On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

Adventure. Peril. Lost Jewels. And the Fearsome Toothy Cows of Skree

Christian - Fantasy/Sci-Fi
304 Pages
Reviewed on 03/26/2009
Buy on Amazon

    Book Review

Reviewed by Anne Boling for Readers' Favorite

Andrew Peterson has created a mythical world known as Aerwiar. The great evil, Gnag the Nameless, created war on everybody. But he particularly hated High King Wingfeather. The evil attacked the kingdom and executed all the royalty. The invaders, the Fangs of Dang, resembled humans but had tails.

The people of Skree knew to be inside their homes before midnight. They feared the sound of the hooves that pulled the rattling Black Carriage. Once a citizen entered the carriage, they were never heard from again. This is the story of the three exceptional Igiby children that lived in a cottage by the Dark Sea of Darkness: Janner, Tink, little Leeli and their dog Nugget. The children were the key to the jewels belonging to the good king Wingfeather.

On The Edge Of The Dark Sea Of Darkness by Andrew Peterson is a spellbinding story of adventure, danger and suspense. Like a spider spins a web and captures its prey so Peterson spins a tale that holds the reader imprisoned to the very last word. Peterson paints a background for his imaginary land. Then he creates inhabitants that come alive before the reader’s eyes. I could see the dragons as they broke the surface of the ocean. Fans of fantasy will not want to miss this one.

Brian Baute

I'm a big fan of Andrew Peterson's songwriting and music, so when I heard he'd written a novel I had high expectations. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness delivered. It's not great literature, it's not going to displace Narnia or Lord of the Rings in the canon of fantasy literature, it's not going to be studied in classrooms fifty years from now. But it was a ton of fun to read, and I've continued to think about some of the themes a couple weeks after finishing the book (I plowed through it in about four days earlier this month).

The characters are memorable and well-crafted, the dialogue is perfect (unimaginitive or stilted dialogue is usually where sloppy fiction loses me, and this one kept me throughout), and the plot is fun and tense and touching and a little messy, but in a good way.

I've been told that I frown a lot when I read, not because I'm unhappy but because I'm thinking and processing, and I guess when I get lost in my thoughts my expression looks sour. This book made me smile as I read it. It was fun to read and is even more fun to read aloud (I've read the first two chapters to the kids, and next is Chapter Three: "Thwaps in a Sack"; they cackled when I read the parts about falling hammers and horse nuggets; they'll love toothy cows and Peet the Sock Man and the Fangs of Dang too). But there's also plenty of tension and drama and conflict, which carries the story along.

At times it seemed a little bit derivative of The Chronicles of Narnia, until it reminded me more of To Kill a Mockingbird, but then it brought to mind Harry Potter, except when it was more like Lord of the Rings. Then there were all those times when it was completely original. There's a lot that's familiar and a lot that's original. It's a good mix.

This is Book One of The Wingfeather Saga, a series title that makes a lot more sense after reading the final few chapters. I'm going to recommend this to my friends and their kids (probably appropriate for about age 5 and up to listen to, and for age 7 and up to read), and I'm looking forward to the next book in The Wingfeather Saga.

Andrew Scott

Before you can get through the title of Andrew Peterson's new book, he pokes you with his sense of humor. In the opening pages, the author delights in throwing you head first into a world of meeps, chortneys, and flabbits. What's a flabbit? You'll find out when you need to know, so play along with this fantastically spun tale of adventure, wit, and hope.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is a pleasure to read for the thrilling story and the delightful way Peterson chooses to tell it. Characters are rich and mysterious, and the story is dealt like cards in the hands of a magician. The world created for these characters is equally rich, full of unexpected color and detail. The reader is allowed to go down small footpaths along the story's trail, some important, others just for whim. Footnotes and appendices are even offered, rewarding the reader with extra insight and out-loud laughs.

Andrew Peterson is best known as a songwriter. In fact, he is a craftsman whose wood is words. He selects words and shapes phrases with fierce skill. Happily, he has applied himself as fiercely to his newest adventure. More, the story fills the soul with hope, recognizes the heart's ache, and reminds us of what is valuable.

Reading this book was a complete joy. Sprouting near the family trees of Narnia and Middle-Earth, young readers will love reading about the land of Anniera. Adults will quickly be swept up in the adventure, beauty, and humor. It may be a great storybook for families, as the chapters are 4-5 pages long. I happily recommend it to any reader.

J. Caylor

So I started reading this book with the expectation of a Lord of the Rings style tale. It has a bit of that, but it's difficult to say how it's so different than that. One thing is certain, and this is the charming thing that sets The Dark Sea of Darkness apart from stories like the one I mentioned: the novel really doesn't take itself too seriously for very long. Let me explain by giving a couple examples. The top Fang in the township of Glipwood is named Gnorm. Gnorm. It's really not that silly until you say it out loud. And almost every one of the story's short chapters has a footnote that is completely ridiculous, yet completely effective at moving the story along. To me, these endearing little bits made the story really enjoyable. In a way, the silly elements and the fact that the lead characters are all under the age of 13 might make you think it's just a kid's story. On the contrary, I think it's a story that will engage kids of any age, like all the great stories. There's action, humor, peril and toothy cows which are much worse than they sound. Actually, I think some of the other animals are worth mentioning just for their creative names. There are thwaps, ratbadgers, sea dragons, horned hounds, quill diggles, digtoads and more. Andrew Peterson's On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is an excellent book. The tale is engaging and absolutely satisfying. The characters leap off the pages like a pack of ratbadgers. In fact, I was so riveted that I plowed through the last two-thirds of the novel this evening. And amid all the silliness, there are some deep, important themes to the story-things I'll be thinking about for a few days. I know a part of me really longs to attend the Dragon Day Festival and be rapt by the songs of the Sea Dragons... Honestly I'm not surprised that I enjoyed this book so much. Andrew was already one of my favorite singer/songwriter/story-tellers. I just didn't know he could write fiction.

Holly Gilliam

Andrew Peterson is a talented songwriter, and it turns out also an extremely talented writer! His work is on par with any of the greats I have ever read with my kids, including C.S. Lewis' "Narnia" series. This story is clever and exciting with great character development. It is adventurous and parts are funny. However, it is probably the darkest story we have read, with some really scary parts. Much scarier and intense than anything in the "Narnia" series. So my advice is to be prepared going into it that parts of it might be disturbing to young readers. For instance, a large portion of the plot involves children being afraid of violent, lizard-like creatures that come in a black carriage to kidnap them and carry them away to a place of unknown torture. I love Andrew Peterson as a singer/songwriter, and he is a talented writer, but this story is really written for older kids, and I didn't know that beforehand.

Travis Prinzi

There are a lot of great things to say about Andrew Peterson's book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. I'll stick to three things in particular: storytelling patience, storytelling skill, and storytelling philosophy.

Storytelling Patience - One of the most impressive things about Peterson's debut effort is that he has patience in his storytelling. He lets dramatic tension build appropriately, doesn't give things away too easy, and keeps you wondering what's coming. Even where upcoming plot points can be deduced in advance, Peterson unfolds them with skill and delight. The story moves along at a nice pace, with new and intriguing aspects of the world of Aerwiar being unveiled; it picks up its pace at the appropriate place, and by the time the story is rolling toward its climax, we are thoroughly immersed in this secondary world Peterson has created. Not only that, but he pulled off a really important balance: he told a full enough story to stand alone, but left enough unanswered to leave you longing for the next installment of the Wingfeather Saga.

Storytelling Skill - Peterson creates an entirely believable, quirky secondary world with lots of humor, but not so much that the story isn't taken seriously. There are great names, both for humans (Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby, Nugget the dog, Peet the Sock Man, Podo, Oskar N. Reteep), for bad guys (Khrak, Gnorm, Slarb, Vop, Gnag the Nameless), and for creatures (Fangs of Dang, toothy cows, horned hounds, thwaps). The characters are compelling, and I found myself particularly drawn to Podo and Peet the Sock Man.

Storytelling Philosophy - Peterson clearly believes that our own subcreations echo the Maker's primary creation. Apart from references to prayers, there is no explicit religious content to the story; yet the story makes the heart yearn for the remembrance of the true victory of Christ over evil, which is exactly what a fairy tale can do. Peterson's story fits all the requirements of the fairy tale laid out by great thinkers like George MacDonald, G.K. Chesteron, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Madeleine L'Engle. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness clearly stands in their noble tradition.

I highly recommend Andrew Peterson's On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.

Dan Cumberland

I've read a lot of fantasy in my day, and I must say that this is one of the most beautifully crafted, clever, and creative pieces that has come before my eyes. Thank you mr. peterson. I cannot seem to stop recommending this book to people, and I look forward to the forthcoming follow ups with great anticipation.

Ryan Szrama

My wife and I couldn't wait to start reading this together as soon as we got it. We don't have any children to read it to, but at 25 and 22 yrs. old we both still love reading children's and young adult fiction (like the Chronicles of Narnia and Chronicles of Prydain). This book was right up our alley. We couldn't put it down!

I highly recommend it as a funny read but also a serious story about responsibility, love, and sacrifice. You'll enjoy the heroic deeds of the characters, the endless quotes from Mr. Reteep, and the fine sense of humor that comes across in various character interactions and bodily noises. : )

Lyndsay W. Slaten

It's hard to find words to explain Andrew's novel. The subtitle says it's an adventure filled with peril. Other reviewers have labeled it as "fun to read" and "wildly imaginative". These are all accurate depictions of what you will experience, and I would add that it is an absolutely brilliant story. It has so much engrossing creativity that I kept having to remind myself that the lands of Skree and Aerwiar were just storybook lands; that Fangs of Dang weren't waiting in the center of town to arrest me; that Gnag the Nameless didn't have a desire to hunt me down and finish me off. Through the pages of this excellent work, I found myself laughing out loud, wiping tears off of my cheeks, and actually throwing the book across the room when I reached the climax in the plot! Andrew's writing style creates within you an emotional bond with the characters and makes you totally lose yourself in their world.

You absolutely NEED this book in your collection.

Jennifer L. Welton

I love Andrew's music - so I was thrilled upon learning he'd struck out in the written genre. On the Edge of Dark Sea of Darkness is a romping good read - full of fantastical characters and complete with amusing details that complete the world of Airwear.

Darren Bickel

Wow - I read a lot of young adult fantasy fiction and Andrew Peterson's work is one of the freshest, most engaging books I have read in some time. "On The Edge Of The Dark Sea of Darkness" is funny, exciting and told with an effortless narrative. The setting is warm and almost familiar, shades of the Shire, but neatly original.

The three young heroes (Janner, Tink & Leeli) will quickly connect. They have strengths and flaws that are very approachable. They felt like old friends after just a few chapters.

A note to parents - Andrew Peterson is an established Christian musician. While this book (at least the 1st volume) is not overtly a Christian allegory. It provides a wonderful option for voracious young readers like my daughter. The emotions and challenges of the characters are real, yet the tone and scheme are very appropriate. Fans of the Wilderking trilogy by Jonathan Rogers or the Door Within by Thomas Wayne Batson can add this series to their bookshelf without fear.