If you don’t know, I joined the launch team for The Wingfeather Tales, which released in March. I’ve written reviews elsewhere, but I wanted to write a more detailed one here.
The Wingfeather Tales is a collaborative collection from the world of Aerwiar where The Wingfeather Saga takes place. If you haven’t read The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson (which I’ve reviewed here), you can choose to read this book first if you like, but there will be spoilers.
The Tales includes seven stories by five authors (two are by Andrew Peterson) and illustrated by nine different artists. None of the tales feature the main characters of the original saga, but a few side characters do make appearances, including Podo as a young man. Readers will also recognize the characters in “Shadowblade and the Florid Sword,” a comic by Andrew Peterson, though I won’t spoil that here. The fun part of these stories is getting to see this world fleshed out more. We even get to see some new magic and creatures that make the world more breathtaking.
I spend some time in my review of The Wingfeather Tales describing the ideal reading age since the books do get dark (in the most redeemable way). The Wingfeather Tales are no different. Not only are some of them dark (notably “From the Deeps of the Dragon King” and “The Places Beyond the Maps”), but some are also written at a higher reading level. If your kids read The Wingfeather Tales on their own, they are probably fine reading this; however, they may get frustrated with the vocabulary in “The Wooing of Sophelia Strupe” or the gravity of “The Places Beyond the Maps,” which I’ll discuss more below.
The first story (and my favorite) in the collection is Andrew Peterson’s “The Prince of Yorsha Doon.” It’s a classic hero’s journey tale in a setting very much like The Arabian Knights. I was actually surprised by how similar this story is to Aladin (a street rat is the main character), but it somehow fit the world, and the story was lovely. Of all of the stories, this one felt the most like a complete, traditional story, and I think that’s why I liked it so much. It was also the only story with children as main characters, so younger readers may relate to it the most. Finally, it features a cameo from one of the beloved side characters, but I won’t spoil that!
“The Wooing of Sophelia Strupe” by Jennifor Trafton is a hilarious story about Ollister Pebmrick, the writer of the Creaturepedia that is so often referenced in The Wingfeather Tales. With almost as many made-up words as a Dr. Seuss book and just as many high reading level vocabulary, it may be one you want to read aloud to your kids to avoid frustration. That said, this story contains one of the best “sense of wonder” moments I’ve read in awhile, so I won’t give anything else away.
I don’t know if Trafton and Wilson collaborated when they planned their stories, but “Willow Worlds” by N. D. Wilson had an equally powerful “sense of wonder” moment that gave me chills. The magic in both stories is related as well. While I was a little disappointed at the cut-off ending, this story expanded the world of Aewiar in a truly magical way.
“From the Deeps of the Dragon King” by A. S. Peterson shows young Podo in his dragon-killing days. That said, it is not for weak stomachs. In an interview, Peterson actually describes how he had to take out violence in his revision. The issue for me wasn’t the violence but that the violence was happening to baby dragons. However, the story is meant to bother you and make you squirm, so it did it’s job. Even more, it fleshes out the character of Podo and helps us understand him more.
Things get silly again with “The Ballard of Lanric and Rube” by Jonathan Rogers. The poem is a song sung by Armulyn the Bard about two men fighting for the love of one woman. As you can guess, it doesn’t go well. I would love to hear this song set to music one day.
The comic, “Shadowblade and the Florid Sword” by Andrew Peterson is, of course, another fun story with the primary purpose of showing us what happened to two of the characters in the books. It was delightful to see them show up again, especially with the drawings. I would buy a book about these characters if it ever came out.
After all the silliness of the above short stories comes the “The Places Beyond the Maps,” a novella by Douglas McKelvey that reads like a Cormac McCarthy novel. It’s beautiful. But it’s slow, with long, poetic sentences that sometimes have to be unravelled. The protagonist is an adult man who lost his daughter and travels to escape his past and confront the Maker. While I think there are some kids who would be eager to read this more complex story, this story is written (intentionally or not) for adults. This confused me, to be honest, because The Wingfeather franchise is targeted for kids. “The Places Beyond the Maps” is a gorgeous story worth reading with the family, but you need to be willing to trudge through the pages as the character literally trudges through landscapes with no one to talk to. The best parts of this story–not to reveal to much–is when the character finds and interacts with strangers (including a very special bard). All of the slow-burning middle builds up to a beautiful ending that, I think, could not have been achieved in a shorter story.
These writers have done a wonderful job collaborating to write seven completely different stories with different tones, settings, and characters, but somehow in a cohesive world and cross-over themes. If you’re interested in how they collaborated, you can listen to an interview with the authors on The Habit podcast here: Wingfeather Tales Podcast
Enjoy your journey (back) to Aewiar!