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Book Review

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the first book in the “Wingfeather Saga” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Janner Igiby and his family have lived on the edge of the town of Glipwood, in the land of Skree, for as long as he can remember. His life has settled into a simple routine: helping his grandfather with the farm, taking care of his younger siblings, Tink and Leeli, and working for Oskar N. Reteep at the bookstore in town. As Dragon Day approaches and tourists come to watch the majestic sea dragons sing, Janner desperately wishes for adventure.

Janner’s grandfather Podo, sensing his restlessness and thinking some freedom and responsibility would be good for Janner, allows him to take Leeli and Tink to the festival unaccompanied. While at the festival, Leeli gets separated from Tink and Janner after chasing her dog, Nugget, into the crowd. Leeli has a crippled leg and is only 9, so Janner and Tink worriedly begin searching for her.

Several years before, Skree had been conquered by a nameless evil called Gnag. Gnag the Nameless sent a vicious army of Fangs, tall lizard-like humanoids, to occupy Skree and oppress the population. Leeli’s dog trips Slarb, one of the Fangs, and he intends to kill Nugget. A desperate Leeli kicks Slarb in the shin, and he attacks her as well. Two other Fangs join the fight.

Janner and Tink find Leeli and attempt to overcome the Fangs. The battle is not going well for the three children, but suddenly three rocks that seem to come from nowhere knock the Fangs unconscious. Janner is aware of the consequences of attacking Fangs, and so he, along with with Leeli and Tink, immediately find Podo and their mother, Nia.

Before the children can locate their guardians, however, they are captured and thrown in jail. The Fangs intend to send them in the Black Carriage to the Gnag’s Skreean headquarters at Fort Lamendron. No one who goes into the Black Carriage ever returns. Nia and Podo finally discover what has happened, and Nia bribes the Fang Commander Gnorm with jewels and a promise to bring him homemade maggotloaf once a week. He releases the children to the immense displeasure of Slarb.

The next day, Janner and Tink cautiously return to town to help Oskar unpack a new shipment of books. Tink finds a treasure map marked with a dragon emblem and the words “The Jewels of Anniera.” The map contains a stern warning against reading it, so when Tink hears Oskar coming, he stuffs it up his sleeve and carries it home with him.

Tink convinces Janner to follow the map, and they end up at an abandoned estate called Anklejelly Manor. Horned hounds chase Tink and Janner, and while the boys are trying to escape, they find an old cellar room full of weapons. The boys are surprised since the Fangs confiscated all of the Skreeans’ weapons years ago. Eventually the horned hounds leave, and Janner and Tink are able to leave the cellar and return home.

Meanwhile, Commander Gnorm must travel to Fort Lamendron to report to his commanding officer, General Khrak. Gnorm hides most of Nia’s jewels before meeting with Khrak, but forgets about one medallion. Khrak steals the medallion from Gnorm. In the meeting with Khrak, Gnorm discovers that Gnag is renewing his search for the Jewels of Anniera. Gnag fears these jewels have a hidden power that could lead to him eventually being overthrown.

Back in Glipwood, Janner and Tink return to Mr. Reteep’s bookstore, bringing Leeli with them. Janner leaves Leeli with Oskar and goes to return the map Tink accidentally stole. When Janner returns, Leeli is gone. Janner panics. Oskar says she just stepped outside to check on Nugget, but she’s not there. Oskar’s friend and assistant, Zouzab, spies Slarb carrying Leeli away into the woods. Janner and Tink run home to get Podo, who leaves to save her.

Leeli attempts to run away but is unable to escape due to her crippled leg. As Slarb is about attack her, Peet the Sock Man, whom all of Glipwood believes to be crazy, knocks Slarb unconscious. Peet picks up Leeli and carries her deep into Glipwood forest to the tree house where he lives. Podo finds her there and brings her home safely.

