I have held off from writing this review for a while, because I simply cannot find words that do justice to the deep impression this book series has left on my life. And the fourth and final book hasn’t even been written!
There is a power in ‘fairy tales’ that is seldom recognised by people today. Our society prides itself so much on pragmatism and science that it has neglected the importance of beauty and arts to the full flourishing of man. C.S. Lewis gives us a remarkable insight into the power of stories.
I thought I saw how stories of this kind could steal past a certain inhibition which paralyzed much of my own religion since childhood. Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ? I thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation can freeze feelings. And reverence itself did harm. The whole subject was associated with lowered voices; almost as if it were something medical. But suppose casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday school associations, one could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past the watchful dragons? I thought one could.
There are two elements to a good story – truth and beauty. There are many beautiful stories that make falsehoods appealing, and truth-packed stories that are horribly written and do not engage the heart and imagination, but few that are full of truth and beauty. This series is one of the rare few, in the vein of a Narnia or Lord of the Rings. In fact, I would elevate this series above them. It avoids the complexity of Tolkien and the occasional artificiality of Lewis. At this point, Narnia fans would probably slam me, and I will not try to explain myself. Some of the plot points felt contrived in Narnia; you might think the same when you read the Wingfeather Saga – to each his own.
So in no particular order, here are some reasons why you should purchase these books:
1. The plot is engaging and well-paced. Peterson has a knack for spinning a good tale that draws you in and never leaves you feeling bored. I’ve read each of the books in one sitting till the wee hours of the morning, simply because I could not put them down for a moment.
2. While the story is set in a fantasy world, the characters are as real to life as you can get. Peterson has a gift for conveying the emotions and thoughts of his characters to the readers, and at many points in the story I could not help but identify with the joys and struggles of our protagonists.
3. His fantasy world is realistic, in that it captures the darkness of the fallen world we all live in. In his own words, “[the storyteller] has to acknowledge that sometimes when the hall light goes out and the bedroom goes dark, the world is a scary place. He has to nod his head to the presence of all the sadness in the world; children know it’s there from a very young age, and I wonder sometimes if that’s why babies cry. He has to admit that sometimes characters make bad choices, because every child has seen their parent angry or irritable or deceitful–even the best people in our lives are capable of evil.”
4. “But of course the storyteller can’t stop there. He has to show in the end there is a Great Good in the world (and beyond it). Sometimes it is necessary to paint the sky black in order to show how beautiful is the prick of light. Gather all the wickedness in the universe into its loudest shriek and God hears it as a squeak at best. And that is a comforting thought. When a child reads the last sentence of my stories, I hope he or she drifts to sleep with a glow in their hearts and a warmth in their bones, believing that all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
Though I wouldn’t classify myself as a child, I definitely did drift to sleep with a glow in my heart and warmth in my bones.
5. It has been of great help to me in comprehending some Christian truths that I have been wrestling with for a while. In particular, how do you persevere in your fight against sin? The third book in the series has helped me more than any other book in dealing with sin on a daily basis. It stole past the watchful dragons in my heart, and taught me that remembering who we are in Christ is insufficient if we are to triumph over shame and guilt and sin. We must also have a real sense of his love towards us.
You know a book has left a substantial impression on you when you are still trying to dig down into the deeper, Christian layers of meaning weeks after you’ve finished reading them.
6. I’d always wanted to write a book series like this since I was 12. I’m afraid I’ll have to shelve that dream for a long while. Any book I write which will eventually see the light of day will need to live up to the standard of this book. The likelihood of that happening is practically zero.
7. You know that you love a book (series) when you’re trying to find a seventh reason for why other people should read it and this is the best you can come up with – I love these books! Enough said.
So go buy them today. The names of the books themselves (in order) are On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, North! Or Be Eaten and The Monster in the Hollows. If you are in Malaysia, your best bet is to order it from The Book Depository. Elsewhere, Amazon might also be an option. The first two books are available on the Kindle. Finally, if you’re in the US, you can also order them directly from the author’s own publishing company, The Rabbit Room.
Let’s hope he starts working on that fourth book soon. Otherwise there might be people cursing me for starting them on this series too soon.