On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

March 18, 2008

On the Edge ofBefore you can get through the title of Andrew Peterson’s new book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness: Adventure. Peril. Lost Jewels. And the Fearsome Toothy Cows of Skree, 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.

We are introduced to the land of Skree through the eyes of 12 year old Janner Igiby, a wide eyed young man who yearns to know about the lands beyond his family’s cottage in the seaside town of Glipwood. He, along with younger brother Tink and sister Leeli, lives with their mother and grandfather, the salty but lovable Podo Helmer. It’s the greatest day of the year – the Dragon Day festival – but no day in Skree is truly great. For as long as Janner can remember, the people of Skree have trembled under the oppressive rule of the Fangs of Dang, cruel, lizardish men with poisonous fangs, stinky scales, and a distinct speech impediment. Why, it would only take one unfortunate incident to upset the delicate balance of this community…

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is a pleasure to read, both 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 are even offered, rewarding the reader with extra insight and out-loud laughs.

Before I go further, I have a confession. I am a skimmer. As my eyes grow tired or I get close to a goal, I will allow my eyes to flip over paragraphs that seem less important or redundant. That said, this book nearly cured me of my malady. Every time I found my eyes flipping ahead, I retreated back and read again. I did not want to miss one detail, one turn of the phrase, or one chuckle. Andrew Peterson is best known as a songwriter, but I esteem him as more. 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. Consider this moment around the Igiby dinner table after a frightening, difficult day:

“Janner couldn’t remember the last time they had laughed so hard, and he knew, as they all did, that they weren’t laughing at Tink’s comment so much as they were laughing because their fear-weary spirits needed it like medicine. Finally, like a fit of rain that comes and goes and leaves everything damp and shining, the laughter stopped.”

I know that kind of laughter because I know that kind of need, and moments like this continually drew me into the cottage, aboard the black carriage, or wherever the Igiby children went.

There is another beauty in this story, but I’d rather you find it for yourself. It is a beauty that fills the soul with hope, recognizes the heart’s ache, reminds us of what is valuable, and aligns our relationships with one another rightly.

Reading this book was a complete joy. I laughed at the wild world of Oskar the book seller. I was rendered speechless by Peet the Sock Man. I was afraid of Gnag the Nameless and his army of thousands. And I really didn’t want to get caught in a pasture with a toothy cow. Good thing they can’t climb trees. I happily recommend it to any reader. It may be a great storybook for families, as the chapters are 4-5 pages long. It’s being released today, and you can get a copy from Amazon.com.

Oh, and the winner of the free copy is Ron Durham. There were several great poems, but the trolls made the decision. And nobody argues with a troll – every Skreean knows “a single troll stinks worse that a hundred Fangs.”

Ron’s Winning Ode
To win Andy’s new book, I’d have to do my best,
though I knew that my skills would be put to the test.
I cheerfully confess that I love to read,
but with so many books, could I justify this need?
Still I love Andy’s writing, and His humor’s well known,
So I wanted this book to be my very own.
Was it merely selfish lust for material gain,
or perhaps instead a naked need to stimulate my brain?
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