Reading Level: 6th grade
I stumbled across a negative rating of the Wingfeather Saga. Why would someone give it two stars out of five? Yes, I understand we are all different and by consequence have different standards of definition of what we call, “good.” Stars are general, illusive, and a somewhat petty way to describe a book’s virtue. In my mind, Biblical virtues (fruit of the Spirit) are everything. Does this book illustrate a Christian worldview? Do the characters use their talents, skills, and abilities in service of God’s Kingdom? If they misuse, is there repentance and redemption? (Context is everything here. Vile villains generally don’t repent and are used to heighten a hero’s struggles. Even heroes make mistakes but it is what they do to make things right that provide learning moments to the reader.) Stars fail to answer these questions. Therefore, this is my composition as to what captivates me about the series.
Since this isn’t a review as more of a counter to the negative rating, please visit the Peterson’s website, for a background on the book and its characters or read Amazon reviews.
This series has all the elements of an epic tale for out time: quirky characters, good vs evil, the challenge of doing the right thing versus the easy thing, coming of age, power of family, duty, honor, redemption, adventure, and betrayal.
I think this series is a rallying banner because it illustrates the corrupting power of complacency and the dominance of the Spirit of Apathy has on a vanquished nation. What happens when all your freedoms are revoked? What happens when the Carriage Black comes in the middle of the night and kidnaps your children? Or later when “they” broaden their horizons and start taking the adults! Weapons were “confiscated” by the invading Fangs of Dang. If you wish to garden with a tool you must submit the proper bureaucratic paperwork and return the tool at the end of the day. The once free people of Anniera catch a glimmer of their former lives once a year during the Dragon Day Festival. Pittance for the Proletariat.
Why does the Grandfather, Podo Helmer, a fierce, salty pirate fear the sea and never attends the Festival? Why does he disdain and abuse Pete the Sock Man so much? Questions are answered in book two and almost at the cost of the whole family! “Spoilers!” (As River Song would say in Doctor Who.)
I appreciate the T.H.A.G.S. education of the Igiby children. It reminds me of the classical education paideia: the education and upbringing that ministers, shapes, and molds the soul.
Fangs of Dang are allegorical characters. The Bible warns of the end time when good is called evil and evil good (Isa 5:20; John 8:44). The Fangs are self-serving poisonous lizards who eat rotting flesh (maggotloaf), and covet bright and shiny things like magpies. They are sadists. They seek power and control. I love how when one is killed there isn’t even a body left, only ashes remain. Whatever is true and good and beautiful, they seek the opposite.
The allegory is heightened when we finally see what happens to those who are taken from their families by the Carriage Black to the Island.
Pete the Sock Man
I cried at the powerful transformation of Peet the Sock Man! He is my favorite character and I find his spoonerisms delightful. He is captured and about to witness the horrible ungodly baptism of his nephew Tink complete with a new name even! He is powerless to stop it. He is faced with failure yet again when he confesses his fear that held him back from protecting his brother the High king, surrenders his guilt, and is transformed by God into a new creation—redeemed, clear of mind and speech, no longer crazy. Just thinking about this gives me goose flesh.
Hidden Sin & Abuse
Book Two deals with the hard topics of hidden sin and abuse. The power of clemency to the brute who ravaged the innocent. . . This is definitely a spoiler so I will just end with that hanging phrase. More abuse- the Fork Factory where Janner gets his Oliver-Twist-welcome-beating which knocks teeth loose! More apathy- should he attempt escape even though it seems hopeless? What got to me was the human trafficking aspect where the parents of the kids who were stolen offer two other children as redemption price for their child. Whoa.
I think younger students would fail to see the spiritual connotations and not grasp the weight of living in an occupied country and by consequence the need for an uprising of the militia UNLESS the books were read in a family read aloud setting. I think The Green Ember series would be easier to understand for younger readers while Peterson’s writing style is more cerebral in nature; it is quirky like Phantom Tollbooth with the humor of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. My favorite elements were Peterson’s creative and imaginative footnotes, especially Ollister B. Pembrick’s Creaturepedia.
This series matters because through it all it echoes the gospel.
Here are my predictions
- The great bird referenced in Book Two is somehow the High king, Esben Wingfeather.
- The Lady in Black who turns the stolen children into brainwashed-reprogramed-shells-of-their-former-selves is somehow a former song-maiden of Anniera.
- The Rabbit Room, “What We Love About the Wingfeather Saga” March 10, 2020
- An Interview with Andrew Peterson about “The Wingfeather Saga” by Jake Meador October 12, 2020