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Raymond Arroyo, anchor of EWTN’s The World Over, published Will Wilder: The Lost Staff of Wonders in March — then visited Benedictine College in April. Like its predecessor, Will Wilder: The Relic of Perilous Falls, the sequel is a bestseller and has been receiving excellent reviews.
As some have noted, the Will Wilder series makes great reading for people of all ages. Why? Here are some of the best reasons.
NOTA BENE! There be mild spoilers ahead.
[More Will Wilder: Hoping for a Faith-Filled Fun-Read Revolution]
There’s none of this modern “he’s just misunderstood” thinking or “if only she knew better” kind of pandering. No, evil is depicted in Will Wilder as evil: a consciously chosen path of individualistic power and honor that doesn’t mind if others suffer horribly as a consequence, and which goes beyond merely human depravity.
The protagonists are mostly advanced pre-teens, so, yes, they’re overcoming challenges. Lots of challenges. And they’re doing so with the usual frustrations that attend such acquisitions. Arroyo is good at showing these faults for what they are: not evil, but not mere video-game challenges to overcome in the hopes of “leveling up.” They’re part of our condition.
A big danger in young adult novels is the glorification of youth, which usually comes with a denigration of the elderly. There are several older characters in the novel who do something more than act as repositories of pithy quotables. They actually kick some serious butt when the time comes–and offer counter-cultural wisdom.
Each of these books depicts the characters striving to advance in the pursuit of virtue, but in language young adults won’t balk at. Sometimes the characters fail, and with a refreshing absence of emotivism they don’t gloomily brood on their insufficiencies. They learn from each other and keep going for it with a Chestertonian sense of joyful risk.
The unobtrusive references are fun when you find them. For instance, one character has a boat named the Stella Maris
There are many prominent examples in the series of fathers who don’t stand up to their duties as providers and thus become debilitatingly submissive. Arroyo sends a clear message straight out of a Myles Connolly novel: wake up, fathers, and be heroic!
There are several parents in the series whose actions, if they were to follow through with them, would do some kind of damage to their kids. Arroyo has you rooting for the kids in these cases, and rightfully so.
It’s not easy in young adult fiction to depict older characters in a flattering light, especially those who know something more than the child heroes. Arroyo does this with some deft slight of hand. For instance, there’s a secret in one of the books that takes more than 100 pages to unfold, and when an adult reveals it, both the readers and the child protagonists are very grateful for his guardianship.
You may have seen Arroyo’s interviews with Dean Koontz, from which Arroyo has gleaned a literary lesson or two. To boot, there are well-crafted moments of dramatic irony in the series, where Arroyo hangs a major plot point on something the readers know but the characters don’t. These make for a very enjoyable ride.
No joke. There’s an Abbot-endorsed holy water super soaker that ends up being extremely useful against a horde of invading monsters. It brings a whole new level to “geek chic.”
This article originally appeared at EpicPew.