North or Be Eaten review
The second installment in Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga, North or Be Eaten, picks up, as expected, right where book 1, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, left off (I’ve reviewed that book as well). The Igiby family is on the run. Grandfather Podo, mother Nia, older brother Janner, younger brother Tink, and little sister Leeli are being hunted by the Fangs of Dang for reasons not yet fully revealed. What we do know is that the Fangs are nasty lizardmen and they’ve figured out that (spoiler alert if you haven’t read the first book) the children are the heirs to the lost kingdom of Anniera. And that’s enough to threaten the Fangs and send the poor Igibys off at a hasty clip in a generally northerly direction.
After a few introductory chapters to set the stage, most of the first half of the novel takes the form of a prolonged chase. While the pursuing Fangs keep the story moving, the opening encounters the Igiby’s (along with their friend Oskar Reteep and the mentally unstable Peet the Sockman) have with their pursuers never really reach the level of tension achieved towards the end of book 1. Still, it’s clear that the children, and especially Janner, are forced to grow up rather quickly. Their pastoral life in Glipwood is a thing of the past. It feels as if they are slowly but surely being drawn into their roles as future royalty of this unknown kingdom.
Throne wardens rule (well, they should anyway)
On their way to the Ice Prairies, they face bands of ruffians, trolls, traitors, and some dark family secrets. Most of this is filtered through Janner’s point of view, which is good, as he is the most likable member of the family. Nia and Leeli are great, too, but they are not as heroic as the future Throne Warden of Anniera. A subplot also follows Peet the Sockman who, though mentally not all there, is fiercely loyal to the Igiby’s, especially the children.
The most praiseworthy aspects of this novel center around Janner and Peet. These two are the ones you’ll be rooting for on almost every page. Peet’s story arc, in particular is rather epic. But it’s Janner’s transformation and growth which drives this story. His time in the “Fork Factory” (I’ll leave it to your imagination as to just what that is) proves to be the turning point for me. That section, and Peet’s transformation, are the most memorable (and my favorite) parts of the book.
Speaking of heroes, an honorable mention should also go out to the Florid Sword. Though this character only appears in a couple of brief scenes, he makes quite the impression. He probably is worthy of a novel of his own and the glimpses of him that we do get will leave readers hungering for more.
Of things to come
The writing throughout the book is excellent, even better than book 1, and the story is more engaging as well. But outside of Janner and Peet, the characters here could be more compelling. Tink in particular is someone it’s hard to root for. It’s not that he’s a scoundrel, it’s just that Janner is so much more interesting. And it feels like an awful cheat that he’s stuck playing second fiddle to his brother.
The novel’s ending has a few surprises, but nothing earth-shaking. The events leading up to the climax (Peet’s redemption and Janner’s journey through the Ice Prairies) are more momentous than what comes after. But the ending does set up the next story well and feels like a satisfying place to leave off. The last chapter is particularly touching.
Go forth and be readin’
So. If you’re looking for a well-written, heartfelt adventure, the Wingfeather Saga is certainly worth a read. North or Be Eaten is is a well-rounded, wholesome, enjoyable romp you and your kids can enjoy together. And it will certainly leave you curious as to what happens in book 3 as the journey of the Igiby family continues.