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On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga) Paperback – March 18, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Playwright Peterson (Behold the Lamb of God) spins a whimsical fantasy novel that will appeal to both adult and YA readers. When the three Igiby siblings find a mysterious map, they embark on an adventure to discover family secrets about the father they never knew and a hidden treasure that many have long desired to find. Leeli, the youngest, can sing with a beauty that captivates dragons; Tink, the middle sibling, has the makings of a king; and Janner, the eldest, possesses a bravery that will protect them all. But the children's curiosity get the entire Igiby family into trouble with the Fangs of Dang—frightening, scaly-skinned, lizard creatures that drip venom—who have ruled the land of Scree since the Great War. Soon, the Igibys are scrambling for their lives. Peterson's style is lighthearted and funny, but following the Igibys' story requires patience and attention to detail and character so as not to get lost. The sheer amount of names, places, creatures and history Peterson invents will frustrate some readers—it is so complicated that he inserts explanatory historical footnotes throughout (though many are amusing). (Mar.)
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“So good–smart, funny, as full of ideas as action.”
–Jonathan Rogers, author of The Wilderking Trilogy
“A wildly imaginative, wonderfully irreverent epic that shines with wit and wisdom–and features excellent instructions on how to cope with Thwaps, Fangs, and the occasional Toothy Cow.”
–Allan Heinberg, writer/co-executive producer of ABC’s Grey's Anatomy, and co-creator of Marvel Comics Young Avengers
“Fun to read! Every page has word-play, a pun, or clever dialogue that makes me giggle, and the story is full of insight into life. The characters have great names and come to life and stimulate the imagination. Andrew is such a gifted storyteller; this book will be a treasure to both children and adults.”
–James Bryan Smith, author of Room of Marvels; Rich Mullins: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven, and Embracing the Love of God; co-author of Devotional Classics with Richard J. Foster
“What a great story! I laughed, gasped, and learned more about Skreean culture than I ever thought possible. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is equal parts adventure and whimsy–a real page turner that both accelerates the heart and warms it. I loved it.”
–Carolyn Arends, singer/songwriter and author of Wrestling with Angels
“Sometimes, in order to find out who we were supposed to be, we need to get lost in other worlds: Oz, Camelot, Narnia. In On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, Andrew Peterson provides new and needed places like Aerwiar, Skree, and Glipwood–places where we need to get lost and found.”
–Michael Card, author of The Hidden Face of God and The Parable of Joy, and singer/songwriter of more than thirty albums
“Totally fun! Andrew Peterson, a natural storyteller in the oral tradition, has nailed the voice needed to translate a rip-roaring fantasy tale to the written page.”
–Donita K. Paul, author of DragonSpell, DragonKnight, DragonQuest, and DragonFire
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Top Customer Reviews
Initially, the author's whimsical sense of humor (which I eventually came to enjoy) can give the impression that these stories aren't written with the same kind of gravitas as Narnia. But by the end of the series, I found these books to be thematically even richer than Narnia, which is my favorite piece of literature for all time.
There are not many overt spiritual references, but there are many powerful themes that any Christian will recognize. Among these are . . .
- looking forward to a Kingdom and homesickness for heaven
- drawing strength and courage from our identity in Christ
- there are many powerful metaphors for ministry, for shining as lights in a dark world and rescuing people from enemy-occupied territory
- empathy for others, including enemies
- fighting with our sinful nature. We have many noble aims but we can be our own worst enemies
- being attracted to inner beauty and strength of character vs. only outer beauty
- God taking our deepest wounds and turning them into something beautiful, using them for good and to help us empathize with others
I'm 31 years old, and I found myself moved to tears by the Wingfeather Saga on several occasions. It spurred me on in my faith and helped me to fix my eyes on Christ. It helped give me courage to run the race. If I were a parent, I would love to read this with my children and discuss the meaning of each chapter. I think it would be quite character-building.
Getting into the early pages is more than a bit disorienting. Like Middle Earth, we have humans and other creatures cohabiting in a war torn land. Unlike Middle Earth, the names are goofy and seem like a long series of smart jokes. It was enormously helpful for me to know that Mr. Peterson intended this to be the "vastness of Lord of the Rings" with the "whimsey of the Princess Bride". I tend to prefer more serious character sketches but once I allowed myself to get into the style, I found that it actually works really well.
"Oh, yes, the people of Skree were quite free, as long as they were in their homes by midnight. And as long as they bore no weapons, and they didn’t complain when their fellow Skreeans were occasionally taken away across the sea, never to be seen again. But other than the cruel Fangs and the constant threat of death and torture, there wasn’t much to fear in Skree."
It is clear from the introduction that we have an oppressed people who are living a shadow of real life. We know right away that this is a story about good versus evil and that the characters we are about to fall in love with are suffering.
