It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. But as I read the third book of Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga, The Monster in the Hollows, I have come to believe his words are worth a thousand pictures. He didn’t just tell a story – he painted it on the canvas of my mind. Every time I opened the book to read, I was getting swept away from Raleigh, North Carolina and setting sail to the world of Aerwiar and the land of the Green Hollows.
The story continues the exciting adventures of the Wingfeather children – Janner, Kalmar, and Leeli. Without spoiling too much of the books for those who may not have read them, their world in bondage to the horrible Fangs of Dang was turned upside down On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. They discovered they were not simply children – they were the beautiful Jewels of the Shining Isle of Anniera. They were heirs to a kingdom. They fled in North, Or Be Eaten, where they weren’t simply running from their enemies – they were fighting them within themselves. Janner is captured and taken to the dreaded Fork Factory. Kalmar makes some poor choices in his fear of one day becoming the rightful King of Anniera. Even their loveable pirate of a grandfather Podo has to reveal some dark secrets. The Wingfeather family sets sail across the Dark Sea of Darkness in hopes of escaping to the one land in Aerwiar that the Fangs had failed to conquer – the Green Hollows. This is where the third book begins as does my thoughts on this amazing story.
The first beauty of this book is again, the paintings Andrew creates with his words. One that caught my senses was the family’s first visit to their new home in the Green Hollows called Chimney Hill:
“Janner was the last to enter the house. He took each step with care, looking closely at the steps, the landing, the places where the main door was worn smooth, the decoration of the flowerpots, the view from the front door; he wanted to remember every detail so he could write about it later. It felt like a silly thought, but he wanted his grandchildren to know what his first visit to Chimney Hill was like, right down to the smell of honeybloom in the autumn air.”
With each brushstroke, Andrew wrote and weaved a portrait that set my senses into action. I could see the beauty of the land of the Green Hollows as the sun sank away and the golden lights from the homes of Ban Rona celebrated the sweet release of the evening. I could smell and almost taste the delicious bean brew from Gully’s Salloon or Janner’s favorite meal – henmeat biscuit pie, and it usually set my mouth to watering. I could hear the sweet, tender music of Leeli as she would sing and play her whistleharp, even in the most dire of situations. I could feel the bruises from the beatings the brothers had to bear as they learned to become Durgans. I could also feel the joy of Janner’s heart when he explored Ban Rona’s library and had all the books he could ever think of at his disposal. I wasn’t simply reading about the Green Hollows. I was beholding it, experiencing it, and reveling in it as I got lost in each chapter of the story.
The second beauty of this book is the structure. The chapters are many, but fairly short – some just a couple of pages long. And while the main story focuses on the Wingfeather family’s adventures in Ban Rona, another story is taking place back in the Fork Factory of Dugtown where Janner was once captive. He found his freedom with the help of a girl named Sara Cobbler. In the third book, Janner’s spirit and escape awoke hope in her like clouds parting in the night sky to reveal the stars. She determined to set herself and as many other children free from the terrible slave work that sucked all the life from them in that dreaded place. I would almost call it devilish how Peterson jumped from story to story between certain chapters. Just when I would be about to put the book down for the evening, he would leave a literary cliffhanger, followed by a jump across the Dark Sea to the corresponding story. It became incredibly difficult to stop reading as this style was like peanuts in a restaurant – it just made me more thirsty. The structure simply begged for the story to be loved and held, and I couldn’t resist its wooing.
The third beauty of this book is how incredibly rich it is with spiritual truth. That is not to say it preaches or quotes scripture. It simply shows it. In a world full of Fangs, snickbuzzards, and toothy cows, truth rings clearly in the lives of the Wingfeathers. Their mother Nia is a stall work of strength, grace, and beauty, the kind that Proverbs 31 describes. Janner surrendered his will and desires for the greater purpose – the protection of his younger brother and sister. It is a beautiful picture of surrender that is called for in Philippians 2. Sara Cobbler carefully shines the light of love and hope to the poor children held slave and captive in the Fork Factory at great personal risk to herself. She was the light of the world and the salt of the earth that Matthew 6 calls God’s children to be. All throughout this book (and the whole series, for that matter), the Maker is the hope of the Wingfeathers. Though their lives are tragedy after tragedy, their passion for Him is constant.
Andrew Peterson is writing a story of fiction, but the pictures he is painting, the structure he is crafting, and the truth he is displaying makes this story very real. I cannot wait for its conclusion in The Warden and the Wolf King, and even that desire is a shadow of the one Andrew instills in all his stories, whether song or book. It is the desire for the grand conclusion God will bring, that we all belong to a kingdom far away on a shining isle. If there is anything to be scared of in The Monster in the Hollows, it would be the wild, beautiful truth that consumes the reader as he loses himself in another Wingfeather adventure. It might simply take your breath away and bring tears to your eyes.