Book Review | The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson

So many of my reviews boil down to something like, “This book was real good.” And that isn’t as helpful as it probably could be. So, even though I do think that the last installment of the Wingfeather Saga was excellent, I’d like to go a step further and give you seven reasons why you should read it. Here goes!

7 Reasons to Read The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson

9780988963252Andrew Peterson is a gifted storyteller.

There are writers who are known for creating strong characters. Others have signature plot twists or descriptive language. Andrew Peterson is the full package. In addition to creating some great characters to root for, Peterson keeps the story interesting with unexpected turns. All the while, he shows off his knack as a skilled wordsmith by using the words and the cadence of their reading to put the reader in the desired mood.

The book is told from multiple viewpoints.

Rather than being trapped inside one character’s head, we get to see the tale unfold from all three of the Wingfeather children’s eyes. This helps keep the plot fresh by being in multiple places at the same time. This tactic is a staple of fantasy and Peterson uses it with finesse.

Siblings can learn a thing or two from the Wingfeather kids.

I have two girls, and once they have the attention spans to accommodate longer books, I’m looking forward to reading them the Wingfeather Saga. Peterson doesn’t whitewash the fact that “brother” is just one letter off from “bother,” but neither does he glamorize sibling rivalry. If anything, kids could learn a lot about embracing the fact that siblings are often differently gifted and learning to tolerate some of their more annoying aspects as well. The Wingfeathers may not always get along, but they always show what love looks like when it counts.

Parents can learn a thing or two from the Wingfeather kids.

As a parent, I would love to raise my kids as well as Nia Wingfeather raises hers. And while young readers are imagining the story through the struggles of the children, I’m seeing it from Nia’s eyes. How would I feel if some dark evil was after my kids? How much freedom should I allow my kids when they have a history of making bad choices? What can I do to equip them for the battles they will face rather than trying to fight all of their battles for them? Parents would do well to see how the matriarch of the Wingfeather family handles herself and her kids. She isn’t a perfect mom, but she loves her kids and wants to do the best she can for them. I want the same.

This book came into existence because it was demanded by fans.

In a move that I’ll never understand, after the first two books in this series were published by Waterbrook Press (and they won a bunch of awards and such), the publisher dropped the series right in the middle. Peterson published the third book on his own dime and made it available through his personal channels, but for the fourth book, he appealed to his fans. Andrew Peterson launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the final installment. With the way Kickstarter works, if no one cares enough about a project to fund it within a certain time-frame, then it doesn’t happen. Peterson’s goal was $14,000 (the minimum amount he needed to write, edit, print, and ship the book to the people who funded it) and by the end of the campaign he raised $118,188 (which is quite a bit more). His fans really believed in this book, and with good reason (it is excellent).

Fantastic creatures abound.

If there’s something you expect to see in a fantasy series, it is some fantastic beasts. The Wingfeather Saga doesn’t disappoint, having enough beasts and awesome creatures to warrant a separate book to document the lot (Pembrick’s Creaturepedia).

The end of the book closes the series well.

I’ve read too many book series where the final installment is rushed to print and leaves much to be desired (I’m looking at you, Hunger Games, and from what I’ve heard, Divergent). Either authors don’t know how to wrap the story up or they don’t want to part with their characters, but as a reader, it is so much nicer when the author can pull all the threads of the tale together in a way that is believable and intentional. I’m not saying that I don’t want to read more about the Wingfeathers, but I feel like that the story arc that began in book one has reached a good conclusion in book four.

I firmly believe that the Wingfeather Saga is the next Chronicles of Narnia. I hope Peterson continues to write (when he isn’t too busy as a touring musician). I’ll gladly be part of any crowd-funding effort that ends with another of his books in my hands.

Seriously, go buy a copy today!

One Week Left…

With a dire title like that, you may be reading this to find out if I have only one week left to live. Well, no one really knows when they are going to die, but my title was referring to the Andrew Peterson Wingfeather Saga Kickstarter, not my mortality. Sorry to disappoint.

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If you’ve been paying attention to the Kickstarter campaign for the final book in the Wingfeather Saga, you’ve already seen the tremendous outpouring of support. I mean, the original goal was $14,000 in order to get the book published, and now the campaign has over $80,000 going for it. So why am I talking about it? Am I really going to suggest that you participate in a campaign that has already met its goal many times over?