The first portion of the book uses humor and quirkiness to reveal this tension. Like any good epic, this home setting is peppered with questions about identity, purpose and intention. The characters are sketched with the promise that they will be filled in as we go - but that they themselves still have much to learn about their history and how that will reveal their future. It is a very good setup and the layers are pulled back slowly.
The quirkiness dissipates when the hero struggle begins to emerge. We still have weird names and strange creatures with goofy tendencies, but those become servants of the text instead of the focus once the children are in jail.
What I found particularly rewarding about this text is that is does not hold back on the need for people to behave in heroic ways even when it may cost them everything. There aren't many cheap saves or easy outs. This is a dark and dangerous culture war and it requires character, love, faith and hope to survive.
The family context is gorgeous. It is so authentic. All of the normal family battles are present but they are met with love and loyalty and faith. Faith in each other and in The Maker and His providence.
An excellent first book in a series that I can't wait to unpack.
I would rate the intensity of this book as being on par with the early Harry Potter books or The Hobbit. More intense and mildly violent than Narnia or The Green Ember but just as moral, wholesome and heroic. In fact, there are a number of things in the text which remind me of the HP books. There is no witchcraft or wizardry but there are mythical creatures who are otherworldly and there are some questions about one character who was human and is now somehow altered. Classic fantasy type of stuff.
Like The Green Ember, a new book with an old soul.
The Dark Sea of Darkness. The intentional redundancy struck me as pretty funny, but it’s really funny. It’s my kind of funny; a bit dry at times, but witty and clever. Within a few pages, I felt like Peterson, my children and I had a few inside jokes together. We are also introduced to the central characters, the Igiby family of the land of Skree, Glipwood Township: Grandpa Podo Helmer, an aging swashbuckler, rough around the edges, but adoring of his grandchildren; his daughter Nia Igiby, a beautiful widow; and her three children Janner, Tink and Leeli (and Leeli’s little dog Nugget). Though you might be tempted to see them as caricatures at the outset, each with their unique gifts and foibles, it’s only because you don’t know them well enough yet. Throughout the series, these characters unfold in believable complexity and we are introduced to a much larger cast of equally compelling characters, good and ill (and somewhere in between). We are also introduced to the villains of this series, Gnag the Nameless (Did you catch that? It’s funny.), who rules the greater part of Peterson’s fantasy-world (Aerwiar, another joke, you’ll understand when you read) and his reptilian servant-soldiers, the Fangs of Dang. And there are the dragons…
A great mystery surrounds the entire series and many questions arise that are only really answered much later. I want to avoid giving anything away. If the books possess any weakness, it might be that there are stretches where the Igibys “wander in the wilderness” (literally and figuratively) and you really want them to arrive in the Promised Land, but it’s worth it. This too is a great human theme (and a biblical one, obviously). Suffice it to say that, in addition to humor, there is great adventure, skirmishes and battles, quest and exploration (like many of the recognized “classics”). There is much to hold one’s attention, but there is also much to talk about. There is terrifying evil and brilliant goodness, jealousy and generosity, betrayal and loyalty, cowardice and courage, incipient selfishness as well as self-sacrifice. Heroes and heroines in classic literature often have fatal flaws. In Peterson’s fantastical series, weak characters are found to possess incredible powers. Beloved characters are found to have monstrous secrets, evil characters are found to be heart-broken and sometimes monsters are found to possess heart-rending goodness. This is what I was least prepared for: the heart-rending, the occasional choking back of tears for the beauty and truth conveyed in these stories, the moments when I had to risk the catch in my throat and keep reading because I desperately want my children to know the truths these stories tell.
“Is this a “Christian” fantasy series then? Like Narnia?” I might argue that any work which tells the truth about humanity (an aspect of my third mark of the “classics”) must be “Christian” in some sense and Peterson is a Christian, but it’s not like Narnia. Besides the fact that Peterson’s writing style is entirely different from that of C.S. Lewis, his world does not overlap with ours. Aslan and Jesus both exist in some sense in the Chronicles of Narnia. Peterson’s series isn’t like that. “Well, there’s the whole good-versus-evil theme right?” Yes, but it’s so much more complex than that and I tend to think good-versus-evil is a weaker basis on which to call something Christian than “truth about humanity.” “But you said there’s self-sacrifice, so there’s a Christ-figure like Aslan and what-not?” Yes, there is both redemption and self-sacrifice, but while Lewis clearly tries to tell the story of the cross in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peterson’s story doesn’t get there as quickly, nor does it try to be an allegory of the Gospels in the same direct sense. I think if I had to explain why Christians should read these books, it’s because they are really good, and because they possess the emotional and relational content of the Gospel. In other words, these stories could only emerge from the imagination and heart of someone who understood the world through the Gospel. The “deep magic” that works in Narnia in some sense must also be working in the land of Aerwiar. Prepare yourself; or maybe don’t. Tolle lege!