Happy 2010, everybody, and welcome back to the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour! This month, we’re reviewing Andrew Peterson’s young-adult fantasy adventure, North! Or Be Eaten.
Okay, you can’t help but love a title like, “North! Or Be Eaten.”
But first, Truth-in-Advertising Time:
1. I haven’t read the book. My review copy didn’t arrive (hmm, perhaps it was…eaten).
2. I’m traveling this week (North!), so I had to write my first two posts several days in advance. My dutiful blog-bot will post them at 6am on the appropriate morning. Please feel free to comment, but it may be a couple of days before I reply. Depending on how my trip is going, I may not make a third post this time.
All right, you smart-alecks, hold the applause.
Neither 1 nor 2 is a huge problem. Even without reading the book, I can discuss what other people are saying about it and peruse the websites for the book and author. As to writing in advance, there’s really no way you can tell whether or not I’ve been doing that all along, or even whether it’s actually me writing or some demented, green-furred monster from a dimension beyond time. Or something.
So, Onward! North! Or Be Eaten! (That is so much fun to say. I never get tired of it.)
North! Or Be Eaten is the second book of the Wingfeather Saga. To bring everyone, including myself, up to speed, here is a summary of the first book, At the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (heh, sounds like the standard internet gag: “Sea of Darkness is Dark!”). It’s from Mr. Peterson’s website, and though I usually prefer to summarize the tour books myself, I don’t think I can match this blurb:
Once, in a cottage above the cliffs on the Dark Sea of Darkness, there lived three children and their trusty dog Nugget. Janner Igiby, his brother Tink, their crippled sister Leeli are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice and pursue the Igibys who hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.
Everybody got that? Cool. Now for the second volume. This synopsis is from Barnes&Noble.com (slightly edited for clarity), and again, not having read the book, I don’t think I can do better. If you haven’t read At the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, it seems there’s a major spoiler here, so be warned…Or Be Eaten.
Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby thought they were normal children with normal lives and a normal past. But now they know they’re really the Lost Jewels of Anniera, heirs to a legendary kingdom across the sea, and suddenly everyone wants to kill them.
In order to survive, the Igibys must flee to the safety of the Ice Prairies, where the lizardlike Fangs of Dang cannot follow. First, however, they have to escape the monsters of Glipwood Forest, the thieving Stranders of the East Bend, and the dreaded Fork Factory.
But even more dangerous are the jealousies and bitterness that threaten to tear them apart, and Janner and his siblings must learn the hard way that the love of a family is more important than anything else.
I want to party with this guy. Fangs of Dang? Stranders? Fork Factory? The review comments on Mr. Peterson’s webpage also mention the unambiguously malevolent Toothy Cows. There’s a very twisted sense of humor going on here, and I’m liking it.
Almost everybody seems to have enjoyed this book very much. It’s carrying 4.5 out of 5 stars at Barnes&Noble.com, and 5 out of 5 on Amazon.com. For you statistics-hounds out there, of the 46 reviews posted on Amazon, only two were 3-star, seven were 4-star, and the rest were 5-star. Here are a smattering of comments from the Amazon reviews:
Positive (plenty of these)
“North or Be Eaten” was so intriguing that I read it in one night without putting it down.
Andrew’s descriptive language is so perfect that you feel as if you are right in the midst of the drama. More than once, I looked up to make sure that a Fang of Dang was not peering in through my window.
North! Or Be Eaten takes the series to the next level: deeper, darker, heart-wrenching, hilarious, hopeful, redemptive.
As a bonus, the story contains great lessons about growing up, treating your siblings right, recognizing and fighting injustice and oppression, and the imperfection of parents–yet presented extremely subtly and without an insulting, moralizing tone.
Negative (there weren’t many–I had to hunt for them)
Book two does change a bit from book one. For starters it’s much darker. In fact I’d say too dark for young children. I won’t be reading them to my kids any time soon. Secondly, it’s not nearly as funny.
A bit quirky (how many kids’ books have footnotes with hilarious “historical” descriptions of people, places, events and other local lore?), and a bit dark for the youngest readers–although not terribly graphic…The book starts out humorously, but quickly turns grim, sad, and full of guilt and shame. It’s a world with very little beauty, trust, safety, or mercy. I didn’t feel like the ending showed the boys learning “that the love of a family is more important than anything else.” In fact, I can’t think of any good lessons in the book. It was just so bleak and cruel, especially to the thousands of children in the book.
Non-Christians probably wouldn’t even know this book came from a Christian publisher. The book has no hint of Christian beliefs or religion. (On rare occasion, they do make a quick prayer to a monotheistic deity, but their religion makes no impact on their lives.)
I’ll take a closer look at the book and author websites and other marketing boodle in tomorrow’s installment. In the meantime, please pay a visit to the other fine sites on this month’s CSFF Blog Tour….Or Be Eaten!
CSFF Blog Tour
Todd Michael Greene
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
Donita K. Paul
Steve and Andrew
Rachel Starr Thomson