Yes. I am going to talk about it. I am going to suggest that you participate. Because it’s possible that you missed the posts where I mentioned the campaign. And because you may not have heard about the latest incentive for participation. Along the way, donors have hit every stretch goal for the Kickstarter campaign, making it possible for Andrew Peterson to add illustrations to the final book in the series, to make that book a hardcover, to reproduce book three as a hardcover, to record books three and four as audio books, and to create a “creaturepedia” for the wild beasts mentioned throughout the series. And that’s all pretty cool, but Peterson just added a new stretch goal: a poster-sized, professionally illustrated fantasy map of Aerwiar. But it’ll only be produced if we meet the latest stretch goal of $85,000.

aerwiar_map

Probably the coolest part about all of this is that donors only need to sign up at the $35 “Cave Blat” level in order to get all of the things mentioned above. So for $35, you could get two hardcover books, two digital audiobooks, the “creaturepedia,” and the map (if it happens to be made).

But that isn’t all. Peterson also created a new reward for a special level of backers. If you donate at the “Skonk” level, you are able to “work with Andrew to include a name of your choosing in the world of Aerwiar.” You can be part of the landscape or story! That’s pretty cool.

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I realize that I sound like a TV pitch man, and that isn’t my goal. Really, it isn’t. I’m just excited about the prospect of the final book in this wonderful series and I think that if you knew how good the series was, you’d be excited too. I’d be a jerk not to tell you about it.

So, anyway, you have one week to join up before it’s too late. But if you are thinking about doing it, do it soon. Because no one knows when they are going to die. Oh wait. Too morbid. Forget I said that and click this link to join the campaign.

Related Links:

Andrew Peterson’s Kickstarter

Normally, I have a dim view of self-publishing. Back in the day, it was called “vanity publishing,” and I believe that it held that title for a reason. Perhaps it is because I work at a bookstore that is owned by a publisher, but I think publishers play a very important role in finding and producing quality books. When a book is self-published, my first thought is usually, “I bet it’s so bad, no publisher would touch it.”

Some of the self-published books that we sell in our store bear me out in this.

AP_PressPhotoRGB_01_largeBut sometimes, publishers don’t know what they are doing at all. Case in point, Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga.

Musician and storyteller, Andrew Peterson, started a children’s fantasy series a few years back called the Wingfeather Saga. The first book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, caught my attention and didn’t give it back. It won a Christy Award (a fancy Christian book award) and looked to have a promising run. It was published by a well-known publisher. The next book in the series, North! Or Be Eaten, also won a Christy Award. And then something strange happened.

The publisher dropped the series. They weren’t going to publish book three. I was heartbroken.

I mean, Peterson is a gift storyteller and the story was only halfway through. How could they not publish the rest of the series?

Fortunately, Peterson decided to self-publish book three, The Monster in the Hollows, making it available on his website. My wife and I bought the book and thoroughly enjoyed it. There was nothing in the book that would have given any publisher pause to sell it into bookstores. The previous books in the series had won awards, and the author has quite a platform as a touring musician. On paper, all the components for book success were there. But Peterson had to self-publish it anyway.

That was a couple of years ago now. My wife and I have been waiting on pins and needles for the final book in the series to come out. I assumed that Peterson would just self-publish it again, put the word out on his website, and see it people would buy it after it was produced. Instead, he started a Kickstarter campaign for book four, The Warden and the Wolf King. Being on his email list, I got notification of the Kickstarter so I checked it out right away. Peterson needed $14,000 within one month in order to publish the book. The way the campaign works, if people pledge money but the minimum threshold isn’t met, no one pays and the campaign fails. But if the campaign is over funded, then the author can now fund more cool things.

When I told my wife about the Kickstarter the following day, we decided to sign up and make sure that the fourth book could be produced. But when we clicked over the page, lo and behold, it was already over funded. In fact, now it is massively over funded and some of the “stretch goals” are now funded as well. So, the book is definitely happening, and it is well on track to become a hardcover and an audio book as well. I can’t tell you that you can get in on the ground floor of this campaign anymore, but I can tell you that you need to join up anyway.

