Wingfeather Tales // Review

So I’m finally getting around to the promised review of Winfeather Tales! *excited squealing from my corner of the earth*

If you have no idea what I’m talking about here, the Wingfeather Tales are a collection of short stories (and one novella) by several different authors, exploring heretofore unknown aspects of the world of Aerwiar (and the backstories of *ahem* certain characters). I got the book for Christmas, and it was without doubt one of my favorite presents. =)))

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{In case you still have no idea what I’m talking about, Wingfeather Tales is essentially the fifth book in the Wingfeather Saga, a delightful fantasy series by Andrew Peterson about three children and a lost kingdom (and so, so much more). If you haven’t read the series, I’m afraid this review won’t make much sense; but in that case, you should be reading that instead of this, right?}

Anyway. On with the reviewing.

The Prince of Yorsha Doon // Andrew Peterson

West of the Woes of Shreve, in the city of Yorsha Doon, lives a young thief named Safiki. He spends his days stealing where he can, living on rooftops and in alleyways, and visiting his grandmother every so often. He enjoys his carefree life… but all that changes the day he meets Saana.

This is Andrew Peterson at his best. Light-hearted, whimsical, with a good dash of humor mixed in, but at the same time dealing with deep, interwoven themes about friendship and names and what it means to be human. Also, there are footnotes. And although this takes place after Warden and the Wolf King, and AP has promised no proper sequel to that book, you might still meet an old friend in this story. =)

The Wooing of Sophelia Stupe // Jennifer Trafton

Greetings and forewarnings! This promised report of my recent travel is fraught with such heartbreak and, yea, toebreak, that even I, partly-maimed, half-gobbled, and ferociously-nibbled as I am, have never known its equal in tragedy. (49)

Ollister Pembrick has just finished his life’s work, the Creaturepedia… only to find that it has no buyers. When he travels to the small town of Glipwood to attempt to sell some copies that the new bookstore, he finds far more adventure than he had anticipated.

If you’ve ever read Pembrick’s Creaturepedia (the volume referenced many times in the footnotes of the Wingfeather Saga – yes, it is a real book!) you’ll recognize the unmistakeable writing voice of Ollister Pembrick. This little story is hilarious… and yet, at the same time, just as tragic as Pembrick’s letter to his publisher suggests. It takes place before Gnag’s invasion, when Anklejelly manor was still inhabited – and if you’ve read the 100 Cupboards trilogy, you may also recognize a certain small, wrinkled animal with a horn on its face.

Willow Worlds // N.D. Wilson

Next to the Bylome Falls grow ancient willow trees… trees that might be more than they seem. An old, bearded man walks toward them; the donkey behind him carries an unconscious young Strander.

When I heard that one of the stories in this book was by N.D. Wilson, I was excited. I’ve read his 100 Cupboards series, and it’s one of my favorite portal fantasies ever. My main disappointment with this story, actually, is that it’s so short! It’s only a few pages out of the book, but it connects the world of Aerwiar with Wilson’s cupboard worlds; and it gives  a little bit of insight into the teenager-hood of Podo Helmer.

From the Deeps of the Dragon King // A.S. Peterson

Note – if you haven’t read the Saga, this one has some spoilers.

In the days before Gnag the Nameless, the dragoneers are some of the richest men in the land. They hunt the sqwyrms – the young dragons, whenever they can catch them far from their mothers. It’s a dangerous business; but then an infamous pirate named Podo Helmer comes aboard a dragoneer called the Gilded Whilly, with the promise that he can make them all rich men… 

In the introduction, Andrew Peterson calls this one “epic and heart-wrenching,” and that pretty much sums it up. Did you ever wonder about Podo’s early life, or just how he earned the wrath of the sea dragons? This story is told by a sailor from the Gilded Whilly, and not only does it tell the story of how Podo lost his leg, but it also provides some rare glimpses into his earlier life.

The Ballad of Lanric and Rube // Jonathan Rogers

At the edge of the forest, where fazzle doves chorus 
And the Keekle flows bubbly and clear,
Two farm families neighbored. Together they labored
Side by side, year after year. (147)

Lanric Adoob and Rube Rumley-A’Cato are cousins and best friends. They’re fiercely competitive, but their competition never gets in the way of their friendship. Then both of them fall in love with Illia, the daughter of the Torto Township’s shopkeeper.

This is a very proper ballad – full of humor, quirkiness, and lighthearted observations on friendship and competition. There’s really not much more to say; it’s predictable, but delightful at the same time.

The Places Beyond the Maps // Douglas Kaine McKelvey

The girl was gone.

The girl was gone and the night had run down cold and chill and silent and there was nothing he could do now because he could neither look at nor comfort his weeping wife nor untangle the knot in his own stomach. (161)

He lost his daughter, and his wife at the same time. There’s nothing left now but a thirst for justice – revenge? – and an endless journey to escape the wrath of the Fangs who took his daughter. And where is the Maker?

I can’t believe I’d never met Douglas McKelvey before this. The entire second half of the Tales is taken up by this novella about a father’s grief and redemption, and it is well worth the length. McKelvey’s prose is complex, deep, rich with description, simile, and metaphor (I loved that he described ash falling from trees as “misremembered snow”). It’s not the sort of book that you read all in one sitting. You have to go slowly, savoring the intensity and depth of the writing.

It did have a couple of flaws though; there were a lot of run-on sentences (as in, let’s just use “and” instead of periods for an entire paragraph, shall we?), but it does make sense given the character and the story. The other thing is, I didn’t really understand the ending. I’m not sure if that’s a flaw or it just didn’t make sense to me… I’m going to have to read it again sometime.

All that said, it’s still a toss-up between this and the first story as to my favorite. And I’m definitely going to be looking up more of McKelvey’s writing. I’m pretty sure reading it improves my own. =P

In the introduction to Wingfeather Tales Andrew Peterson says,

“By the time I read all five of these stories I realized that Wingfeather Tales was more than just a nostalgic romp through Aerwiar. This was a legitimate collection, the imaginative and heartfelt expression of a group of excellent writers and illustrators, as much a part of the Wingfeather world as anything I had written.”

Besides the often breathtaking quality of writing, the illustrations are fantastic as well – they include work by Joe Sutphin, who illustrated part of the Saga, and Aedan Peterson, who did most of the pictures for the Creaturepedia (which, by the way, has been a most enjoyable contribution to our family library).

If you’ve read the Wingfeather Saga, I heartily recommend the Tales! (As in, go buy them and read them now, please). And if you haven’t read the Saga… well, you should have. (because they’re my third favorite fantasy series, so pardon my shoving them in your face).

Have you read the Wingfeather Saga or the Tales? What did you think? Who’s your favorite fantasy author (and did you know any of the ones mentioned here)?

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