book review: the wormling series

I just finished reading the five-book Wormling series by Jerry B. Jenkins & Chris Fabry last night. In order from 1 to 5, the titles are: The Book of the King, The Sword of the Wormling, The Changeling, The Minions of Time, and The Author's Blood.

Rather than give you a play-by-play, I'm going to do pros and cons lists and let you decide if you want your kids to read these:

PROS:

*Plot is very possibly Jenkins/Fabry's greatest strength. They weave together an intricate map of two worlds that mirror one another and finally converge at the fulfillment of the final prophecy of the King. Commendable feat.

*Highly imaginative--though sometimes ridiculous--this series fits into the fantasy category w/o question

*Plugs for reading Scripture and living by the Book, obeying the King, living by faith regardless of sight, serving others, loving the outcast, and so on

*Highly allegorical, though not completely--this is consistent with most Christian fantasy

*Short chapters that keep the flow going--especially for today's young readers

*Multiple viewpoint characters--helpful for training the brain to hold information and wait for gratification/resolution

*Vocabulary building--defines a lot of words within the text (which is to say he tells you what the word means without you having to look it up in the dictionary)

*Classic quotes at the beginning of each book--love these!

*Good vs. evil is clearly defined; and the good triumphs over the evil--a must for truly good literature!!

*Many great truths explained and/or applied appropriately

*Uses descriptions of music as part of his scene-setting, the Dragon's being called "a percussive hymn" and "cacophony"; starkly contrasted by the King's peace-giving and joy-filled strains.

*Clever, easy-to-remember character names: Owen Reeder is the main character whose gift is reading and who lives in a bookshop; Clara Seacrest has eyes that sparkle like the sea; Watcher is the dog-like, faithful friend who has been watching for the return of the Wormling and whose gift is to recognizing even invisible presences; sometimes using synechdoche, naming the character, e.g., "White Shirt"; biblical allusions, such as Rachel (who weeps for her child) and Nicodemus....

CONS:

*Tells the story rather than showing us what happens along the way, probably to condense space, but at times it's jarring and/or disappointing.

*The whole five-book series was written within two years' time and lacks the finesse that I would've expected from a renowned author who boasts his own Writer's Guild. Specific areas: repetitive word choice/phrasing (types of verbals) and less than smooth flow/transitions. Maybe it's just me: "Not my style" (although recently I've found several others who would agree, having read other books/series, that there are some stylistic elements that could be improved in more than just the children's fiction writing). One more read-aloud would've done wonders, I'm convinced, but that takes time when you're pushing to make the deadline and/or another quick sale. Thankfully, the plot allows a forgiving reader to move on. However, and unfortunately, an additional pre-release revision would've made this series more enduring than it undoubtedly will be. ... C.S. Lewis is still the unrivaled Christian fantasy champion.

*A handful of not-helpful descriptors ("as if he'd drunk too much"--hopefully the age group he's writing to hasn't seen too much of this; "testosterone-laden" as an adjective for teens; "yeah, right you were looking at her eyes;" and so forth): sure, these are believable, but is it what we want to have our kids laugh at or focus on? The story would be just as strong, and I would argue stronger, if they were to leave these out. We choose our audience by what we write, and apparently/sadly they've chosen a pop culture group of kids versus the families that are trying to teach godly discernment to their young people. However (to use one of their favorite words), we can use even this element to help our kids learn that that's not funny or necessary.

*Cheesy, at times...

*Lack of discernment at one major point: Throughout most of the book, the words from the Book of the King are loosely translated from the Bible. Then in book 3 (p. 108), they quote the following from the book of the King: "As long as the King gives me breath, I will honor him and thank him... [an obviously biblical allusion; but then following right on its tale is some flagrant psychobabble:] ... Allow your heart the freedom it craves and then have the courage to follow it." This teaching doesn't fit the whole rest of the Book. Be careful. The intended audience age may not be discerning enough to pull this out, especially since it's so craftily wedged amidst really good, biblical thoughts.

*Definitely aimed at a specific age audience, rather than "the childlike of all ages" (George MacDonald, classic fantasy author and inspiration for C.S. Lewis).

CONCLUSION:
*I made notes in my copies at each of the points that lack discernment as well as at points where literary techniques or biblical truths are used with skill. I always recommend parents/teachers pre-read books they give their kids and talk through any crucial and/or questionable concepts as well as any literary devices their kids could incorporate into their own writing.

*The story begins with good intrigue, wanes a little in books two, three and four with journeys and battles that get a bit long and somewhat repetitive, though interesting and important characters are added along the way. The authors leave enough threads dangling that the reader is encouraged to press on and tie it all together--which is what the fifth book in the series does. Book Five is, in my opinion, the best of the five.

To read Michele Howe's plot summary for each of the five books in Jenkins/Fabry's Wormling series, click on the title link for this blog post.

And then, you decide.

michelle

1 comment:

  1. Just one follow-up to the conclusions: We're at the point now with our tween readers that I still say no to some things but that other books I have to let them read w/o my proofing b/c they have way more time to read than I can keep up with. At some point, and it's different for different kids, but at some point, we've got to teach them the principles of biblical discernment and let them start getting practice with it. Hopefully, we do this while they're still talking openly with us, while they're still really caring what we think. And really, hopefully, as they grow and as we continue to grow, hopefully we'll continue talking and sharing and learning and discerning together. Someday, I have no doubt, they'll be the ones teaching me. In fact, they've already begun to. :)

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