Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wingfeather Saga: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

Title: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

Series: Wingfeather Saga #1

Author: Andrew Peterson

Genre: Mid-grade (8-12 years) Fantasy Adventure

Excerpt from “A Slightly Less Brief Introduction to the Land of Skree”:

The whole land of Skree was green and flat. Except for the Stony Mountains in the north, which weren’t flat at all. Nor were they green. They were rather white from all the snow, though if the snow melted, something green might eventually grow there.

Ah, but farther south, the Plains of Palen Jabh-J covered the rest of Skree with their rolling (and decidedly green) grasslands. Except, of course, for Glipwood Forest. Just south of the plains, the Linnard Woodlands rolled off the edges of all maps, except, one would suppose, those maps made by whatever people lived in those far lands.

But the people who made their homes on the plains, at the edges of the forest, high in the mountains, and along the great River Blapp, lived in a state of lasting glorious peace. That is, except for the aforementioned Great War, which they lost quite pitifully and which destroyed life as they knew it.

Three children reawaken rumors of the lost jewels that could destroy the evil lizard rulers.

The Writing: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (say that title five times fast) is a clean, fun adventure full of dry wit, as the excerpt I quoted above amply demonstrates.

Likeable characters fill the pages of this story, often turning out to be more complex than they first appear. The kids act like kids, with all the attitudes, flaws, and virtues real kids have. The plot pulls forward with pretty consistent tension. And all this is pulled off in a delightful storyteller's style

Nonetheless, I found it hard to connect with the characters and get into the story at first. Why? It’s hard to say. Perhaps my age hindered me from connecting with mid-grade characters. Maybe I found the head-hopping distracting. Or perhaps it was the episodic nature of the first half of the book.

But who am I to complain? Because, in the end, Mr. Peterson pulls it all together, wasting few events. (I’m still waiting for the significance of Leeli’s singing with the sea dragons; maybe that’ll come in a later book? I hope so.) But the climax and resolution were quite satisfying, and in combination with the book’s wonderful humor, that goes a long way in redeeming this story.

The Story: As I’ve already implied, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is a clean story. No magic, per se, though a few inexplicable events exist (the aforementioned incident with Leeli and the sea dragons). There’s a couple minor references to torture, which are never seen played out; a few rocks thrown to kill; and a couple scenes of violence of a small-scale war. But nothing is portrayed graphically, keeping the story very accessible to younger readers.

As for the spiritual aspect, it is kept low-keyed. This resulted in only a couple spots of minor preachiness. The themes of forgiveness, taking responsibility, and protecting others at cost to self are all intertwined with the storyline.

Summary: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness provides a clean entertaining read for all ages, and the episodic nature of this story might work extra well for readers of short attention spans or for a family read-aloud book.

Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars

Know someone who'd love this kind of book? Order it here. Still not sure? Have a look at book two, North! Or Be Eaten, as well.


Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

I wasn't disappointed, Chawna. Another thoughtful review.

I have my own theory about the characters. Yes, the omniscient voice may be part of it. I do think it's harder to connect with the protagonist from that POV. But I think there's more.

I actually think this is true of a good number of novels I've read from CBA authors. I don't think enough attention is spent in creating what Donald Maass calls larger-than-life characters.

Maybe this is part of the same package, but both James Scott Bell in his Plot and Structure Brandilyn Collins in her character building book talk about the objective or the desire of the main character. In a nutshell, the story, then, should be about the character trying to achieve his objective while overcoming obstacles.

If the character is passive, instead, merely surviving or hanging on and not trying to find solutions to the problems, it seems to affect his "rootability"—how much I as a reader want to root for his success.

That's my theory anyway.


Chawna Schroeder said...

And I think your theory is spot on!