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Friday, March 14, 2008

"On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness"

Official Andrew Peterson Website
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Order “On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness
Read An Excerpt HERE

In 2007, WaterBrook Press published one of my favorite fantasy novels of the year in Jeffrey Overstreet’s wonderful debut “Auralia’s Colors”. Now in “On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness” by Andrew Peterson, the publisher has hit another home run with one of the best children’s fantasy novels that I’ve had the pleasure of reading in recent years. What immediately grabbed my attention was the author. For even though “On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness” is Andrew’s long-form debut, Mr. Peterson is actually an accomplished storyteller evidenced by his career as a critically-acclaimed, Dove Award-winning Christian singer-songwriter of seven albums (Carried Along, Love & Thunder); writing & producing the play/musical Behold the Lamb of God: The True Tale of the Coming of the Christ; being a 2005 Audie Award finalist for his readings of Ray Blackston’s Flabbergasted trilogy; and penning “The Ballad of Matthew's Begats” children’s book. In short, Andrew just has a special talent for writing and narrating that is magnificently captured in “On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness”…

From the very moment that you first open “On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness”, you just know that there’s something magical about the book and if the beautiful hand-drawn maps, wonderful
Justin Gerard illustrations, and the amusing introductions to the world of Aerwiar—a play on the words “Well, here we are”—the continent Skree and Igiby Cottage aren’t enough of a clue, then just wait until you read the actual story which follows the three Igiby children—Janner, Tink and Leeli—as they get into all sorts of adventurous trouble with treasure maps, haunted manors, the legendary Jewels of Anniera, and an assortment of odd critters including vengeful Fangs, Horned Hounds, toothy cows, cave blats, quill diggles, and thwaps! If that’s not proof enough for you, then let me point out the footnotes, songs, poems, appendixes and other clever affectations that are used to establish fantastical Aerwiar which is oppressed by the Nameless Evil Gnag and his reptilian Fangs. A superbly fashioned world where freedom is an illusion, all weaponry has been confiscated—even using farm tools like a garden hoe or a shovel require a permission form!—and the people live in constant fear of the Black Carriage which could come at any moment and steal away your children… Still not convinced? Then what about a delightful cast of characters that not only includes the loveable Igiby children, but also their equally loveable mother Nia, their rambunctious grandfather Podo—a one-legged ex-pirate—the crazy and mysterious Peet the Sock Man, the quirky bookseller Oskar N. Reteep, and Leeli’s loyal dog Nugget :) Finally, it’s impossible to talk about how enchanting “On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness” is without mentioning the author and how well-written the book was including the charmingly whimsical, fairy tale-like prose and the excellent plotting, especially the last eighty pages or so which was just an intense whirlwind of nonstop thrills and shocking revelations.

In closing, I haven’t enjoyed a children’s fantasy book this much in a very long time and that even includes some of the Harry Potter novels! Now to be fair, the Harry Potter series is really a different breed of children’s fantasy—“On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness” reminded me more of the Chronicles of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland and such films as The Dark Crystal and The Neverending Story—but the point is, Andrew’s debut is that good. As far as the religious angle, yes “On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness” is classified as Christian fantasy, but that’s a non-issue because the book is not preachy and the themes that are explored are universal in nature ranging from the classic tale of good vs. evil to the importance of family and the burdens of responsibility. Plus, even as lighthearted and whimsical as the novel is, Andrew isn’t afraid to kill off characters and examine the darker side of life which was refreshing. In the end, “On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness” is a marvelous start to The Wingfeather Saga and I absolutely can’t wait for Andrew to finish the trilogy, not just so I can read it for myself, but so I can share in the books’ experience with my son…


bottle-of-shine said...

After reading this review, I wanted this book immediately but it doesn't come out until next week! Sometimes you are a big tease, Robert. ;)

Sign me up on the release date, though. I am sold.

Scott said...

This book looked interesting when I saw it at Amazon. But now, after reading your review, and especially the last line, you totally sold me on it.

Robert said...

Renay, I guess I should have mentioned the release date huh :) Glad the book sounds interesting though and I hope you enjoy it! Same goes for you Scott and your kid :)

Dave said...