So, click over there now and do it! http://kck.st/1bnSDaG

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10 Fantasy Series and Their Rules for Magic

When I started writing, I expressed to a well-read friend of mine that I was a fan of the fantasy genre. She told me that if I ever hoped to write fantasy, one of the most important things to do was to develop the rules for my world and then stick to them. She cited Terry Pratchett’s prolific Discworld series, saying that while the series follows a wide cast, Pratchett follows a consistent set of rules.

“The world is flat and rests on the back of four elephants standing on a giant turtle floating through space,” she said. “It may be strange, but it is part of Pratchett’s rules.”

Today, we’ll take a look at 10 Fantasy Series and Their Rules for Magic.

The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling

“I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.”
J.K. Rowling

In the magical world of Harry Potter, people are either magical or Muggles (non-magical). They are born this way. One cannot become a witch or wizard any more than one could become a cat. Of course, Animagi, or witches and wizards who have an aptitude to transfiguration, may be able to become cats. Magic is performed by spoken word (in most cases) and requires a wand (in most cases).

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

“I have not used ‘magic’ consistently, and indeed the Elven-queen Galadriel is obliged to remonstrate with the Hobbits on their confused use of the word both for the devices and operations of the Enemy, and for those of the Elves. I have not, because there is not a word for the latter (since all human stories have suffered the same confusion). Their ‘magic’ is Art, delivered from many of its human limitations: more effortless, more quick, more complete (product, and vision in unflawed correspondence). And its object is Art not Power, sub-creation not domination and tyrannous re-forming of Creation. The ‘Elves’ are ‘immortal’, at least as far as this world goes: and hence are concerned rather with the griefs and burdens of deathlessness in time and change, than with death. The Enemy in successive forms is always ‘naturally’ concerned with sheer Domination, and so the Lord of magic and machines; but the problem: that this frightful evil can and does arise from an apparently good root, the desire to benefit the world and others*—speedily and according to the benefactor’s own plans—is a recurrent motive.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

There are precious few wizards in the Lord of the Rings series and you have to read The Silmarillion in order to understand the rules of magic in Middle Earth. The world was created through song by Eru (the One), also called Ilúvatar (Father of All), who first created the Ainur, similar in power and function to the Greek pantheon, with specific Ainur in control of the air, water, earth, and afterlife. The greater Ainur were called the Valar, the lesser were called the Maiar. Together, they helped create (and re-create) the world before the coming of elves (the first folk), dwarves, and men. The wizards of Middle Earth are members of the Maiar, as are Balrogs (makes the fight scene where Gandalf falls through fire and death a little more meaningful, doesn’t it?), and in fact, so is Sauron. Magic, then, is performed by beings that are closer to gods than men.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

“‘But what does it all mean?’ asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.
“It means,’ said Aslan, ‘that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards.'”
C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Evil is loosed upon Narnia when a pair of hapless children bring a witch from Charn through Earth and to the dawn of Narnia’s time. The magic that happens here seems to be of a mostly innocuous kind, and there are few who seem able to work it. The witch has the power to turn living creatures into stone. Aslan, the lion/creator of Narnia, can bring stone creatures back to life. And there is a wizard along the voyage of the Dawn Treader who has a book of magic and is able to render creatures invisible. Oh, and a magical bracelet transforms a boy into a dragon. The magic of Narnia is used sparingly and is not the main plot driver of the series, as it seems that only a few with an inherent ability use it.

The Books of Beginning by John Stephens

“It’s well known in Hollywood that if you want someone to write a conniving, back-biting seventeen-year-old, you get John Stephens on the phone. The only thing that set the Countess apart from others I’ve written was that she had magical powers.”
John Stephens

In The Emerald Atlas, three children are thrust into an adventure through time by the aid of one of three books of magic. Each child is somehow connected to one of these three books, and by them, the children wield a specific type of magic, though they were not born as magical beings. Led by a wizard, and battling against witches and those who would use magic to subjugate normal humans, the main theme of the series is more about equal rights for different people than is about how cool having power is. The magic in the Books of Beginning series is regarded as a power that must be held in check to ensure the safety and happiness of all people.

