January 18, 2006

Book Review: The Secret of the Swamp King

Book two of the Wilderking Trilogy opens with Aiden Errolson serving in the court of King Darrow of Corenwald. Actually, it opens with Aiden and Darrow's son Steren hunting a wild boar, but Aiden is, in fact, at court. Aiden is loved by everyone at court -- everyone except Darrow.

Darrow is tired of hearing about how heroic Aiden is. About how he defeated the giant Golia -- I mean Greidawl, and helped drive the Pyrthan invaders out of Corenwald. He's threatened -- he thinks Aiden is after the throne.

So he sends Aiden on a quest, to prove his loyalty. Aiden is sent to retrieve a legendary flower that is said to have the ability to cure the King's depression. But the flower is located in the heart of the Feechiefen Swamp -- and nobody who has ever entered the swamp has come out again.

Aiden isn't worried -- he has the friendship of the feechies, and the mark to prove it. But as he progresses, he grows more and more worried. There's something wrong in the Feechiefen Swamp -- there are feechies who pay no attention to the feechie laws, and who use metal weapons. And there's a new king in the swamps.

The Wilderking.

I enjoyed this book even more than the first one. For one thing, it's less derivative than the first book, even though the close friendship between Aiden and Steren was predictable, as was Darrow's depression and hatred of Aiden. But the focus of this book is on the feechies -- which should please Rogers' fans.

The feechies really make this series. Their simplicity, their sense of honor, and their commitment to their values illustrate everything that is wrong with civilizer society. And they're really funny to read -- especially out loud.

This series is high on my must-read list. I've got to make sure I get a copy of Book 3 (Amazon says it should be out in May of this year) so I can find out how this ends.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 01:54 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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Book Review: The Bark of the Bog Owl

There is a distinct lack of good fiction geared toward young people, specifically ages 10-14. Harry Potter isn't an option for some families. Artemis Fowl isn't nearly as well-known (which is unfortunate).

Now there's another option. Jonathan Rogers has written The Wilderking Trilogy, and offers us a series for young readers that is fun, exciting, and based on Christian ideals and principles.

Book 1, The Bark of the Bog Owl, was actually released back in 2004. The premise is familiar to Christians -- a young boy, Aiden Errolson, tending his father's sheep, is chosen by a mysterious prophet to be the next King -- the Wilderking, who comes to lead his people back to prominence in the world, and to reclaim the traditional ideals that the people have forgotten.

The only real weakness in this first book is that the main plot is far too predictable. Once I read that Aiden was a shepherd, I had a feeling that this would be the story of King David retold. Then the Phillist -- I mean, the Pyrthens -- show up with their "peace treaty," which leads to war. Then Aiden goes to his brothers at the front carrying cheese and other food. And guess what? There's this giant ...

That said, I really enjoyed this book. The subplots involving the aboriginal "feechies" is very enjoyable, especially the Feechiefeast that Aiden enjoys. The characters are familiar, but still deep. It's going to be interesting to see Aiden mature over the course of the next two books, and it's a relief to read about a boy who is actually boyish -- he likes to roam, play, and have adventures. He's a twelve-year-old who writes to the King volunteering his services as "an adventurer." And suddenly, he's got a huge responsibility dropped on him. He reacts the way any normal kid would react.

Rogers has a Ph.D in 17th Century English Lit, but this book reads as if he'd spent his academic career studying 18th Century American literature instead. The differences in dialect between feechie and 'civilizer' are distinct, American dialects, and the setting certainly reminds me of the American southeast -- fitting, since Rogers grew up in Georgia. The series has promise, and after I finished this book I was relieved that I'd gotten the second one to review as well. THAT review will be up in a half hour or so ...

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 12:54 PM | Comments (1) | Add Comment
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