Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Becky's Review of On The Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness


Peterson, Andrew. 2008. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson is the first book in the Wingfeather Saga*. Andrew Peterson isn't new to writing; he's a creative genius in my opinion, a singer-songwriter.** But this is his first novel. And it releases MARCH 18TH, 2008. The publisher is Water Brook (a division of Random House).

The novel boasts of having "adventure, peril, lost jewels, and fearsome toothy cows." A boast which proves true of course.

There are three "brief" introductions to the novel. (Three mini-prologues.) As is the case in some prologues, they are written in a different manner than the novel itself. I think that's a good thing in this situation because Peterson's prologues are a bit over-the-top***.

First sentence of "A Brief Introduction to the World of Aerwiar": The old stories tell that when the first person woke up on the first morning in the world where this tale takes place, he yawned, stretched, and said to the first thing he saw, "Well, here we are." The man's name was Dwayne and the first thing he saw was a rock. Next to the rock, though, was a woman named Gladys, whom he would learn to get along with very well. In the many ages that followed, that first sentence was taught to children and their children's children and their children's parents' cousins and so on until, quite by accident, all speaking creatures referred to the world around them as Aerwiar.

First sentence of "A Slightly Less Brief Introduction to the Land of Skree": The whole land of Skree was green and flat. Except for the Stony Mountains in the north, which weren't flat at all. Nor were they green. They were rather white from all the snow, though if the snow-melted, something green might eventually grow there. Ah, but farther south, the Plains of Palen Jabh-J covered the rest of Skree with their rolling (and decidedly green) grasslands. Except, of course, for Glipwood Forest. Just south of the plains, the Linnard Woodlands rolled off the edges of all maps, except, one would suppose, those maps made by whatever people lived in those far lands.

First sentence of "An Introduction to the Igiby Cottage Very Brief": Just outside the town of Glipwood, perched near the edge of the cliffs above the Dark Sea, sat a little cottage where lived the Igiby family. The cottage was rather plain, except for how comfortable it was, and how nicely it had been built, and how neatly it was kept in spite of the three children who lived there, and except for the love that glowed from it like firelight from its windows at night. As for the Igiby family? Well, except for the way they always sat late into the night beside the hearth telling stories, and when they sang in the garden while they gathered the harvest, and when the grandfather, Podo Helmer, sat on the porch blowing smoke rings, and except for all the good, warm things that filled their days there like cider in a mug on a winter night, they were quite miserable. Quite miserable indeed in that land where walked the Fangs of Dang.

First sentence of Chapter One: Janner Igiby lay trembling in his bed with his eyes shut tight, listening to the dreadful sound of the Black Carriage rattling along in the moonlight.

The Igiby family are the stars in Andrew Peterson's On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. There is a grandfather, Podo, a mother, Nia, the oldest son, Janner, the sister, Leeli, the younger brother, Tink, and the dog, Nugget. They live in occupied territory. The Fangs are dangerous that's for sure. And within a few chapters, the Igibys accidentally make themselves the target of the Fangs hatred and abuse. This leads to the promised "adventure, peril, lost jewels, and fearsome toothy cows." The book is full of adventure and mystery. And it is quite enjoyable. It is one of those fantasy novels that creates a new world, new lands, new peoples, new creatures, etc. And like a few fantasy novels these days it does make use of footnotes. Fun little asides meant to entertain. I won't lie and say the footnotes were as enjoyable as those found in the Bartimaeus trilogy, however, I will say that their use is a positive and not a negative attribute of the novel. There are also appendices at the end.

What can I say about the novel? I tended to love it. It could be in part to the fact that I think Andrew Peterson is so wonderful. But it could be something more. I think for kids that can't get enough fantasy it will be thoroughly enjoyable. For those that get impatient with fantasy--the strange names of people and places and maps--then it might not be "thoroughly" enjoyable. (It might just be enjoyable.) For those that are skeptical that a musician can write, let me assure you that it is better than the prologue. That's not to say I dislike the prologue. But the third prologue in particular would be very very very very annoying if that was the style of the book and the best the author had to offer. It was cute for one page, but for 279 pages it would have been overkill. Also, I think kids that love funny books will enjoy this one. I'm not sure the book is 'as funny' for adults as it would be (or might be) for kids. It's REALLY hard to be an adult and judge if the humor is going to work for kids. For one thing, each kid is different. And what is 'funny' to one might not be 'funny' to another. But I think it has potential there.

So I definitely recommend this one.

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*I don't know if the publication of the series depends on the success of the first book or not.
**He writes all types of songs. Sometimes they are deep and meaningful. Sometimes they just ring with truth and authenticity. Sometimes they make you cry (songs about grandpa's dying, etc.). Sometimes they make you laugh. Two examples: Andrew Peterson is one of the geniuses responsible for "The Monkey Song" featured on the Veggie Tales video The Wizard of Ha's. He also wrote one of the funniest songs of all time: Alien Conspiracy or The Cheese Song. (Unfortunately the lyrics aren't available online or it would have been a Poetry Friday post long long ago. I'm too lazy to try to transcribe it myself.)
***I'll try to explain through examples.