The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud

“Believe me, I know all about bottle acoustics. I spent much of the sixth century in an old sesame oil jar, corked with wax, bobbing about in the Red Sea. No one heard my hollers. In the end an old fisherman set me free, by which time I was desperate enough to grant him several wishes. I erupted in the form of a smoking giant, did a few lightning bolts, and bent to ask him his desire. Poor old boy had dropped dead of a heart attack. There should be a moral there, but for the life of me I can’t see one.”
Jonathan Stroud

Nathaniel is a magician’s apprentice in a world where magicians rule supreme. This dark series focuses on Nathaniel’s adventures with the djinn, Bartimaeus, his servant from the underworld, enemy, and friend. Magic is not performed by wand, but is achieved by summoning greater or lesser demons to do your bidding. If a magician is not careful though, he might find himself at the demon’s mercy (and demons aren’t known for their mercy).

Tiffany Aching: A Story of Discworld by Terry Pratchett

“It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done.”
Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

On the Discworld, there are two main approaches to magic. There are the wizards of Unseen University who use magic, largely, as a replacement for technology. And there are the witches, who use magic sparingly (because magic is dangerous, what with the things from the other side always trying to break through the rift). In the Tiffany Aching series, set on Discworld and meant for a younger reader, the main character is a witch coming into her witchhood with help from her mentor Miss Tick (get it?) and the Nac Mac Feegle, tiny blue skinned fighters/drinkers/kilt-wearers. Magic for Tiffany is a means to defend normal people against magical enemies, and is performed by sheer force of will.

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson

“There’s just something about the way he sings. It makes me think of when it snows outside, and the fire is warm, and Podo is telling us a story while you’re cooking, and there’s no place I’d rather be–but for some reason I still feel… homesick.”
Andrew Peterson, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

In his first children’s fantasy series, musician, Andrew Peterson, writes with equal parts humor and suspense. His series focuses on the three children of the Igiby family and the secrets that make them targets for the evil Fangs of Dang. Magic is a minor part of this series, but the few appearances that it does make are momentous. The most common form of magic usage, appropriately enough, given Peterson’s more famous creative outlet, is through music.

The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

“You would be amazed how many magicians have died after being bitten by mad rabbits. It’s far more common than you might think.
-Angela the Herbalist”
Christopher Paolini, Brisingr

When Eragon unwittingly hatches a dragon egg, he is swept into a world a danger, dragons, and magic. There are a few different races in the world of Alagaësia, but aside from a relative few humans, the knowledge of magic resides with the elves. Its use is conducted through an ancient language and exacts a physical toll on the user, thus anything you do by magic would feel as though you had done it without magic. If a user were to cast a spell that required more energy than the user possessed, he would die. Fortunately, dragon riders and others can tap into the life force of those around them to share the burden of using magic. Of course, this also opens the possibility of expending their life force, but magic is a dangerous game.

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

“I was vanquished by a deer!’
A giant magical flying deer with fangs,’ Seth said, parroting a description Gavin had shared earlier.
That sounds a little better,’ Warren conceded. ‘Seth is in charge of my tombstone.”
Brandon Mull, Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary

Meet Seth and Kendra Sorenson, children pulled into a world of magic sanctuaries. In this series, magical creatures have been confined to reserves spread across the continents. Along the way, Kendra develops a special relationship with the fairies of the world, while her brother Seth develops his own relationship with demons. Magic here is woven into the nature of each creature, and in rare circumstances, certain attributes can be transferred to normal humans.

The Old Kingdom Trilogy by Garth Nix

“‎”It always seemed somehow less real here… a really detailed dream, but sort of washed out, like a thin watercolor. Softer, somehow, even with their electric light and engines and everything. I guess it was because there was hardly any magic.”
Garth Nix, Lirael

In the world that Nix creates, the line between magic and non-magic follows the boundary between the Old Kingdom and the New. In the Old Kingdom, there are three main families of magic, the Abhorsens, the Clayr, and the Wallmakers. Sabriel follows the title character in her journey to become the Abhorsen, a person who crosses over into Death to perform her magic. In Lirael, the title character shows the world of the Clayr, largest of the magical families whose job it is to look into the future. And in the final book, Abhorsen, we learn more about the Wallmakers, as well as the royal family, which is where the “kingdom” part comes in. In his trilogy, Nix has his characters perform magic with the aide of bells and pipes, but there are some free magic creatures as well, to whom the normal rules of magic do not necessarily apply.

