CSFF Blog Tour: Perfect in Weakness


I don’t suppose there’s ever a good time to have a mental breakdown, but Artham’s time was particularly bad. He was using himself as proof that sprouting wings or fur does not make a human a monster. Then he snapped; his eloquent words melted into gibberish and he terrified everyone with his wild terror.

The Throne Warden was still the Sock Man. Janner misdiagnosed his uncle’s trouble when he said that it was like Artham was two people. Peet was always Artham, and Artham was always Peet. That was his trouble. And that was the brilliance of the character.

Artham Wingfeather fits the fantasy mold by being a noble hero and royal-blooded warrior. He breaks it by also being, for the longest time, a ragged, filthy outcast, half-sane and oddly fearful. Artham’s weakness has always been as prominent in the story as his strength. It did great things for his character.

For one thing, it made him sympathetic. This sounds obvious, but it really isn’t. Good writers fail in this often enough. It takes more than suffering in a character for readers to sympathize with him. You can torture a character in front of your audience and leave them irritated at the story for melodrama or at the character for whining.

I think one of the things that enabled Andrew Peterson to succeed is that never, in all of the first book, did he write from Peet’s point of view. Peterson grounded Artham as a sympathetic character through the eyes of children who knew nothing about him. He had to show rather than tell Peet’s sorrow, and usually through small things. And it is always the small things that do it.

In one part Peterson writes that Leeli had never spoken to the Sock Man: “No one did. The Glipwood Township ignored him like a stray dog.” You could go on for fifty pages and never convey so powerfully the loneliness and exclusion in which he lived.

In the same way, we can feel Peet’s shame without the word being raised: “He stopped fidgeting and looked at the cluster of Igibys. Tears filled his eyes, and he looked down at his talons, covered with Fang blood. He wiped them on his shirt as if to make himself more presentable. … He tried to fix his wild, white hair and stood erect as he inched closer to the family.”

Artham’s identity as the Sock Man also made him far more interesting – and that is obvious. A man who wears knitted stockings on his hands, fights with street signs, and chants nonsense is far more captivating to the imagination than a handsome prince. Taloned hands are a back story that demands to be told. At the beginning Artham was mysterious, and now he’s unpredictable.

Lastly, I think it made Artham more admirable. It’s hard enough to be good when you’re in your right mind. By the time he came to Glipwood, Artham had lost just about everything – from his kingdom to his loving family to his sanity. But he had not lost his nobility.

I take it for granted that making a novel, like making the world, takes all kinds. Too many sad people is not only dull but wearying. Yet there is something special about characters who suffer well. Maybe it makes them more human; maybe it makes them complete.

Maybe characters, like the power of the Lord, are made perfect in weakness.

CSFF Blog Tour: The Monster in the Hollows

Janner has fled his hometown, braved the lawless Strand, escaped the dangers of Dugtown, slipped from the grasp of countless Fangs, and crossed the Dark Sea. Now he’s in the Green Hollows, a rich and beautiful land. Above all, it is a free land, where he can walk the streets without fear of Fangs. The only downside is the people.

I’m sure they’re decent folk, once you can get past the distrust, suspicion, and punching. It’s just hard to get past. Never is this more true than when your brother looks like a wolf. The Wingfeather Saga is a story about family – how they help each other, how they love each other, how they strengthen each other. It is also about how they complicate things, such as your life. When you have, like Janner, one heck of a family, you get one heck of a complication.

Monster in the Hollows is in some ways more serious than its predecessors. The pandemic quirkiness of the first book is restrained, and the humor is noticeably less – though even so it’s funnier than most fantasy novels.

The book’s themes are weighty. The first can be summed up in the words of Aleksandr Solzhenistyn: “A human being is weak, weak.” The second theme is shame – both deserved and undeserved. Yet for all this, Monster in the Hollows remains the most staid of the three books. I don’t think so many pages have ever passed with so little danger.

The middle of the book – about a hundred pages – lapsed into a school story. It was a well-told school story, with conflict, humor, and emotion, and it sowed the seeds of greater things. Still, it was a school story. For me, at least, it lagged.

Then it began picking up speed, gathering power until, finally, it burst into glory. The end of Monster in the Hollows is a work of beauty, crafted with strength and depth.

Monster in the Hollows succeeds as a book. It succeeds also as part of a series. It advances the story toward its ultimate confrontation while digging deeper into what has already been told. The mystery of what happened to Artham continues to be unlocked, though his part is fairly small. It’s an unhappy trend of the Wingfeather Saga that Artham appears less in every new book than in the one before.

Monster in the Hollows is less funny than On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, and less exciting than North! Or Be Eaten. But it is more beautiful than either of them. It is also, I think, more profound. There is a clear view of the Fall of Man – not in the worst people but in the best. Monster in the Hollows is, at times, only a good school story, but in the end it is a wonderful novel woven with glory and tragedy.

Now, campers, it’s time for the links. We have …

Andrew Peterson’s website

A website for The Wingfeather Saga

And a link to The Monster in the Hollows

Last, and most importantly, are the links for the blog tour:

Gillian Adams
Red Bissell
Jennifer Bogart

Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Cynthia Dyer

Amber French
Nikole Hahn
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Jason Joyner


Carol Keen
Rebecca LuElla Miller

Mirriam Neal
Eve Nielsen
Joan Nienhuis

Donita K. Paul

Sarah Sawyer
Chawna Schroeder
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith

Donna Swanson

Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White

Rachel Wyant

Note: In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.