Last month I read the first book in Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, to my kids. It was so delightful that my husband joined us for story time, too.
This is a big deal. Many of the books I read he decides are not worth his time. He’d rather be programming. But this one won out over his computer.
For those of you who know my husband, I could end my review right here, and it would be praise enough to motivate you to the nearest bookstore.
But for those of you who don’t know my husband, I will say a few more words. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is similar to The Lord of the Rings, except that there are no hobbits or dwarves or elves or wizards or trolls or eagles or mines or perilous journeys in foreign lands or magic rings. But other than that, they’re pretty much the same. Well, except that On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness has humanoid lizards, toothy cows, a lost island, and mysterious jewels, and The Lord of the Rings doesn’t. But other than that, they’re really quite similar. Almost identical, in fact.
For those of you who don’t know The Lord of the Rings (well, first off, what rock have you been hiding under for the past fifty years?) and who therefore have no idea what On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is about, let me enlighten you. The Dark Sea of Darkness separates the land of Skree from the domain of the nameless horror of a dark lord (whose name is Gnag). Legend has it that in this dark sea was an island called Anniera ruled by a king called Wingfeather until the nameless dark lord, Gnag, destroyed it.
But all that was a long time ago—ten or eleven years; you know, a near eternity—and the story isn’t really about Anniera at all. It’s about Janner Igiby and his two siblings and their mother and grandfather. There’s also a slightly crazed homeless man who does a pretty good impression of Wolverine from the X-Men at one point. And those humanoid lizards I mentioned. And a super creepy black carriage.
As Janner and his siblings slowly unravel the mystery of the lost jewels of Anniera, danger besets them on every side. But there’s no going back because—well, I won’t spoil it by telling you how come. If you want to know, you’ll just have to read it for yourself. Trust me, you want to. The toothy cows are popular with four-year-olds, and the action and adventure are popular with 8- and 11-year-olds. (And 44-year-olds, too, apparently. See second paragraph, above.)
Also, there’s a barber named J. Crow. My children did not get that reference, but I did. I happen to know that Andrew Peterson is a Wendell Berry fan, and besides, I’ve read that book. Getting the in-joke made me feel pretty smart. And the fact that I figured out the mystery of the legendary Jewels of Anniera long before the Igiby children (or my own) only heightened my sense of being Highly Intelligent. And feeling Highly Intelligent is a Pleasant Sensation that gives you a certain fondness for whoever or whatever is making you feel thus.
Furthermore, during the two weeks that we were reading this book at bedtime, my children got ready for bed early and helped out with evening chores without complaining or disputing. They wanted me to be able to read three or four or ten chapters instead of our usual one or two. I was happy to oblige them (especially since the book was overdue at the library).
Upon finishing the book, my husband asked me to order the sequel from the library. Alas, they don’t have it—or any of the other books in the series. But as it’s rare that my husband asks for a book, I think this request warrants a trip to the Rabbit Room store. In fact, I think I just figured out what I’m getting him for Christmas. But shh, don’t tell.
Drawing of toothy cow by Andrew Peterson. Shamelessly stolen from the Wingfeather Saga website. Used by permission.