The story starts off fast and it took me a little while to get my bearings, but I am now hooked. The action starts right off the bat as we meet the Smith children, Cyrus, Antigone, and Dan. They are living in a run down hotel without their father and with a mother in the hospital. Wilson drew me right into the scene and I could see the old rural hotel and smell the waffle maker just as he describes it. I will have to buy the second book in the series soon. It reminds me a little of the Percy Jackson books, but the writing is much more literary and stylish. Wilson spends some good time developing his characters, and the brother/sister dynamic comes off well. I think that it adds greatly to the whole of the book to see the two Smith kids interact while battling evil or just trying to get a meal in.
One of my concerns in children’s literature is the portrayal of parental figures. Wilson again does a good job of not making adults the totally stupid ones, while the kids just save the world. Through their journey, Cyrus and Antigone must take advice from adults and rely on them. This is done in a positive way that adds to the worth of the whole book.
The book can be graphic at times, as the struggle to survive and find meaning envelop the characters. I think it is in good taste, and it is mild compared to other offerings out there. N.D. Wilson created quite a complex world of bad guys and big places, serving up a playground for the imagination.
Great story for Upper Elementary or Middle School age boys, especially. The themes and situations are truly redemptive in nature, and N.D.’s world reflects the truth of God’s world and how good and evil work. There is no false praise of evil or it’s devices. As a Christian parent of two little boys, I will not be reading this one to them in the near future, but I think it will be fun to point them to the words that are spirit and life, as we enjoy this adventure.
UPDATE: Not as amazed with the second book, The Drowned Vault. Too much action and craziness all fit together. I am anxious to see how the whole series will work in concert.
I highly recommend this book for 4th grade to middle school and high school aged boys and even girls. There is plenty of imagination, humor, mystery, and action to keep any kid reading well into the night. Parents of younger children could even use this book as a positive and encouraging read-aloud.
The story brings us into the family of the Igibys, three siblings, a mom and a grandpa. All is not right in the world, as the Fangs of Dang have taken over and are terrorizing the countryside. The main characters in the book are the three siblings, Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby. They lead a fairly uneventful life, protected from the hard truths by their mom and grandpa. They start realizing their situation pretty quickly though, as they have a run in with one of the meaner Fangs. The conflict builds until escape from the town they know and love is the only option.
As a Christian author, Peterson fills his story with true truth that helps form that moral imagination of kids. One major plus in this book is the peace and life that exist in the family relationships. Yes, there is evil without, but the sanctuary of the family is very much intact in this story. Missing in many books for young children is the truth about God’s gift of family and how a God honoring family works to honor each other and the Lord Jesus. Boys will be encouraged to reach out to those younger than them by Janner’s actions in the books as well. Growing up is shown to be a needful process filled with care and sacrifice for others. Life is not a meaningless quest for self-actualization or more stuff.
I am floored at the power that media has over the character and thoughts of young children, as my perspective changes with age. Many books have a worldview and tone about them that give me pause as I recommend them. This series by Peterson is a breath of fresh air. Kids are free to read and parents are free to trust that kids will be getting ideas and fantasies that come from a moral grounding. The parents in the book are not dumbos or idiots, the kids don’t get into all sorts of innapropriate situations just because it sells or is controversial, and good triumphs over evil. It triumphs not just on the outside, but within the hearts an minds of the characters as well. The words that Andrew Peterson shares with us do a service to kids by pointing them to the true words that are spirit and life. (John 6)
Amen, Come Lord Jesus!