Book review: The Wingfeather Saga

The Wingfeather Saga is a four volume epic tale of mystery, fantasy, and redemption. Written by Andrew Peterson (a highly esteemed singer-songwriter), the story follows the adventures and misadventures of the Igiby children as they come to terms with their identity in a world of evil and malice, and as they face up to navigating their way through personal adversity and various trials. Set in a richly realised fantasy world inhabited by all kinds of strange monsters/creatures (Toothy Cows and Sea Dragons being my personal favourites) and diverse characters, the story spins a yarn full of pathos, comedy, high ideals.

The Wingfeather Saga’s literary heritage is most definitely rooted in the world of Tolkien and Lewis, with similarities of style and subject matter, but this is no exercise in fan fiction. The storyline is breathtakingly original, sophisticated, and is laced with twists and turns which even the most discerning reader will struggle to anticipate – delivering exhilarating highs and emotional blows which will easily reduce adults and children to tears. One of the most impressive features of the saga is the depth of characterisation which Peterson has developed in his main characters making them believable, and connecting the reader to them empathetically. One quickly feels that the destiny of Janner, Tink, and Leeli, truly matters and the dangers and snares they face along the way are engaging and at times terrifying.

The Wingfeather Saga rests in the sweet-spot which a lot of fiction aspires to, but fails to achieve, in that it will equally appeal to children and adults. In Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling managed to hook the hearts and minds of readers young and old, and to a lesser degree Peterson achieves the same. The present reviewer initially started reading these novels to check their content before handing them on to my children, but I quickly found myself swept up in a compelling story with believable characters.

Thematically, the novels manage to carry a strong and insistent message of hope in hopeless times, of the value of selfless sacrifice, of the need for atonement, and of the worth of healthy family relations, without ever feeling laboured or moralistic. The story, in other words, is not merely a vehicle for bigger themes, but is part and parcel of how the message is told. When redemption is on the horizon, even the smallest details of the story are seen to carry weight and truly matter.

I cannot commend The Wingfeather Saga highly enough. Its emotional and narrative switchback, its psychologically credible cast of wonderful characters, and its preoccupation with telling an individual story well – while never losing sight of the deeper redemptive story which it maps – make it a true joy intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.

Suitable for hungry readers aged 8 to adult, and available in the UK here.

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