoods didn’t seem to be after the Igiby children. If only the Cloven was the only thing after them.

Strengths. Humor. Depth. Suspense. Unpredictable twists. Lovable characters. Artistry. Word play. The Monster In The Hollows is a great read-aloud book, perfect for a family with children twelve and under. It’s a great individual read for people ten and up. Adults will love it just as much as kids and maybe more.

This is the kind of book and series that children will grow up and re-read, then read aloud to their kids. It will be loved and praised and given as gifts over and over again. This is a keeper.

Weaknesses. For all that, you’d think I wouldn’t have anything to say here in the “weakness” section of the review. I do, however. As I’ve commented elsewhere during the tour, I think Andrew Peterson is a step away from C. S. Lewis. He has the talent and the imagination and the depth and the joy. He has the voice — a wonderful storyteller quality that makes readers feel like they’re cozying up around a fire or snuggled under the covers as a master tells a tale of monsters and love and life.

OK, this doesn’t sound like “weaknesses,” I realize. Here’s what I think can move Andrew to the next level, the breakout level where readers of all stripes — Christians, grannies, teens, those wary of religion, book lovers — everyone with a passion for a good story, will clamor for his next book. It’s a little thing really. I believe in this climate of literature the young adult in the young adult novel needs to be the agent making things happen.

In Monster, the main character, Janner, has a clear desire — he wants to live at peace and have as normal a life as possible. The problem is, his circumstances don’t allow him to do anything to try and achieve what he wants. Hence his role for much of the book is passive or reactive.

The thing is, all the characters are delightful. I’m pulling for Leeli as much as I am Janner. I want Nia to find happiness, too. I want Kalmar to grow into his role as the future kind and to find acceptance in the Hollows.

I have to wonder, however, how much better the story would be if the main character were the main agent. The best part of book two, North! Or Be Eaten, in my opinion, was the section in which Janner, separated from his family, needed to take action or accept his fate as a Fork Factory tool. I was in his corner cheering him on and fearing that his every decision would lead to a worse situation than the already hopeless one he was in. It was compelling.

The parts I loved most in Monster were also places where Janner acted with heroism. As I see it, there needs to be more of such — the main character going after what he wants and meeting opposition, failing, and trying again, failing, and trying something new.

Andrew is such a gifted writer that his many strengths carry the day even when the main character seems passive. Eventually other beloved characters take action, and the story progresses to a fitting climax.

Recommendation. Fantasy lovers of all ages should buy this book. Parents or teachers looking for a read-aloud should buy this book. Adults looking for a gift for their ten to twelve year old son or daughter, niece or nephew, granddaughter or grandson, should buy this book. In actuality, they should all buy the first and second of the series too and start from the beginning. The Wingfeather Saga is a keeper. Then keep a look out for the conclusion of the series, The Warden And The Wolf King.

OK, so I didn’t do a particularly good job of making this review short. Guess that means you all can have your money back. πŸ˜‰

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

The Monster In The Hollows, CSFF Blog Tour Day 2 – Or, Humor Makes It Fun


The CSFF Blog Tour for Andrew Peterson’s The Monster In The Hollows (Rabbit Room Press) is in full swing. Before I address today’s topic, let me mention a couple notable posts I’ve seen:

  • Nicole White wrote an excellent review of the first book in The Wingfeather Saga, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness — not just your quicky summary with an endorsement. She gives you a real flavor of the book.
  • One of CSFF’s newest members, Marzabeth, shares a note from Andrew Peterson to explain why she is a supporter of his writing.

You can see the entire list of participants and links to their posts at the end of my first article, The Monster In The Hollows, CSFF Blog Tour Day 1 – Or Grey Fangs And The Church.

One of the things that endears readers to Andrew Peterson’s books is his use of humor. Some bloggers have called The Windfeather Saga or The Monster In The Hollows in particular, light. I believe that’s an allusion to the humor which makes them fun and which tempers the very serious themes running through them.

The most obvious use of humor is what I call “boy humor” because, well, boys primarily enjoy these jokes, though men with the hearts of boys undoubtedly love them too. “Jokes” does not mean to suggest that The Wingfeather Saga is filled with knock-knock jokes or tales of chickens crossing various roads. Rather the characters themselves do or say things that are funny as part of how they live life and do what they do.

Perhaps the humor in On The Edge Of The Dark Sea Of Darkness seemed more self-aware, what with the various footnotes and appendixes. Still, there were places where boys were being boys, enjoying the humor that boys share with each other. The Monster In The Hollows utilizes that type of humor too. Here’s an example:

[Oscar] spat, but instead of a nice, dense, seaworthy glob plopping into the sea, it was a spray of white spittle, some of which landed on Podo’s arm.

“Keep practicin’, old friend,” Podo said, wiping it off. “Make sure ye get the bubbles out before ye spit. And remember, it helps if ye snort. Improves the consistency. Watch.”

