Andrew Peterson’s On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is the first book in his Wingfeather Saga and his first novel-length children’s book. I know Peterson as a singer-songwriter. He is one of my mother’s favorite Christian music artists and he’s up there on my list as well. His lyrics tell stories and paint pictures, but this dive into literature takes all of that to another level.
Aerwiar (pronounced like “Here we are”) is a highly developed world, full of its own myth and legend, with maps and drawings and quotes from Aerwiarian books and ballads woven intertextually and added as footnotes and appendices. While keeping some high fantasy tropes, firmly grounding the book in the genre, he fills in the world with creative monsters, like the dreaded toothy cows of Skree, that all have a firm enough grounding in our own world as to be easily imaginable even without the offered illustrations detailing the cows’ dangerous features.
His characters are likewise well-developed and pleasant to be around–or those that should be are so.
His villains, the Fangs of Dang–and these are but pawns of the Dark Lord’s evil will, a race of minions, orc-like, if you will–made me physically ill.
That deserves its own paragraph because it’s just that impressive. If the Fangs make me ill, I can’t wait to meet Gnag the Nameless in person!
Which brings me to his wit. Gnag the Nameless. Think about it. “Other scholars disagree […] All scholars agree, however, that Ulambria is a good sounding name for a city.” These are just brief examples.
I will not say that this book was unpredictable. Those who know me will know that I am easily drawn into a world (which I was here, don’t get me wrong) so that I lose all knowledge but that which the characters I’m following have themselves. This did not happen. I loved to play along with Janner, Tink, and Leeli, but I their mysteries were not so mysterious to me. That being said, like Rick Riordan (who is extremely high on my current list of favorite authors), Peterson did manage to slip in one or two surprises, pieces of the puzzle that I’d put down wrongly in my mind, which he himself had to rearrange.
All in all, I like the world, I like the style, I was surprised at least a little and didn’t mind waiting for his characters to catch up to the twist that I knew was coming (the eldest Igiby is only 12, after all, to my 22). I liked the book. “Charming” I decided was the best word for it. A delightful time spent with the Igibys, fighting for our lives, yes, but with a sense of wonder and delight in the interceding pages–the pages where the Fangs of Dang did not appear with their dripping fangs and scaly, cold bodies–that made gave a sense of fun to the book despite all its horrors.
One thing more: Frequently I find myself complaining about the preachiness of Christian literature, perhaps even the deus ex machina effect of an ever-present God. While the Christian morality is alive in Aerwiar, Peterson does not preach. I might even feel that I knew little about the Maker of Aerwiar if I did not know Peterson’s own Christian beliefs.
Peterson, Andrew. The Wingfeather Sage, Book One: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. Colorado Springs: WaterBrook-Crown, 2008.
This review is not endorsed by Andrew Peterson, Crown Publishing Group, or WaterBrook Press. It is an independent, honest review by a reader.