Khrak becomes bored while listening to a subordinate’s report and begins to examine the medallion he received from Gnorm. He suddenly notices a dragon symbol: the seal of Anniera. Khrak believes whoever had the medallion before Gnorm would know the location of the Jewels of Anniera. He sends a message to Gnorm, and Gnorm and his soldiers arrest the Igibys, stabbing Nugget and leaving him to die. Gnorm offers to release the Igibys if they give him the jewels. Podo and Nia refuse. The Igibys attempt to escape while they are being loaded into the Black Carriage but are quickly subdued. Peet suddenly appears and, with the help of Podo and Janner, kills all of the Fangs. He takes Nugget to try and heal her.

The townsfolk begin evacuating, knowing that Khrak will send reinforcements and probably destroy Glipwood. When Gnorm’s company fails to arrive, the townsfolk calculate that they probably have until morning to escape. Podo, Janner and Tink go to their house to gather supplies, leaving Leeli and Nia with Oskar.

When they return for Leeli and Nia, the Fangs from Lamendron have already arrived. A severely injured Oskar explains that Zouzab betrayed them all and signaled Lamendron as soon as the first company of Fangs was killed. Podo, Janner and Tink attempt to rescue Leeli and Nia but are almost defeated before Peet appears riding Nugget, who is now the size of a horse.

The Igibys escape, but the Fangs pursue them. The Igibys, Peet and Nugget find themselves at Anklejelly Manor. The Igibys barricade themselves in the cellar that holds the weapons, while Peet and Nugget continue to fight. Podo and Janner leave and fight their way into a different cellar and light a large fire, hoping to attract deadly forest beasts to attack the Fangs. They return to the weapons room, but Podo is injured. Peet and Nugget finally flee. Toothy cows, horned hounds and the other beasts attracted by the fire finish off the Fangs.

Nia begs Peet to heal Podo like he healed Nugget. Peet explains that he has water from the First Well, which has healing properties. After Podo recovers, the family accompanies Peet to his tree house to rest before fleeing to the Ice Prairies.

Janner, frustrated by Podo and Nia’s refusal to give Gnorm the jewels, demands answers. Nia explains that Janner’s dead father was the High King of Anniera and that Janner and his siblings are, in fact, the jewels. Janner is the Throne Warden, whose job is to protect the king; Tink is the King of Anniera; and Leeli is a Song Maiden. The Igibys then rest and prepare for their journey.

Christian Beliefs

The book discusses the Maker and the Beginning of Things, which bears resemblance to the biblical narrative, but with a few additions. These include the Holoré, which are said to be healing stones that the Maker buried in the earth, and the First Well, which also has healing properties.

The Igibys often pray when they are in difficult situations and praise the Maker when those situations are resolved. When the forest beasts kill all the Fangs, Janner thinks it is a miracle of the Maker. Podo explains how the family escaped from Anniera, stating that they were able to cross the Dark Sea of Darkness in five days. He attributes it to the protection of the Maker.

Other Belief Systems

When Janner and Tink first visit Anklejelly Manor, they hear a groaning noise in the cellar. They become frightened, thinking it’s the ghost of Brimney Stupe. When they return with the Fangs chasing them, Podo reassures Janner that the sound is just the wind, but Janner doesn’t fully believe him.

Authority Roles

The three children live with their mother, Nia, and their grandfather Podo. They don’t remember their father. Podo and Nia emphasize that it is Janner’s responsibility to keep Leeli and Tink safe. Janner sometimes resents this responsibility, especially when Tink insists on doing something unsafe, such as exploring Glipwood Forest or Anklejelly Manor; however, he loves his siblings and does his best to protect them.

Nia is patient and kind. She doesn’t blame Janner after Leeli’s kidnapping, even though she instructed him to stay with Tink and Leeli at all times. Nia keeps a lot of secrets from the children about their father and history. Janner resents not knowing much about his father and snaps at her a few times. She always responds gently, even if she doesn’t give him the answers he wants. She will do anything to protect her children and demonstrates her strength and resourcefulness in dealing with the Fangs.

Podo is also willing to do anything to protect his family. He rides off to rescue Leeli without hesitation, despite being unarmed against a Fang. He fights fiercely to free his family from the Black Carriage and shows great courage at Anklejelly Manor. He is sometimes hard on Janner for not protecting his siblings, but it is out of love. Podo and Peet have a complicated history, and Podo is presented as harsh and unreasonable toward Peet, even after Peet saves them all; Nia rebukes him for his behavior. When Janner struggles to trust Podo about the ghost, he remembers that Podo has never let him down before.

