Monday, May 5, 2008

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson

Adventure. Peril. Lost Jewels. And the Fearsome Toothy Cows of Skree. The Wingfeather Saga: Book One.

(I had to include all that as it's on the cover but wouldn't all fit in the post's heading. Anyway, it got my attention on the cover. Maybe it'll get your attention here.)

The Igiby family lives in a small cottage outside Glipwood Township, upon the cliffs overlooking the Dark Sea of Darkness. Janner and Tink, the eldest brothers, live with younger sister Leeli, their mother, Nia, and grandfather, Podo. They, along with all the residents of Glipwood - and indeed, all of Skree - live under the harsh occupation of the Fangs of Dang, lizard-like creatures who carry out the rule of the evil Gnag the Nameless.

Janner, as eldest, has been given the responsibility of watching his siblings. But Leeli's tendency to wander with her dog Nugget and Tink's tendency to act before thinking make Janner resent his new found maturity. The Igiby children make an enemy in Slarb, one of the nastiest of Glipwood's Fangs of Dang, yet at the same time make a friend in Peet the Sock Man, a strange fellow known for conversing with sign posts.

As the trouble builds between the Igiby family and the occupying Fangs, a hint that the Jewels of Anniera could be in or near Glipwood reaches General Khrak, a Fang sure to report back to Gnag the Nameless. In fact, Nia and Podo seem to know some secret about them. The Jewels, formally of the Isle of Anniera and High King Wingfeather, and also said to have great power, are deeply desired by Gnag the Nameless, who believes possessing them will solidify his rule.

There are secrets - locations, occupations, identities, enemies. There are near escapes and non escapes. There are tragedies and near tragedies. And through it all is the love of the Igiby family, more willing to enter the Black Carriage together than be separated, holding them, and even the hopes of Glipwood, Skree, and all of Aerwiar, together.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is traditional fantasy in many ways. But right away one notices that the voice of this novel is different from most fantasy novels. There's a playfulness here. A tongue-in-cheek, did-you-catch-that? sort of tone. From the name of this world, Aerwiar (the first words of creation's first person were "Well, here we are.") to the Great Nameless Evil that has devastated Aerwiar (an evil whose name was Gnag the Nameless), readers immediately get a sense of the humorous vibe. Included throughout the novel are footnotes referencing the literature of Aerwier including documentation (Torrboro, Skree: Blapp River Press, 3/113) that creatively gives additional insight to the novel's events.

Oh, and there's one final trait the book shares with the best fantasy novels: It most certainly leaves readers wanting more.

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