North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson
Published 2009 by Waterbrook Press, 331 pages
Book 2 in the Wingfeather Saga
Genre: Christian fiction, middle grade
This book, neither the first nor the last in its series, could suffer from middle-of-story sag. But it doesn’t. In fact, it’s an intense read.
The three Igiby children, their mother Nia, and their grandfather Podo have teamed up with Peet the Sock Man as the book opens. In the previous book, we readers got accustomed to the fantasy world, Aerwiar (“Here we are,” the first words said at Creation), and its puckishly named creatures and features.
Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby have just learned that they themselves ARE the Jewels of Anniera, which according to prophecy contain power. They are the three children of the late king of the faraway islands of Anniera, overcome nine years before by the fangs of Dang.
They have also learned that Peet the Sock Man, a local crazy person, is actually their uncle, the special guardian or throne warden of his late younger brother the king. Likewise Janner has found out that he is now throne warden for his younger brother Tink, king in exile. Janner is 12 and Tink is 10, by the way. The throne always goes to the second son, and the guardian job to the first son.
Not only do the Igiby children know who they are now, but the enemy does too. The fangs are looking near and far for them because of the prophecy about the power of the Jewels of Anniera. And so the Igibys plan to leave Peet’s tree-house hiding spot and set out for the Ice Prairies to the north, with the vague idea of teaming up with some rebels who live there.
But their journey doesn’t even get properly started. In a flurry they leave packs and supplies behind as the fangs attack. Then they flee from disaster to disaster, each less predictable than the last, always heading north.
It isn’t just endurance that’s tested. It’s also their family bond. Eventually Tink gets sick of the whole king idea and abandons the family to join a band of thieves and robbers. (As a result, woe strikes both Tink and Janner in nearly overwhelming measure.) At another point, Podo tries to jump ship too.
Can the family get back together and unite in its purpose? That is the question posed in
this book. I won’t tell you how it works out.
What do I think?
I think this book is very well written. I found myself caring very much about the missteps of this endearing family. It is in fact a different, more intense, sort of story from what I expected by reading the goofy names like Phoob Islands and predatory Bomnubbles.
What about the Christian walk? How is it modeled? The Igiby family prays to the Maker at times of difficulty, and the Maker miraculously intervenes on a couple of occasions. Meanwhile, there is recognition of sin and repentance, as characters review their past histories with each other. So the book is modeling some version of the Christian walk, but not deeply. I’d say this book is more about the adventure than about teaching the Christian walk.
And what an adventure it is. I am really looking forward to the next book. I highly recommend the first two for all ages. –Phyllis Wheeler
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