Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wingfeather Saga Book Two: Fangs Strike Back!!!

I’m finding that Hollywood has a shaky record on sequels of late. The days of classic sequels like “The Empire Strikes Back” or the more recent “LOTR: The Two Towers” seem few and far between. The ‘2nd edition’ has too often been an opportunity to try to make an easy buck, piggy-backing on the buzz of the first movie by simply regurgitating or recycling a tired plot, and then jazzing it up with overdone action, CGI, or heightened skin exposure and sexual tension.

A good sequel is hard to come by.

Andrew Peterson, however, distances himself from the Hollywood norm (let that be the understatement of the century), and brings a quality sophomore book offering, something for which I am thankful.

A side note…
AP is one of my favorite music artists and lyricists, a man who loves God and his family, and who values and esteems people. He is someone who I‘ve found can get lost in the moment, sidetracked by a funny story or tangent thought, and is quick to not only draw attention to, but laugh at his miscues. He also speaks, writes and sings deeply out of his own journey, and invites people to journey with him. He has never disappointed me in concert; never let me down with a new album. I listen to his music for 3 reasons… beautiful musicianship, lyrics that grab you with richness and depth, and the winsome sharing of a heart and life through music and words that you can relate to personally.

And now that he is delving into the waters of fantasy adventure novels, I’m finding that he doesn’t disappoint there, either.

AP’s latest book in the Wingfeather Saga Series, North! Or Be Eaten was not only much-anticipated, but became the kind of ‘can’t-put-it-down,’ ‘keep-me-up-late-at-night-tired-for-work-the-next-day’ book that I was hoping it would be. I reread book one, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, to prepare myself for the sequel and to reacquaint me with the characters and story. I took OTEoTDSoD on a three week trip abroad knowing that when I got home, N!OBE would be waiting.

The Igiby Family adventure picked up seamlessly from the end of book one, with the family on the run from the Fangs of Dang, hiding in the tree house of their brother-in-law and uncle, Artham Wingfeather, Throne Warden of the Kingdom of Anniera (aka Pete the Sock Man). Their stay in Glipwood Forest is short-lived, as they are flushed out of their hiding spot by a determined army of Fangs, and hurtled forward in an adventure that gains momentum with each turn of the page.

(For those who haven’t read On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, not only is it a must read, but it introduces you to Podo Helmer, his daughter Nia Igiby, and her kids Janner, Tink and Leeli. It even tells you why Leeli’s dog Nugget is GINORMOUS, and why they are running for their lives from lizard people from another part of the planet, Aerwiar. It also tells you that the Igiby’s have a very special family history, a fact that is responsible of all their trouble with the Dang Fangs…

…so if you are out of the loop, read the first book… you can also go here for some background and helpful info)

N!OBE is definitely a notch above the first book in terms of action and adventure. The tongue-in-cheek commentary is still there, to some degree, but N!OBE is a little faster hitting. AP introduced readers to the world of Aerwiar and its inhabitants in book one, and seems to 'get after it' a bit more in book two.

Enter Gargan Rockroaches, bomnubbles, caped crusaders, and even a group of people called Stranders that are an evil, knife-wielding cross between the Herdmans (“The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever”) and the hillbilly "Darling family" (picture right) from the Andy Griffith Show. The Stranders play a pivotal role in the Igiby story and, we discover, have a curious connection to their past.

Enter suspense and betrayal, sacrifice and loss. Be ready to ride the rollercoaster of emotion as you follow the characters through hairpin plot turns and unforeseen twists. There will be at least a few moments where you fear for the lives of characters you grow to love, and hope for the demise of characters you come to despise. Heroes and villains...isn't that what makes a good story? (by the way...AP not only sets the stage for book 3, but also gives enough intriguing back story to make me think that the Wingfeather Series should have a prequel or two...)

The Igibys are joined on the adventure by Oskar N. Reteep, the owner and proprietor of Books and Crannies (a novelty bookstore in Glipwood Township, boasting the most complete collection of books and history of the people of Skree). Oskar brings his 'master of the obvious' quote repertoire to the journey, and is responsible for a LOL moment as I read.


another side note...

One thing that I like about AP’s writing, both musically and now in his novels, is its flexibility. The books, for sure, and several of his songs have their light and whimsical side. The books can be read for pure entertainment and enjoyment. But there is the ability, too, in both music and literary realms to take a listener/reader quickly and effortlessly beyond the temporal to the eternal, while still being something tangible and relate-able. AP's flexibility, in that sense, make his 'art' attractive to kids and adults, alike, in different ways and in different settings. (And something I've found for sure... sometimes it takes a couple listens/reads before I realize that AP is communicating on a much deeper plane than I first realized)

Case in point: One can read the books as an opportunity to spend some quality time with kids, reading a great and entertaining book at bedtime... or whenever. (It's obvious that several families do just that with the Wingfeather Series).

Or... it is easy to go to a deeper level...
-the Igiby family are exiles from a distant kingdom fighting for survival in a place that is not 'home.'
-the growing pains of Janner and Tink, hesitant to know how to live out their true identities,
-the classic saga of 'good vs. evil' is the all-encompassing reality that creates the adventure

While the Igiby family has arisen from the creativity of AP's brain, it is not hard to put ourselves in their shoes and their adventure. The world of Aerwiar is a picture of ours and the story is a creative look at the lives and adventures of all who are 'pilgrims in a foreign land,' longing for home and for wholeness. The characters' challenge of identity mirror our own struggles to live with dual-world citizenship and identities that are far deeper than what we do for a living, what our national flag looks like, or what color our skin is.


I hate to write more about the story itself, for fear of giving away the twists and turns of the plot. But suffice it to say, N!OBE was worth the wait, worth the late nights , and well worth supporting someone who knows how to produce a quality sequel.

Well done, AP! Thanks for letting us inside the creative adventure of your mind and heart. Bring on BOOK THREE!

Thanks to publicist Kelly Blewett for the opportunity to review the book!


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