Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The Bark of the Bog Owl (Wilderking Triology), by Jonathan Rogers

Let me begin by briefly explaining how it was that I came to read this book. My book blogging pal, Stephanie, recommended The Wilderking Trilogy to me for my kids. Trusting her, I ordered the series. (Because yes, I have that much faith in her recommendations!) I gave them to my nine-year-old adventure loving son for Christmas and he got started on them rather promptly. Normally I like to preview books before the kids get to them but that's becoming less and less a possibility these days. (Side note: once I was picked on for reading so much middle grade fiction before my kids were "of age" but I have found all of my pre-"work" to have been phenomenally helpful! So there, world! So there! Ahem.)

As I was saying, Bookworm2 got to these books before I did but I didn't want him to complete the series without my knowing something about it so that we could talk over any issues which might present themselves in the reading process. With that in mind I sat down to peruse them for myself. I picked up The Bark of the Bog Owl which is the first title in the series and gave it a go. What I learned from that book ultimately led me to the decision that I didn't personally need to read the rest of the series. They are fine. These are totally safe books, full of adventure and fun and he can proceed without me. (Do you see what I did there? I released control. *Pats self on back*)

If you've been seeing this series float around but you weren't quite sure what they were all about, let me enlighten you. Rather, I'm going to let the Goodreads description enlighten you because it's pretty accurate and why re-recreate?

Twelve-year-old Aidan Errolson comes from a long line of adventurers. His grandparents were among the first settlers of Corenwald’s Eastern Frontier. His father had been one of the kingdom’s greatest warriors. Aidan, on the other hand, lives the quiet, comfortable life of a nobleman’s son. He never has any real adventures, and that, he believes, is the one great injustice of his otherwise happy life. All that will change the day he first hears the bark of the bog owl and meets Dobro Turtlebane. Dobro is one of the feechiefolk—a tribe of half-civilized swamp dwellers who fight too much, laugh too loud, cry too easily, and smell just terrible. But another meeting on that remarkable day may change Aidan’s life even more profoundly. Bayard the Truthspeaker arrives with a startling pronouncement: Aidan Errolson will grow to be the Wilderking—the long-prophesied wild man who will come out of Corenwald’s forests and swamps to lead the kingdom back to its former glory. There’s just one question: Is Bayard the Truthspeaker a prophet or a madman?

About two chapters in and I deduced that the book was a retelling of the life of King David, fantasy-style. (See? So great is my trust in Stephanie's recommendations I didn't even bother to find out what the books were about. I just hit "add to cart" and away I went! What must it feel like to have such power over people?! One shivers at the thought!) If I were to be terribly honest about my opinion after discovering that this was a fantastical retelling, I have to say I was rather disenchanted. To be even more honest though, it's not that I'm disenchanted because this book exists but because I recognized that this is the type of book that Christian parents love to love because it's terribly "safe." Written by a Christian, published by what could arguably be identified as a strictly Christian publishing company, it's the type of series that certain Christian parents feel smug about having on their bookshelves. (Note: Stephanie is NOT. LIKE. THIS. She recommended the book because she liked the story for story sake and is a more magnanimous reader than myself!!!) Basically if you want me to like such a book like this you have to hand it over to me with some sort of reverse psychology tactic. Consider handing it to me with these beauteous words: "Oprah hated it." The deal would have been sealed! But, as it was, I could only see it in light of its "safeness" and I've had one too many Christian parents tell me that they only allow their kids to read "Christian books" and I don't even know what that means.

Since I'm being frank and all, I should also tell you that I really debated whether or not to even mentioned on this blog that I had read this book because I feared my attitude would be all, well, snarky. I was moderately afraid I'd give off the wrong opinion of the work and chase people away from it unnecessarily. (HEY, I see you! Click back here!) If I remove myself mentally from conversations with The Righteous Readers then I could admit that this book is really quite clever. It is enjoyable. It probably gives young adventure-type readers a warm and pleasant feeling in the cockles of their heart. My son was oblivious to the fact that it was a retelling of the life of King David so I'm going to assume other young readers can be oblivious as well. It's not an allegory. It's just a flat out retelling, fantasy-esque. If you're looking for rousing good books for boys and you don't want anything to startle their sensibilities in any way then I say again: safe read. Really safe. Safer than N.D. Wilson. Same safe as The Green Ember (a book I loved, by the way, and published by the same publishing group). Put this series on your bookshelves with pride, right next to your Mandie Books for girls. (Hey, I have mine still!)

What I'm ultimately trying to say here is that this is a decent series and Rogers was clever in his re-telling. As an adult reader I can't say that I fell head over heads with this one (like with Trenton Lee Stewart works *cough*) but I certainly don't mind handing it over to my kids for them to read.

My son read the whole Wilderking series and I asked him what he thought of it. He said, and I dutifully quote, "I thought it was fun and exciting." So there you have it!

As a further note: upon finishing The Bark of the Bog Owl, I looked up Jonathan Rogers because his name sounded vaguely familiar to me. He wrote The World According to Narnia which I read and liked. Apparently Rogers makes a regular habit out of me wanting to discuss the Righteous Reader-types!


Stephanie said...

Well, I'm glad the kids liked them. :) I didn't think they came across to heavy handed, but then I was probably half way through the book before *I* started putting the pieces together! (That happens when you are old and read only a chapter at a time and have to remember where you are before starting the next chapter!)

Julie @ Smiling Shelves said...

I'm glad to hear reading middle grade now pays off. I read a lot of middle grade, but my son is only two! :) I read this whole trilogy because it was recommended on the Read-Aloud Revival podcast. I also found the first book rather underwhelming and predictable, but I found the second and third books much more enjoyable. They covered parts of David's life that aren't as well-known as Goliath and in a much less obvious way. I'm glad I persisted in reading the rest of the trilogy, and I'm glad your son enjoyed them. I'm sure I'll give them to my son, too, you know, someday when he can actually read. :)

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