So, why is this labeled "Christian Fantasy"?

Scott said...

Actually, it may be years before my son enjoys it. He is only two and a half years old. But I have been surrounding him with a lot of great books that fit into the "ya" category in hopes that he follows Dad's interest in reading.

ThRiNiDiR said...

A YA fantasy novel better than HP?!? You must be jesting,right? :)

It sounds fabulous, I'd say I'll give it a go but my to-read pile is too long already (The Fade, Malazan 6,The Night Of Knives,The Last Argument of Kings,Severian of the Guild,Heroes Die etc. etc.). But just to be sure when I do take my next YA fix; which one to take - Aurealia's Colours,On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness or Orphan's tales?

Kimberly Swan said...

Sounds about perfect to keep a child's attention as well as an adult. A great review Robert. :)

Robert said...

Dave, well for one, WaterBrook specializes in Christian literature and two, the author is a Christian :)

Scott, our son is actually 2 1/2 as well, but I figure it's never too early to start!

Thrinider, I didn't say it was better than the Harry Potter books, just that I enjoyed it more than some of the books that I've read in the series like volume #5 ;)

As far as what YA book to read next, I wouldn't describe Valente's The Orphan's Tales as YA at all. I know that's the perception, but it's actually pretty dark and I think adults would appreciate it a lot more because of all of the subtext. "Auralia's Colors" is borderline YA, but once again, I think mature readers would get more out of it. So, for a true YA fix, I'd recommend Andrew Peterson's novels, but all three are great reads :D

Kimberly, thanks for the comment!

aspiemom said...

The books looked pretty good and then I couldn't believe you said it was by a Christian author.

It'll be on my short list (which I'm actually going to write down).

daydream said...

How did I manage to lose that much reviewing and more importantly how dod you manage to read that much? This sounds really cool and I love Alice in Wonderland. I simply love that book, because of its startling weirdness and chaos. The Neverending Story was made into a TV series too and I loved that one too.

Robert said...

Chris, I definitely think it's a book that you and your children will enjoy!

Harry, I try to read & review at least three books a week, more or less depending on how busy I am and long the novels are :) One of the things I like about this one so much is how it's set in a completely self-contained world that has no connection to ours--as far as I know--and the creativity in which the author makes the world come alive...

Andrew Peterson said...

Thanks for the kind words, Robert.

To chime in on the "Christian Fantasy" question, it's true that I'm a Christian and that WaterBrook publishes Christian books, but I want to be clear that I didn't set out to write a "Christian novel". There's no Aslan/Jesus character. There's no overbearing moral to the tale.

My goal was to tell a story that, ultimately, would make you want to keep turning the pages. I tried to, as Madeline L'Engle put it, "serve the work." One of the quickest ways to turn me off to a story is to have the story itself take a back seat to some point that the author's trying to make. Sure, there are aspects of the story that I hope shine light into the reader's imagination, and perhaps into his soul, but that was never at the front of my mind while I was writing.

I'd be curious to hear whether or not someone who didn't know I was a Christian would suspect that I am one upon finishing the book.

Once again, thank you for the gracious review, Robert, and I hope the rest of you enjoy it too. I'm off to the bookstore tomorrow (release day!) to stealthily rearrange the shelf placement of a certain, ahem, book.


Robert said...

Andrew, thanks for taking the time to stop by and leave a comment, especially regarding your thoughts on "Christian Fantasy" :) It's much appreciated! And you're very welcome for the review :) I hope the book is successful for you!

Janis said...

I was in the midst of reading books to critique, when I spotted "On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness" on my bosses desk. I brought it on vacation , and read it in 2 days in between flights and sightseeings. It was the best book I picked to read, & it wasn't on our list. Well written, funny, and cannot put it down good. Hopefully, another is in the works?

Christopher Hopper said...


Great review. I have enjoyed this book immensely! Thanks for your honest words.

I love what Andrew had to say in his comment (above) about being a Christian who writes books, not someone who writes "Christian Books." (And if someone does, does that mean their books go to church? I never understood the pigeon-holing. It goes for music, too).


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