The Monster in the Hollows
by Andrew Peterson: A Review

Story overview (back cover copy)

Janner Wingfeather’s father was the High King of Anniera. But his father is gone. The kingdom has fallen. The royal family is on the run, and the Fang armies of Gnag the Nameless are close behind.

Janner and his family hope to find refuge in the last safe place in the world: the Green Hollows–a land of warriors feared even by Fangs of Dang. But there’s a big problem. Janner’s little brother-heir to the throne of Anniera-has grown a tail. And gray fur. Not to mention two pointed ears and long, dangerous fangs. To the suspicious folk of the Green Hollows he looks like a monster.

But Janner knows better. His brother isn’t as scary as he looks. He’s perfectly harmless.

Or is he?

Join the Wingfeathers on an adventure filled with mystery, betrayal, and sneakery in a land of tasty fruits. There’s a monster on the loose and the truth lurks in the shadows.

Review

Does The Monster in the Hollows live up to its claims of “mystery, betrayal, and sneakery?” Absolutely, in delightful and unexpected ways. As a whole, The Wingfeather Saga has a unique charm, and The Monster in the Hollows is no exception.

After their long, perilous flight from Gnag’s armies, the Wingfeather family has found refuge in the Green Hollows. Or have they? The reception they receive from the Hollish folk will provide the greatest test of character yet for Janner and his family…and may very well threaten their lives. Not only do they face the continued pursuit of Gnag the Nameless, who is determined to claim the children for his own evil purposes, they confront a different, more subtle form of peril, the kind that tests the soul as much as the body. Janner wrestles with resentment over the demands of his position as Throne Warden and the suffering his brother Kalmar causes, while Kalmar battles shame over his beastly form and the dangerous impulses caused by his transformation. All three siblings must grow in discernment–before the real monster in the Hollows devours them. Colorful secondary characters–rotund scholar Oskar N. Reteep, bewhiskered Guildmadam Olumphia Groundwich, and the valiant Keeper Rudric–enrich the story greatly.

Humor laces the adventure at appropriate moments, yet overall, the tone has grown more serious with each book in the series. Janner, Kalmar (formerly Tink), and Leeli have faced grave danger and suffered great loss, so the shift in tone comes as part of a natural progression. My only objection was to the lack of the footnotes that were sprinkled throughout the first two books–they added a special spark that I missed.

Amid all the adventure, Peterson explores the question of what makes a monster–outward form or inward character–taking a often-explored theme and presenting in in a fresh way. In addition, threads of self-sacrifice weave through the story, showing the value of expending your life for those the world would deem unworthy, those who have brought their pain and suffering upon themselves.

As befitting a book by an artist, author, and musician, The Monster in the Hollows fosters a deep appreciation for the arts, as seen in the study of the T.H.A.G.S (Three Honored and Great Subjects–Word, Form, and Song) and the unique abilities possessed the Wingfeathers as the children of the High King of Anneira. Beyond that, it honors the Maker of Word, Form, and Song, and His power to redeem all bent and broken things. Perhaps it wasn’t planned as such, but I thought Peterson gave a special nod to Lewis and Tolkien, by bestowing the names Tollers (the nickname Lewis had for Tolkien) and Tumnus (the name of the faun who welcomes Lucy to Narnia) on two of the characters in his lineage of kings. Intentional or not, I enjoyed the reference, and the role Word, Form, and Song had to play in the story.

My recommendation

A creative world, endearing characters, quirky humor, and a big dose of adventure blend to make this a strong third installment in The Wingfeather Saga. It would make an excellent family book, and it’s well suited to reading aloud, with delightful names and phrases that trip off the tongue in a pleasing way. While aimed at a young adult audience, the story offers plenty to entertain adults as well.

There’s sufficient recounting of what took place in the earlier books to ground a reader in the story, but the tale will be much richer read in its proper place after At the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness and North! Or Be Eaten. I also suggest you read the appendix for a nice hook into the fourth and final book The Warden and the Wolf King.

Similar works

If I had to point to another author you might enjoy after you read Andrew Peterson’s novels, it would most likely be Jonathan Rogers. Yes, he writes fantasy colored by the American frontier, while Andrew Peterson explores a world of a vastly different nature, but they both manage to capture the inner workings of the human heart, while lacing their tales with adventure and humor. Its no coincidence that they co-blog at the Rabbit Room, a haven for those with an artistic bent.

Have you read any of the books in the Wingfeather Saga? Feel free to share your thoughts!

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10 Responses to The Monster in the Hollows
by Andrew Peterson: A Review

  1. Emily says:

    I find the Wingfeather Saga extremely endearing! It has the perfect amount of humor to make the seriousness of the plot seem lighthearted, though at the same time still intense. It’s had me laughing, crying, and everything in between, and I’m always sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation. I just finished reading The Monsters in the Hollows, which had a satisfying (and also unexpected) ending, and I’m looking forward to reading the next book. 🙂

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      Endearing is a good word for it! I also loved the fact that the end had several unexpected twists, which made me anticipate the next book all the more. I hope we won’t have to wait too long for the conclusion of the saga. 🙂

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  4. jmgregory says:

    I’m working my way through Monster in the Hollows now. Thanks for explaining the Tollers and Tumnus references. They rang a bell with me, but I couldn’t quite place them. I have little doubt that these are intentional. Peterson has scattered several such Easter eggs here and there. To wit, J. Bird the barber refers to Wendell Berry’s Jayber Crow, and Armulyn the bard refers to R. Mullins, that is, Rich Mullins, the songwriter. Probably there are others.

    • Sarah Sawyer says:

      If I had to guess, I would say the inclusion was intentional also. It’s fun to discover the little hidden treasures in a story, and I’m glad you mentioned some of the musical references as well. Thanks for stopping by and for sharing your observations on the story!

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  6. Ah ha! I’m reading On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness now, and I just KNEW that J. Crow had to be a reference to Jayber Crow! I’m glad to know that someone else thinks so, too1 🙂

  7. Jeff says:

    I know Andrew personally (went to same college), and I can assure you, the Tolkien and Lewis references are intentional, as is the nod to Rich Mullins, Andrew’s biggest musical influence. Several of Andrew’s songs have LOTR and Narnia references. Another intentional nod is Leeli’s dog Baxter, named after Jody Baxter in one of his favorite novels, The Yearling. He even has a song called “The Ballad of Jody Baxter” that is on his Light for the Lost Boy album.

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