The Fangs are part of a corrupt and oppressive government structure. The Skreeans are not allowed to have tools without explicit written permission. They have a strict curfew and are often kidnapped and sent to Fort Lamendron. The Fangs physically and verbally abuse the citizens under their authority. They steal from the Skreeans and each other, and fight among themselves. They are portrayed as excessively cruel and violent.

Profanity/Violence

Podo has a brief tussle with some thwaps, rodent-like creatures that are stealing vegetables from his garden. They bite him and throw rocks and vegetables at him. Podo beats them with a club and puts them in a sack, threatening to throw them in the sea. Instead he releases them in his neighbor’s garden.

During the children’s first encounter with Slarb, one Fang repeatedly attempts to stab Nugget, nicking him in the leg at one point. Another Fang pins Leeli down with the butt of a spear. After a brief fight, Nugget is viciously kicked against the wall, Janner is about to be bitten by a Fang (which has venomous teeth), and Tink is about to be stabbed with a sword. Three rocks knock the Fangs unconscious, and later it’s presumed they come from Peet.

When the Fangs capture the children to take them to jail, Slarb knocks Janner down with his fist and grabs Leeli’s hair and jerks her head back. He knees Tink in the stomach before striking him with the pommel of his dagger. While they are in jail, Janner worries they will be tortured.

The map Tink finds says that anyone who reads it without permission will be brutally slain, or at least lose a few fingers. Podo punches Peet, giving him a bloody lip. Gnorm worries about his meeting with Khrak, knowing that the General has a reputation for decapitating commanders.

Glipwood Forest is said to be full of vicious, human-eating beasts. When Janner and Tink go to Anklejelly Manor, horned hounds chase them. Janner thinks they look hungry. The boys drive away the hounds by throwing rocks at them. At a later point, Janner fears that a toothy cow will eat Tink.

When Peet rescues Leeli, he chokes Slarb until the Fang loses consciousness. Slarb fights back and claws Peet’s arms until Peet’s clothing is soaked with blood. Slarb eventually wakes up and returns to Glipwood. The other Fangs ridicule him about his defeat, and he attacks one, punching, scratching and biting him. The other Fang wins the scuffle, but the enraged Slarb stabs and kills him with a dagger.

Commander Gnorm comes to arrest the Igibys and ransack their home. Podo is beaten unconscious by the Fangs. Nugget is run through with a spear. The Igibys are threatened with swords and daggers. Gnorm slaps Nia. Later, as they are being loaded into the Black Carriage, Podo grabs a dagger from a Fang, but another Fang hits him with the pommel of a sword and knocks him unconscious. Peet, who has talons for hands, comes to rescue them. Peet kills over half the Fangs with his talons before Podo joins the fray. Podo attempts to overpower Gnorm, but Janner finds a dagger and stabs the Commander. Peet and Podo kill the rest of the Fangs.

Janner and Tink enter the Igiby cottage to gather supplies and find Slarb there. Slarb throws Tink to the floor and holds Janner at sword point. Podo enters carrying a trunk. Slarb demands that he open it, believing it contains the jewels of Anniera. It actually contains about 30 angry thwaps who immediately attack Slarb. While Slarb is distracted, Podo kills him with a sword.

Podo, Tink and Janner return to town only to find that Leeli and Nia have been captured. Podo attempts to rescue them, but is forced to surrender when a Fang threatens to kill Nia. Peet and Nugget charge in to fight the Fangs. The Igibys escape in the commotion.

In the cellar of Anklejelly Manor, Janner watches Podo run several Fangs through with a spear. He has to step over the dead bodies in order to stay close to Podo. The Igibys remain barricaded in the cellar through most of the fight between the forest beasts and the Fangs, but Janner sees all of the corpses the next morning.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

None

Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments/Notes

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Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

9 to 15

Author

Andrew Peterson

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House Inc.

Released

On Video

Year Published

2008

Awards

Christy Award, 2009 finalist

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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