Podo reared back and snorted so long and loud that the whole crew took notice. They watched with admiration as Podo launched a dollop of spit that sailed an astonishing distance before splooshing into the waves. The Kimerans nodded and muttered their approval.

Podo wiped his mouth. “Sorry, lass. Ye have to seize the teachable moments, you know. Carry on.”

This kind of in-story humor combined with wonderful word inventiveness, much of which came to the forefront in the middle of the novel when the Igiby/Wingfeather children were becoming acquainted with the Guildling Hall and Institute for Hollish Learning — school (“Hollish” being the adjective used for all things related to the Hollows). Here’s a flavor:

When they had … settled [Leeli] in the puppy wing of the houndry, [Guildmadam] Olumphia Groundwich continued the tour with Janner and Kalmar. She showed them the juicery … Then they visited the rockwright class, the bookbindery (which Janner especially liked), the boatery, the cookery (which Kalmar especially liked), and the needlery, where one learned to make dresses and quilts (which both boys especially disliked).

“Your father loved to sail, or so I’ve heard,” Olumphia said. “I’d show you the sailery, but it’s held at the waterfront and is reserved for our oldest students.”

Later the children discover that part of their day will be spent in P. T. or “Pummelry Training. It’s where everybody’s racing and wrestling and punching.”

Later still when Janner and Kalmar join the Durgan Guild, they receive their first lesson in sneakery.

And then there is Oscar and the “indibnible honor” he had of meeting Bonifer, the once adviser to the king.

On the word play goes, each alteration not enough to disguise the meaning and just enough to make the word more interesting and noticeable. Eventually I found myself imitating wordsmithery and commented on someone’s site about bloggery or some similar thing. All that fun has a way of spilling out. πŸ˜€

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

The Monster In The Hollows, CSFF Blog Tour Day 1 – Or Grey Fangs And The Church


The CSFF Blog Tour feature for the month of September is The Monster In The Hollows, Book Three of The Wingfeather Saga (Rabbit Room Press), a middle grade novel by Andrew Peterson. How interesting (and completely unplanned), considering that it is this same book that 39% of those voting in the “It’s All In The Opening” poll chose as the one that caught their interest and made them want to read more. I definitely concur with the majority on this one.

The Monster In The Hollows is the delightful continuation of the series, not as dark as book two and more focused than book one. In calling the book delightful and not as dark as the previous installment in The Wingfeather Saga, I am not saying this one is a lightweight.

As you can tell by the title of this post, I believe there are some serious implications for the Christian Church tucked away in this engaging children’s book.

No, Andrew was not writing an allegory, but there are clear parallels with the Green Hollows and the Church, so it should be evident that the story has something important to say to believers about … believers.

Parallels? In the early chapters, we learn that the Green Hollows toward which the Igiby family is sailing have successfully turned away every attempt of the Fangs and Gnag the Nameless to overrun them. In other words, the Hollows is a community dedicated to standing against evil, dedicated to keeping it at bay.

In fact, this dedication is the foundation for the central conflict since Kalmar, heir to the throne of the fallen Isle of Anniera, and one of the Igiby children seeking refuge in the Hollows, is a Grey Fang. Or had been.

Without giving any spoilers or any other details, I think the picture is clear. Of course, Andrew doesn’t name the Church. The Hollows could be any community dedicated to standing against evil, such as … such as … such as … Well, that’s it, isn’t it. Evil is something not many stand against.

I suppose my conclusion that Gnag the Nameless and the Fangs stand for evil requires some interpretation on my part, but again, their actions make this rather self-evident — kidnapping children is evil, turning humans into beasts is evil.

One of the questions that the book generates is of itself a reversal. We’re used to thinking about how we are to treat a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but what are we to do with a sheep in wolf’s clothing? Now plug that question into the church, and I think you can see why I think this book has something to say to Christians today.

There’s another larger issue, but to mention that would indeed be giving the ultimate spoiler (to put it bluntly, it would ruin the story). Suffice it to say, I believe The Monster In The Hollows is a gentle slap-down of the Church. Or maybe a caution, or a challenge.

I guess I’m a little defensive about the Church these days. So many claim to be a part of us and are not. And so many think the Church is to be something it is not. It’s hard for it not be get a little battered in the fray. On top of that, what usually happens in the process is that Jesus Christ’s name gets tainted.

The truth about the Church is that as the bride of Christ we are to be presented before God holy and blameless and beyond reproach (Col. 1:22). But along with that truth is the reality that we are Romans 7 sinners, saved by grace but nevertheless struggling to do what we ought to do and eagerly doing what we ought not to do.

In that regard, perhaps a cautionary tale is just right.

Take some time this week to see what others on the blog tour have to say about The Monster In The Hollows:

A check mark links to a tour post.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

%d bloggers like this: