It’s Summer! Which means more free time, and while that’s fun for a while, Summer can get a little boring after a few weeks. (Or is that just me?) In this post, I’m going to talk about the first book of one of my favorite book series: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, the first book in The Wingfeather Saga. I will be attempting to do this without spoilers, so you are safe to keep reading if you haven’t yet read these wonderful books.
Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby live with their mother Nia, and their Grandpa Podo in the land of Skree. They are under the oppressive rule of the terrible Gnag the Nameless and his vicious Fangs of Dang, who have ravaged Skree the last nine years in their search for the lost jewels of Anniera. An unpleasant mishap with a Fang commander sets off a chain of adventures and events that lead the kids to discover something that will change their lives forever.
“Quirky characters and their world of wonders—from the edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness to the deadly Glipwood Forest and beyond—set the stage for this epic adventure that includes…
- Original Songs and Silly poems
- An Ex-Pirate Grandfather
- Toothy Cows and Real Sea Dragons
- Tours of Anklejelly Manor and Peet the Sock Man’s Treehouse
- Suspenseful Legend and Fascinating Lore
- Genuine Recipes for Maggotloaf
- Authentic Hand-Drawn Maps”
About the Author:
“A storyteller on stage, in the studio, and on paper, Andrew Peterson is a singer/songwriter of eight critically acclaimed albums. Andrew and his wife, Jamie, have two sons, Aedan and Jesse, and one daughter, Skye. They live in the Nashville, Tennessee, area on a wooded hill in a little house they call the Warren—where they’re generally safe from bumpy digtoads and toothy cows.”
You can find more information on these books and their author at either http://www.andrew-peterson.com or wingfeathersaga.com
My thoughts on the plot and characters:
On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is the first of a four book series, so naturally parts of the plot are going to be getting to know the characters and setting things up for the rest of the adventure. While it’s just the beginning of the main conflict of the series, there are plenty of exciting and dangerous things that happen. The parts where the action is slower are still necessary, because they are able to show how much this family loves each other, and really get to the heart of each character. Though sometimes reading about their everyday activities can make you a little impatient for their real adventures. Janner, Tink, Leeli, and the reader are kept in the dark about a lot of things. You find out more about what’s going on right along with them, and it pulls you into the story. By the time things really pick up at the end, you feel and experience things with the characters, and I think it’s very important to connect the readers with the characters like that before the story gets going full speed. While it’s not as fast-paced or as urgent as the later books, I would not call it slow. Throughout the story, there are clues as to what the conclusion is, as well as things that tie in to the future plot that you won’t pick up on until you re-read it after finishing the series.
The characters are very real and honest. The boys aren’t so tough that they can’t show their emotions, and the girls aren’t so gentle that they’re weak. Each one has something different that I love about them. One of my favorite things about these books is how spot-on Andrew Peterson portrays being the oldest sibling. Janner always wants his siblings to be carful, and has a responsibility to be a protector and good example. But his siblings (especially Tink) aren’t always appreciative of his advice and attempts to keep them safe. He struggles with feeling selfish for not wanting that responsibility all the time. Mistakenly, I thought this would finally help younger siblings see what it’s like being the oldest, but upon asking a few younger kids who their favorite character was, they replied, “Tink, because Janner is too bossy.” So I’m going to assume he was also able to capture the struggles and triumphs of being the middle and youngest child.
The Fangs, (lizards with fangs full of venom), are just the right amount of evil, without being too creepy. There are some that are more selfishly driven, which leads to some mistakes on their part, but none fit in the “really dumb bad guy that can’t do anything right” category. There are several plot twists, so you’re never really sure who you can trust. Those kind of shifty characters that betray people I often dislike more than those who are openly bad.
Each of the characters gets their own moments to shine throughout this book, and the rest of them. The characters don’t change a whole lot during the course of the first book, but their experiences do become the groundwork for the ways they grow later. For me, in the last book, the conclusions of their character arcs are some of the most satisfying I have ever read, though some are unexpected. After reading it twice, I feel like the characters are old friends, just like as if I was returning to Bilbo’s hobbit hole, or being reunited with the kings and queens of Narnia.
Andrew Peterson’s world of Aerwiar is similar to Tolkien’s world of Middle-earth in some ways. He’s created different people groups with their own cultures and traditions, and there’s already a history of this world that stretches long before this story takes place. There are songs and poems throughout, and though many are silly, others are beautiful and capture our longing for another world. He’s also created many, many strange creatures, and whenever we meet a new one, there’s always a page in the book like this:
All his creatures are so awesome. There’s also non-human intelligent life forms, like trolls, and these thin, leggy people called Ridgerunners. Another thing that’s similar to Tolkien about these books is that every so often there’ll be a footnote with more history on something, something that happened in the future, or the recipe for a nasty Fang favorite food. Something that I find hard when writing is balancing using interesting words you don’t hear as often, and ones that people don’t need to look in a dictionary to understand. These books have a good balance of creative words and descriptions, without making the reader confused. Some parts are so perfectly written I’ve had to just stop and re-read them again.
If like me you love finding Truth in stories, these books will not disappoint you. Responsibility, courage, sacrifice, love, forgiveness, and trusting the Maker are some of the main themes characters learn. I know I haven’t said much negative about these books, and that’s truly because I can’t think of anything I don’t really care for. If I have one complaint, it’s that Andrew Peterson has said he’s not continuing the story after the conclusion of the last book!
Andrew Peterson is a Christian, so his writing is going to line up with his beliefs. I am so so thankful for Christian fantasy writers, because fantasy can easily end up very dark, with lots of magical elements. In Wingfeather, anything “magic” is considered like this:
Nia smiled. “What’s magic, anyway? If you asked a kitten, ‘How does a bumblebee fly?’ the answer would probably be ‘Magic’. Aerwiar is full of wonders, and some call it magic. This is a gift from the Maker—it isn’t something Leeli created or meant to do, nor did you mean to see these images. You didn’t seek to bend the ways of the world to your will. You stumbled on this thing, the way a kitten happens upon a flower where a bumblebee has lit… The music Leeli makes has great power, but it is clear the Maker put the power there when He knit the world. If it seems as though we have uncovered some secret, it is only because the wars of the ages concealed what was once common as grass.” – Quote from North! Or be Eaten, book #2 in The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
But even with anything that has some kind of special power, I really wouldn’t consider it “magic” or at least in the way how something is usually considered “magic”. There are no wizards, witches, spells, or wands to be found in these books.
While there are some sword fighting and battles, it doesn’t go over Narnia level.
I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a new adventure fantasy series. (That’s not a genre, but I just made it up, so it is now.) There’s a great balance of fantasy-like elements, but also ordinary things that make it not so entirely different from our lives. I’m going to give On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness 4 out of 5 stars, because the story just gets better from here on out. Like a Star Wars trilogy, the first episode is fantastic, but by the end it’s become even better. I haven’t really even started talking about all the reasons why I love this series, because I am very determined not to spoil anything. This book will transport you into the world of Aerwiar, introduce you to quirky characters, and leave you inspired and hopeful.
Are there any books you’re planning on reading this Summer? If you could pick one fictional world to travel to, which would you pick and why?