Sunday, September 18, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour - September, 2011, Day One

Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour (September 2011) - Day One.

The Monster in the Hollows, by Andrew Peterson.

After a long trip across the Dark Sea of Darkness, and the harrowing experiences with the Fangs of Dang, forest-roaming toothy cows, a sea serpent, child slavery in the Fork Factory, and the battle of Kimera, the Igiby family arrives off the shores of Anneira, Nia Igiby’s homeland and its queen. Janner and Kalmer (her sons), Leeli (her daughter), and Podo Helmer (her father and former pirate) arrive with her. Janner had dreamed of living again in Castle Rysen where he was born. But his dreams turn to foolishness. Gnag the Nameless set it afire nine years prior, and it is still burning. 
     Janner was tired of running. He wanted a place to call his own, a place where Fangs didn’t roam, where Stranders didn’t want to cut his throat, and where he and his family could finally be at peace. (p. 9)

The children ask how it is possible that the land was still burning. Nia's answer somberly reveals the gravity of the threat that is pursuing them.
     Nia wiped her eyes. When she spoke, Janner heard the tremble of anger in her voice. “Gnag has hate enough in his heart to melt the very foundations of the castle, down to the bones of the isles itself. He won’t rest until Anniera sinks into the sea.”
    “But why?” Janner asked. “Why does he hate it so much? Who is he, even?”
    “Who knows? When it rages long enough, hate doesn’t need a reason. It burns for the sake of its own heat and devours whatever, or whomever, is set before it. Before the war, rumor came to us about an evil in the mountains—but Throg is a long way from Anniera. We never imagined it would come to us.” Nia closed her eyes. “By the time we realized the Fangs were after Anniera, it was too late. Your father believed the Symian Strait would protect us—or at least give us time to mount a defense.” She shook her head and looked at the children. “The point is, Gnag seemed to come from nowhere, like a crash of lightning. He wanted Anniera. He wanted us dead.” (p. 9,10)

And so, the book begins against the backdrop of an evil entity seeking out their destruction from whom they hope to find haven soon in the Green Hollows, just beyond the burning Anniera. Gnag dwells to the south of the Hollows in the Castle Throg where he “broods on the world’s destruction.” But the Hollows are presumably a sanctuary for several reasons. The folk there are a strong, determined people who have never liked outsiders and have been diligent to keep the Hollows isolated. The land is also protected by a massive, treacherous mountain range that separates it from Gnog's dwelling place; and the deep, twisted forest of Blackwood (whom no one has ever survived) surrounds the Hollows on the east and north. The west is open to the sea. Beside all that, Gnag would not expect to find them in his own back yard—who would be foolish enough to seek refuge there?

Nia is not absolutely certain, but she thinks Gnag made his army of fangs from people. It is probably so. Somewhere in all of the dangers and battles they have been through, Kalmar has fallen victim to this. He was transformed into a Grey Fang, a wolf whose vicious animal appetites overwhelm him at times, though he has learned to control much of it. His eyes are blue, as they were before, but his whole appearance is brutish having a snout, wolfish teeth, and dog-like ears that lay back on his head when he’s sorrowful or embarrassed.

The Green Hollows promises peace and safety, but there is trouble. The Hollow folk hate fangs. Kalmar would have been lynched and murdered if not for Nia’s call for turalay, in which she vouches for Kalmar’s behavior upon pain of the same punishment Kalmar would suffer should he violate his probation.

The family settles in the home of their father’s friend (their father has been lost) and they begin life in the Hollows. It is hard as the children face the brutal tauntings and threats of their schoolmates day in and day out. This becomes quite intense during PT (pummelry training), a class in which Janner and Kalmar are up against those who are at least a year or two older.

There is a monster in the Hollows who is killing livestock, and the citizens are determined to hunt it down and kill it. Who is the monster? Where did he come from, and what is he doing there? What will become of him? The answers to these questions bring the story to an awesome conclusion and set the stage for the final book.

The story and the writing is not like the Chronicles of Narnia, so to compare it to Lewis's classic tales would be absurd. Yet I think it could stand side by side with it. That is, I think the book has the stuff which makes a classic, a classic. Its characters are wonderful and the intertwining of subplots within the main is delightful. The conflict between the Igiby’s and the citizens of the Hollows, especially for the children, brings tension and suspense that keep the story moving, compelling the reader to press on. Humor, villainy, treachery, loyalty, humility, sacrifice and more evoke a wide range of emotion.

I think it is mildly Christian, but I don't think that is a detriment. It does portray the evilness of evil and it reveals to some degree the inner conflicts of conscience that rise in the human heart. It is not a study of these, but it does bring them before the reader. That is all the more a wonder because the young reader's interest is most likely entertainment, and as the story fulfills that element, it does so with a seriousness that is befitting a quality children's story; the kind that a serious Christian writer will strive for.

God is known in the story by the name of Maker, and there is nothing unbiblical that I can detect about the Maker of this fantasy world. The tale does not present a clear message of the Gospel either through pointed declaration or fantastical imagery, so for Christian parents who are looking for such a fantasy, this is not the one. But it is quality literature: wholesome, imaginative, entertaining, and a fine example of the Christian writer who strives, as the image-bearer of God, to reflect the creative attributes of God through his story telling.

Though it is advertised as young adult fantasy (technically age 14 – 21), it is really for middle school readers, roughly age 9 – 12. It is superbly written for that group, and because of that, I think its appeal reaches beyond pre-teens to include young adult and adult.

The Wingfeather saga began in the first volume, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (March 18, 2008)


 This was followed by North! Or Be Eaten (August 18, 2009) 

The saga will conclude in the forthcoming novel, The Warden and the Wolf King.

For a drawing of a Grey Fang by Mr. Peterson’s twelve year old son, Aeden, visit his blog, The Crimson Phoenix. You can see another drawing by Justin Gerard at A Fang Of Dang.

Get The Monster in the Hollows on amazon.
Series Web Site

Thanks to Rabbit Room Press who kindly provided a copy of the book for review on the CSFF blog tour. The Monster in the Hollows, by Andrew Peterson, is book three of the Wingfeather Saga.


  1. I agree with you that these books have what it takes to endure, and they're able to reach an audience far beyond the target age group.

    I've found that references to the Maker increase as the series goes on, so it will be interesting to see if the Christian themes become more direct in the final book.

  2. Jeff, it's a good one, a keeper. I agree with Thomas that this has the makings of a classic. I think it's a step away, but Andrew has the talent, without a doubt.

    Sarah compared him to Jonathan Rogers and I agree, those two have similarities.

    I thought the Christian theme was pretty clear in this one, so I'm interested in what you all think. From what Andrew wrote in his recent Spec Faith guest post, I wouldn't expect his themes to get any more explicit than they are. I personally thought they were just right. Any more and they would have started sounding pedantic. He just laid it out there and let the reader think things through.

    Anyway, good post, Thomas. You do such a good job of summarizing the story.


  3. I think the Christian themes were certainly present, and when you pointed them out, Becky, then I saw them more clearly! Haha--

    But I agree with you, Thomas; it's not a heavy-handed work, and the Christian themes are definitely more subtle.