The Secret of the Swamp King by Jonathan Rogers: Treachery versus loyalty
Second book in the Wilderking Trilogy
Overall rating: 9/10
Quality of writing: 9/10
Concerning content (language, violence, etc.): minimal
Age level: 8 and up
While serving at the court of King Darrow, Aidan’s loyalty is tested when the king orders him to retrieve a rare frog orchid (a legendary cure for the melancholy which afflicts the king) from the depths of Feechiefen Swamp—a mission most would consider a journey to certain death. Fortunately, Aidan is a feechiefriend: a “civilizer” who has gained the confidence and friendship of the feechies (a legendary race of swamp-dwellers). However, when Aidan enters the Feechiefen, he discovers that all is not well: human settlements have been raided by mysterious attackers that look like feechies, yet all the swamp feechies deny any involvement.
Rogers second installment in the Wilderking Trilogy is a rousing adventure that borrows elements from the same Biblical stories as the first book (The Bark of the Bog Owl), but remains unique and engaging. Incorporating themes of loyalty, friendship, and self-sacrifice, this book is perfect for younger readers with an affinity for fast-paced action and adventure stories.
The plot of this book is more cohesive than that of the first book in the series: there is one book-long main conflict (Aidan’s search for the frog orchid), and all the sub-conflicts are directly connected to it. As in The Bark of the Bog Owl, Rogers also borrows many plot elements from the Bible (particularly the story of David); however, he alters the Biblical plot quite a bit more in this book. Overall, Rogers does a good job of keeping the plot interesting and engaging (especially for younger readers) and deserves a 9 out of 10 on plot.
Rogers’ protagonists are brave, loyal, and adventurous, and develop reasonably well, given the book’s age level. One of the biggest pluses of the “good” characters in The Secret of the Swamp King is that they are nearly all excellent examples of loyalty, kindness, and graciousness; that said, the protagonists do tend towards being a bit stereotypical and therefore fail to develop as much as some readers might like. The “feechie” race in particular tends towards stereotypicality in the story, since most feechies are remarkably similar in terms of personality and diction. On the other hand, Rogers’ characters are quite personable, despite some flaws, and easily engage young readers. Overall, the characters in The Secret of the Swamp King are quite good, with just a few minor flaws. (9/10)
This book is not particularly difficult in terms of style: although Rogers uses a decent amount of descriptive language, the style as a whole is not overly flowery or ornate, and remains readable throughout the book. The plot is engaging and easy to follow, and overall the book deserves a 3/10 rating on difficulty.
Quality of writing
Perhaps the most impressive element of Rogers’ writing in this book (throughout the whole series, in fact) is his skillful use of Biblical plot elements, combined with a well thought-out fantasy world, to produce a detailed and believable storyline. Rogers also utilizes slightly more descriptive language in this book than in The Bark of the Bog Owl, but still keeps the story easy to follow and readable. Overall, the quality of writing in The Secret of the Swamp King is excellent and merits a 9 out of 10 rating.
This book has no language, and the only “violent” scenes are ones in which feechies are “rassling” as they call it: no weapons and no blood (or at least the reader doesn’t see it, if there is). This book should not really be a concern in terms of content (after all, it is based on a Bible story and the characters worship “the One God”—a loosely veiled Christianity).
This book has no problematic content, a readable style, and a straightforward and engaging plot. Overall, The Secret of the Swamp King is recommended for ages 8 to 14.