How can you tell that you’re enjoying a book? Someone in a Barnes & Noble café turns around to ask what you’re reading because he’s heard you giggling to yourself. And you later catch yourself gasping and talking aloud to the book. And you spend the rest of the night disturbing co-workers as you talk to other books that are misplaced on the shelves.
Thanks, Andrew Peterson.
The Monster in the Hollows is the third in The Wingfeather Saga, an altogether slower book than its predecessors, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and North! Or Be Eaten. Along with changing his publishing house, Peterson here changes his style somewhat—I venture for the worse, pining for the quippy and informative footnotes and diagrams of the previous two books, and being somewhat lulled by the time spent in the all but Fang-free Green Hollows, where the worst of troubles seemed to be bullies and suspicion. I read Peterson for the nail-biting, edge-of-my-seat fantasy thrill ride, and the middle of this novel delivered to me a middle-grade school story. Further, as exciting as is Sara Cobbler’s rebellion in the dreaded Fork! Factory!, I was not as interested in her tale as I was in that of the Jewels of Anniera. Because Janner had left behind the Fork! Factory!, I wanted to do so as well. Though I understand Peterson’s desire to include Sara’s story, both to color the middle of the story that slowed in the Green Hollows and to multiply the heroic deeds of his female characters, I do not yet see how it connects other than to make more interesting the woman who might become wife to the Throne Warden when he’s older than thirteen.
Too, at moments, Nia’s assurances that love is stronger border upon preaching, a slippery slope upon which falls the reputation of many an otherwise enjoyable Christian novel. I think Peterson manages to keep himself from that slide, but I hope that he edges further away from the precipice in the next book.
From all this, the end of the novel does wonders to redeem itself, returning to the page-turning cliff-hangers, bone-chilling cruelty, Fangs, and last-minute escapes (not to mention the surprising revelations) through all of which Peterson’s word-smithing and well-honed storytelling shines. Peterson in this novel proves himself almost as ruthless a killer as George R. R. Martin (and I mean that as a compliment), taking from the Wingfeathers as quickly as he gives. The next and final story in his saga, Peterson alerts the reader, will follow the heroic pattern: his world is gearing for war, and now we are forced to anxiously wait while Aerwiar arms itself.
Humorous diagrams of the previous books that point to the toothy cows’ pointy teeth are replaced by detailed (so much so that some of the titles of books on a shelf are legible) renderings of characters and scenes at which it is hard to turn one’s nose up in which colors subtly shift and musculature and facial features are well-defined.
I read this book alongside The Hobbit, and that slowed my journey through the Green Hollows as much as through Middle Earth. Perhaps if I had read it alone and more quickly, the Green Hollows would not have seemed as plodding.
Peterson, Andrew. The Wingfeather Saga, Book 3: The Monster in the Hollows. Nashville: Rabbit Room, 2011.
This review is not endorsed by Rabbit Room Press or Andrew Peterson. It is an independent, honest review by a reader.