The Story. The Igibys sail the Dark Sea of Darkness to reach the Green Hollows where Nia Igiby grew up with her crusty pirate father, Podo Igiby and her mother, now deceased. After surviving a harrowing attack, they are initially welcomed warmly by the Hollowsfolk — until Nia introduces her son, Kalmar Wingfeather, heir to the throne of Anniera and outwardly still very much a Grey Fang.
When Nia invokes an old tradition and forces the hand of the Keeper and the chiefs of the Hollows, the Igiby/Wingfeathers are allowed to take refuge in this last stronghold standing against Gnag the Nameless.
If only the Hollowsfolk didn’t stare at Kalmar as if he were a monster. If only the brutish bully at the school didn’t persist on taunting him. If only the Cloven loose from the Blackwoods didn’t seem to be after the Igiby children. If only the Cloven was the only thing after them.
Strengths. Humor. Depth. Suspense. Unpredictable twists. Lovable characters. Artistry. Word play. The Monster In The Hollows is a great read-aloud book, perfect for a family with children twelve and under. It’s a great individual read for people ten and up. Adults will love it just as much as kids and maybe more.
This is the kind of book and series that children will grow up and re-read, then read aloud to their kids. It will be loved and praised and given as gifts over and over again. This is a keeper.
Weaknesses. For all that, you’d think I wouldn’t have anything to say here in the “weakness” section of the review. I think Andrew Peterson is a step away from C. S. Lewis. He has the talent and the imagination and the depth and the joy. He has the voice — a wonderful storyteller quality that makes readers feel like they’re cozying up around a fire or snuggled under the covers as a master tells a tale of monsters and love and life.
OK, this doesn’t sound like “weaknesses,” I realize. Here’s what I think can move Andrew to the next level, the breakout level where readers of all stripes — Christians, grannies, teens, those wary of religion, book lovers — everyone with a passion for a good story, will clamor for his next book. It’s a little thing really. I believe in this climate of literature the young adult in the young adult novel needs to be the agent making things happen.
In Monster, the main character, Janner, has a clear desire — he wants to live at peace and have as normal a life as possible. The problem is, his circumstances don’t allow him to do anything to try and achieve what he wants. Hence his role for much of the book is passive or reactive.
The thing is, all the characters are delightful. I’m pulling for Leeli as much as I am Janner. I want Nia to find happiness, too. I want Kalmar to grow into his role as the future kind and to find acceptance in the Hollows.
I have to wonder, however, how much better the story would be if the main character were the main agent. The best part of book two, North! Or Be Eaten, in my opinion, was the section in which Janner, separated from his family, needed to take action or accept his fate as a Fork Factory tool. I was in his corner cheering him on and fearing that his every decision would lead to a worse situation than the already hopeless one he was in. It was compelling.
The parts I loved most in Monster were also places where Janner acted with heroism. As I see it, there needs to be more of such — the main character going after what he wants and meeting opposition, failing, and trying again, failing, and trying something new.
Andrew is such a gifted writer that his many strengths carry the day even when the main character seems passive. Eventually other beloved characters take action, and the story progresses to a fitting climax.
Recommendation. Fantasy lovers of all ages should buy this book. Parents or teachers looking for a read-aloud should buy this book. Adults looking for a gift for their ten to twelve year old son or daughter, niece or nephew, granddaughter or grandson, should buy this book. In actuality, they should all buy the first and second of the series too and start from the beginning. The Wingfeather Saga is a keeper. Watch for the conclusion of the series, The Warden And The Wolf King.