The Warden and the Wolf King by Andrew Peterson: Redemption and sacrifice
4th book in the Wingfeather Saga
Overall rating: 10/10
Quality of writing: 9.5/10
Concerning content (language, violence, etc.): small
Age level: 12 and up
The Warden and the Wolf King is the culmination of the Wingfeather Saga, both in its themes and its plot: it brings a satisfying conclusion to the series’ larger conflict, and furthermore exemplifies the series’ themes of loyalty and sacrifice more profoundly and completely (if possible) than the previous books. The book describes the final struggle of the Wingfeather family and their Hollowsfolk allies against the forces of the evil Gnag the Nameless, resolving previously-unknown storylines from characters’ backstories and showing valiant acts of sacrifice and courage on the part of the protagonists. This story also includes significant themes of redemption and other complex elements, which Peterson expertly blends with his own brand of quirky humor to create a uniquely compelling and engaging tale that manages to be both surprisingly deep and remarkably funny.
As in On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, the plot of this book gets off to a bit of a slow start, with the Wingfeather siblings remaining in Ban Rona, the capital of the Green Hollows, for a while at the book’s beginning. Regardless, the plot intensifies quickly, as Janner and Kalmar set off on a quest to attack Gnag directly and Leeli is forced to defend Ban Rona against an impending wave of attacking Fangs. The plot of The Warden and the Wolf King also makes greater use of multiple viewpoints than previous books in the series, with the action being split mainly between Janner, Leeli, and Artham Wingfeather (alternately Peet the Sock Man), as well as being revealed through “historical” flashbacks to earlier points in the story’s history (which are later revealed to be relevant to the plot). Furthermore, like The Monster in the Hollows, The Warden and the Wolf King, incorporates some surprising plot twists and revelations, including an ending which is both fitting and bittersweet. Overall, the plot of The Warden and the Wolf King is excellently crafted and entirely worthy of its 9/10 rating.
Peterson doesn’t introduce a lot of new characters in this book (as befits a last book in a series); rather, the reader gets to see a lot of development in already-introduced characters from the previous books. Each of the Wingfeathers undergoes their own trials as “The Jewels of Anniera” (heirs to the fallen kingdom of Anniera): Janner the Throne Warden must deal with his responsibility to protect his brother Kalmar, the king; Kalmar must reconcile his Fang-like appearance with his responsibility as king; Leeli must use her gifts as Song Maiden to defend Ban Rona against an invading army of Fangs.
The theme of family recurs throughout Peterson’s characters’ interactions, both in biological families (such as the Wingfeathers) and in adopted families (such as Gammon/the Florid Sword and Maraly Weaver), and gets a lot of development in this book. Characters also deal with difficult moral and ethical issues and develop significantly in this regard. Overall, the characters in The Warden and the Wolf King are well-written and well-developed, and they merit a 10/10 rating.
The Warden and the Wolf King is similar to The Monster in the Hollows in terms of difficulty; that is, slightly more difficult than the first two books in the series in terms of length and thematic depth. Incorporating some honestly quite profound moments of redemption and sacrifice, this book deals with some complex issues (which Peterson addresses from a clearly Christian background). While the style itself is certainly readable and engaging, the actual content may be a bit deep for younger readers but shouldn’t prove a problem for most (4.5/10).
Quality of writing
Peterson’s writing improves, if anything, over the course of the series and is at its best in The Warden and the Wolf King: he brings the themes of family, sacrifice, and good vs. evil that have interwoven throughout the series to their conclusion in this book, in a “final battle” that manages to avoid outworn tropes and instead exhibits a deep understanding of truth and faith. His characters interact believably and entertainingly, and their dialogue ranges from quite humorous to philosophical.
Furthermore, in terms of actual style, Peterson’s writing is a legitimate treat to read—while remaining readable, his writing incorporates excellent descriptive language that vividly describes his world, which is itself well-crafted and detailed. Providing a fitting context for the story’s epic struggle between good and evil, Peterson’s fictional world of Aerwiar illustrates Christian truths without coming off as preachy; the chief virtue of Peterson’s writing is its depiction of the beauty inherent in creation, created by the “Maker” (who clearly resembles the Christian God). Overall, Peterson’s writing is not only skillful and engaging, but also reveals profound truths while avoiding seeming didactic or forced.
This book does contain significant fighting; however, the action focuses primarily on the characters, not any wounds. Wounds are described, but not in graphic detail. Furthermore, The Warden and the Wolf King contains no problematic language or sexual content (a few pairs of characters are “in love” with each other, but nothing goes any further than compliments and blushing). On the other hand, some of the monsters and creatures populating Aerwiar may be somewhat disturbing for younger readers, especially the cloven (creatures magically cobbled together from humans and other animals) and the Fangs—in my mind, Peterson does a good job of depicting evil as truly evil (necessary for real conflict against good, and for the good to ultimately triumph). However, this depiction of real evil also necessitates the existence of some monsters, etc, in the story that might be potentially disturbing to readers who are susceptible to such things. Overall, The Warden and the Wolf King contains some content, particularly battles and “scary” monsters, that might prove slightly problematic to younger readers; however, the story overall should not be an issue for most.
Based on The Warden and the Wolf King’s content (see Concerning Content above) and length, it is recommended for readers ages 12 and up. This is not to say that readers below this age range cannot enjoy this book (as always, this number is a suggestion)—parents should judge for themselves— but The Warden and the Wolf King, along with The Monster in the Hollows, may be better for a slightly older age range than the first two books in the series, based on length and thematic depth. Overall, this book may be best for readers ages 12 and up.
A new edition of the Wingfeather Saga is being released for 2020! The books include new illustrations by Joe Sutphin as well as new cover art. Additionally, all four books are now in hardcover! This is the perfect chance to check out this excellent series, if you haven’t already. Pre-order at https://store.rabbitroom.com/collections/the-wingfeather-saga