The Warden and the Wolf King
A little over a year ago I started reading Andrew Peterson’s fantasy series called The Wingfeather Saga, and from pretty early on I was completely enthralled. I’ve written a bit on the first book in the past, but never got around to sharing my thoughts on books two and three (both of which were excellent, and far superior to book one, which was very good already!). Today, the fourth and final installment of the series, The Warden and the Wolf King (WATWK), has been released to the masses. I had the privilege of backing Andrew’s massively successful Kickstarter campaign to get the book published and as such my copy of the book arrived on my doorstep a couple months ago to much (audible) excitement and it was read with much enjoyment and through more tears than I’ve ever cried over a book like this. Today, this brilliant book has been released to the masses, so it’s about time I did a writeup about it. Hopefully I can convince you to give it a read!
The Wingfeather Saga has everything you could hope for in a fantasy. There’s a world bursting with delightful creativity (beware the Toothy Cows!), a unique and compelling plot, relatable and strongly developed characters, and deep, thought-provoking themes. The first three books were all fantastic, and I admit until I got my hands on a preview of WATWK I had a hard time seeing how the finale could tie everything up in a satisfying manner, or even be as good as books two and three (they were just THAT good. Seriously). It didn’t take more than a few chapters, though, for me to see that I had not taken into account a proper estimation of Andrew’s abilities as a writer.
I mean… wow. I reached the end of this book with the most satisfying feeling I’ve ever had from a story of this genre. I laughed, I felt what these characters felt, I was in a whole lot of suspense, and yes, I cried. We’re not talking about choking back tears here- when I reached the end of the book, I just couldn’t keep it in (needless to say, I’m glad no one else was home at the time!). The main reason for this is that WATWK captures many elements of the Gospel in a powerful way. Andrew did an amazing job of tying the rich world, story, and characters he had built up to the great true Story of God’s redemption of humanity in a way that in no way felt forced or cheesy, but thoughtful and meaningful at every level.
WATWK also brings resolution to other great themes that weaved their way through the first three books; the theme of identity in particular comes to mind. Much like the believer must let their identity as a child of God compel them to become more of who they already are, Janner and Kalmar gradually allow their identities as the Throne Warden and the King of the Shining Isle of Anniera drive them to be who they were meant to be, and that in turn causes them to do what they know they need to do even at great personal risk. Meanwhile, the dirty, thieving Strander child Maraly finds redemption and the hope of change when she identifies herself with a father who embraces her with unconditional, undeserved love rather than one who abuses her and drags her down further into evil ways. Even the villain, Gnag the Nameless, plays into this theme in a surprising and profound way (which I will refrain from spoiling for you… just know that there is, in fact, a reason for the moniker of “nameless”).
I know it might sound like I’m just gushing with praise here and paying no attention to potential flaws in the book, but in all seriousness, even two months away from my initial reaction, I can definitely say this is one of the best books I have ever read. I could go on a lot longer about how much I love this book, but hopefully I’ve already told you enough to convince you to give The Wingfeather Saga a chance. Although WATWK is easily the best of the four books, I would not advise reading it before the other three books as it won’t be nearly as satisfying if you’ve missed the entire buildup of the overarching story. All of them are excellent anyway!
And please, don’t be so “adult” as to turn the books down because they aim at a younger audience- this is indeed children’s literature, but as I’ve already explained, these books are so deep and fun that I’m convinced anybody with an open mind and heart can not only enjoy them, but be very much enriched by them. As C.S. Lewis said, “When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”