The Bark of the Bog Owl by Jonathan Rogers: David and Goliath re-imagined
First book in the Wilderking Trilogy
Overall rating: 8.5/10
Quality of writing: 9/10
Concerning content (language, violence, etc.): minimal
Age level: 8 and up
Although he is descended from a long line of adventurers, twelve-year-old Aidan Errolson, serves as a shepherd, tending his sheep near the Feechiefen Swamp, but longing to have “real adventures.” His wish comes true one day when he meets Dobro Turtlebane, a member of the legendary swamp people called “feechies” who fight too much, laugh and cry too easily, and smell terrible. This launches Aidan on adventure that will take him from his home in Hustingreen to the depths of the Feechiefen Swamp, to the battlefield at Bonifay Plain in an engaging tale that borrows elements from stories like David and Goliath, Tom Sawyer, and The Lord of the Rings. Set in a well-crafted fantasy realm that has been compared to Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, The Bark of the Bog Owl is an exciting adventure that should not be missed!
The plot of this book is a bit confusing overall, as Aidan doesn’t really have an overall goal per se. Towards the end of the book, we do get a bit more of a cohesive plot, as Aidan tries to defeat the evil Pyrthens by killing the giant Greidawl and exploding the Pyrthens’ store of “flame powder.” However, this conflict is not introduced until more than halfway through the book, and the first half of the book has even less of a cohesive plot. That said, the action is engaging, and the storyline doesn’t feel at all “forced.” To Jonathan Rogers’ credit, the plot wasn’t entirely his invention either: he borrowed large portions from the Biblical story of David. On the whole, the plot of The Bark of the Bog Owl isn’t amazing, but neither is it terrible. (7/10)
Despite this book’s shortcomings in terms of plot, it does have some remarkably personable characters: Dobro, the enthusiastic and wild feechie; Errol, the loyal nobleman; and Aidan, the heroic and brave protagonist. These characters are not only believable and convincing, but help to draw the reader into the story as well. However, if the characters in this book had one shortcoming, it would be this: they tend to adhere to a kind of stereotype (brave young protagonist, loyal and humorous sidekick, etc.), which means they remain somewhat static and don’t develop as much as many readers might like to see. Overall, however, Rogers’ characters are well-written and deserve a 9 out of 10.
This book is not too difficult on the whole: the plot doesn’t exactly have one cohesive conflict, but it’s still fairly easy to follow; and the style is not particularly complex. Overall, The Bark of the Bog Owl gets a 3 out of 10 on difficulty.
Quality of writing
First of all, Rogers’ creativity is commendable: he’s taken most of the plot from the Biblical story of David and re-imagined it in a fictional world that seems like a cross between southern Georgia and Middle-Earth (impressive, to say the least). Rogers has also populated his story with convincing and personable characters that engage the reader and enhance the story overall. Finally, the descriptive language Rogers uses throughout the story is well-done, although slightly less frequent than some readers might like. On the whole, Rogers’ writing quality in this book is very good and merits a 9 out of 10.
This book has no language, and the only violence per se is when the villain Greidawl is beheaded (in an entirely non-graphic manner). The moral implications of this book are also suitable for any age level: the story itself is based on one of the best-known Bible stories, the protagonists worship “the One God,” and the bad guys’ “gods” are shown to be powerless. Overall, this book has no content that readers or parents of readers should be concerned about.
This book has no issues with content (as I mentioned before) and the style is not difficult. On the whole, readers between ages 8 and 14 will enjoy this book the most.