Hopefully, this has been some help in showing you the different types of magic one can find across the fantasy genre. Certainly, there are more options than just these for how magic might work, but these are the ones that I one or have read.

What is your favorite series with magic? How is the magic controlled?

Book Review | On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of DarknessThey say not to judge a book by its cover, but I’ve worked in a bookstore long enough to know that this is a lie. Sure, don’t just people by their outside appearances, but you can totally judge books that way.

Before even opening Andrew Peterson’s book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, I can tell that the author is whimsical and the publisher is savvy. The book is a beautiful blue that’s been designed to look weathered by old age and use. The typography clearly says Fantasy, and the images are provided by a professional artist. In an industry where fantasy books have some of the worst covers that feature some of the most enthusiastic amateur artists, it is nice to see a publisher who believes in a book enough to spend some good money on design.

Flipping through the pages, I can already tell that I’m going to enjoy this book. Why? The extras. Within the roughly 300 pages, I see footnotes (which is a fun addition to fiction books), maps and illustrations, and an appendices. The chapters are short and the characters have names like Podo, Janner, and Leeli. This book is aimed at a younger crowd. It is obviously fantasy and is set firmly in the author’s rich imagination.

But Josh, when are you going to read the book and stop talking about how it looks?

Okay, okay. But when you are standing in a bookstore and you pick up a book that you know nothing about, it is helpful to know what you are looking at. Publishers are trying to get that book into the right hands, and they design everything except the words on the page to get it there.

First, you should know that while this is Andrew Peterson’s first fiction book, the man has experience with storytelling. For about five years, I was the music buyer for my bookstore. For those of you who are imagining me walking to the checkout with a pile of music and calling that my job, I was responsible for making sure that the store had music to sell by ordering it from various publishers and music companies. That is where I first heard the name of Andrew Peterson. Peterson is a singer/songwriter with an easy style and thoughtful lyrics. His songwriting and live show storytelling tell me that he knows what he is doing when crafting words together.

But on to the book itself…

I first read On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness a few years ago and I thoroughly loved it. I picked it up again yesterday to refresh myself for this review and instantly remembered why. From the first words of the introduction, readers will be able to hear Peterson’s sense of humor. And it is right up my alley. A brief excerpt introducing the bad guys of the story, Fangs:

The Fangs walked about like humans, and in fact they looked exactly like humans, except for the greenish scales that covered their bodies and the lizard-like snout and the two long, venomous fangs that jutted downward from their snarling mouths. Also, they had tails.

As to the characters, the story revolves around the Igiby family. Eldest son, Janner, is the main character for the series and we see the world mostly through his eyes. He is responsible and a strong lead. His younger brother, Tink, is the family troublemaker. And youngest sister, Leeli, is a sweet, crippled girl with a bright sense of humor. As with all good fantasy tales, at least one parent is out of the picture. The kids are raised by their stalwart mother, Nia, and her father, a former pirate, Podo Helmer.

The basic story is that the Igiby family is being hunted by the Fangs and must reach safety. Along the way, we are introduced to all kinds of fantastic characters. The plot has some really nice twists that keep you interested and the short chapters are custom made to tempt unwary readers into saying, “Well, its only a few pages, I can keep reading.”

The only thing that I didn’t enjoy are some of the modified animals and vegetables. Reading about thwaps, which are essentially rabbits, who steal totatoes, a mixture of potatoes and tomatoes, seemed more juvenile than the rest of the story. In my opinion, if you are going to create a fantasy world with new creatures, please design them to be completely different from what I know. If something is a rabbit, call it a rabbit. If it is a thwap, don’t describe a rabbit and tell me that it is slightly larger than a skonk (not a typo).

Aside from that, I loved this book. The story has barbed hooks that refuse to let you go. The characters are instantly likeable or not likeable as the author designs them to be. The only warning I have is that this is book one of a series, and if you don’t want to read the whole series, leave this book on the shelf.