On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is a juvenile fantasy novel, the first in The Wingfeather Saga, written by Andrew Peterson. It is a brilliant piece of writing and just as entertaining to me as an adult as it could possibly have been to me as a middle-grader or junior high schooler. It is the story of Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby; their mother, Nia; and their ex-pirate grandfather, Podo Helmer. The Igibys and Podo live in Skree, which is under the dominion of the dreadful Fangs of Dang, snake-like creatures who have a lust for dominion and power. Twelve year old Janner and his younger siblings live a monotonously predictable life: they do chores, they complete their T.H.A.G.S. (“Three Honored and Great Subjects: Word, Form, and Song”–yes, they’re homeschooled 😉 ), and Janner keeps a protective (and expected) eye on Tink and Leeli. All of that changes, however, after an unfortunate run-in with a few of the Fangs of Dang. Janner begins to think, though, that there’s more to the Fangs’ obsession with the Igibys than meets the eye, and he is right. This is a mystery wrapped up in an adventure, but mostly it’s a story with a whole lot of heart.
I’m being somewhat vague about the plot because as much as I love the story (and I really, really do love it), what I really want to highlight here is how cleverly this book is written. Here are just a few examples of the mind-candy Peterson has interwoven into this story:
- He includes a multitude of footnoted references to other imaginary Skreean works that lend support or evidence to what he has cited in the story, and each one is tongue-in-cheek funny.
- He hides little references to other authors and literary works in the story. There’s a barber named J. Bird in this book, for example. Does anybody have a guess as to what character this references? (Click here for what has to be the answer.)
- All of character and place names are just perfect: Aklejelly Manor (I stopped and re-read that one every time I read it, just for the pure enjoyment of it); Oskar Reteep, book seller; Zouzab the Ridgerunner; Peet the Sockman.
My only criticism of this book, and it is a small one, is that sometimes the Older Brother= Protector/You Must Behave Honorably schtick gets a little heavy-handed to me. This was my feeling throughout most of the novel, but I was reconciled to the whole thing by the end of the story. I won’t say why I was reconciled to it–I’ll just say that the ending took me by surprise and made me sniffle just a bit.
This book is going on my Must Read Aloud stack for as soon as my girls are old enough. I think it will make a fabulous read-aloud, with its short chapters and lots of action and suspense. There are a few slightly scary episodes involving the Fangs and other creepy Skreean creatures (like toothy cows and horned hounds); otherwise I would drop everything and read it to my girls now!
Thank you, Stephanie, for recommending this story to me! If you read and enjoyed The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic, this is a story you must read. I give it a Highly, Highly Recommended, and I can’t wait to read the second installment. (Waterbrook Press, 2008)
- Andrew Peterson’s website (He also happens to be a singer and songwriter!)
- The Wingfeather Saga website
- The Rabbit Room, a collaborative blog started by Andrew Peterson (don’t miss this one!)
- More on the fabulous names in The Wingfeather Saga (by author Shannon McDermott)