Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Book Review Andrew Peterson's, "On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness"

For Christmas, we gave my son a book series by Andrew Peterson, the songwriter. 
He finished the three books by 6 PM on Dec. 26th and loved them.

I’ve been trying to read the books out loud to my family off and on ever since to moderate success.   My son, who is already engaged with the story loves it as I get to use different voices and say names or other things that are hilarious when spoken verbally.

Well, I haven’t been able to read fast enough because I found the book too engaging, so I finished reading the first book yesterday.  It is called On The Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness: Adventure, Peril, Lost Jewels and the Fearsome Toothy Cows of Skree

You can get the book directly from the author at that link.  

Honestly it was the musicians storytelling ability that first drew my attention.  Here and here are some videos of his songs.  

Then the subtitle made me laugh and want to find out what a Toothy Cow was.  I found out... what a fearsome creature!

The books are written to a Middle School+ aged audience, but I must say I found the story very engaging in a Fantasy adventure genre.

And it is very funny.  When my son (11 yrs old) was first reading it, we would occasionally hear him start giggling, then laughing out loud, then, he would bring the book in to us and actually try to read the passage to us. (something he’s never done)  Usually this attempt at reading it himself failed miserably because he couldn’t stop laughing.

Having read the book myself, I can see why.  The only thing that saved me from a similar fate was that I was reading the book during down time at work.  Uncontrollable laughter wouldn’t help me with job performance, and besides, my co-workers think I’m strange enough as it is.

Without going into a plot summary and giving away secrets, I wanted to share some elements why I enjoyed this book and why it is a great young adult story.
  1. It is written very creatively, with both tension and humor.
  2. The world of the characters clearly has a long history that footnotes gives you insight into.
  3. Three children are the main characters (12 and under) but the story centers around the whole family.

    a.       A great emphasis is made on the family sticking together and watching out for each other.  All the children know of their father is that he was killed when they were young and they are beginning to truly feel his loss.

    b.      Also, I’ve noticed that in most contemporary books written for this age group or on television, they depict the parents/adults as borderline idiots while the children are truly intelligent and have all the answers.  In other words, the world is saved by the children despite the best efforts of the parents to screw it up.  This is not the case here.  The children don’t have all the answers but are figuring some things out.  The adult family members are also very capable and heroic.

    c.       A great emphasis is placed on the children to watch out for each other and protect and fight for each other.  While normal sibling issues arise occasionally—they are not the focus of the story—rather the story focuses on the larger battle that unites them together in a common cause.

    d.      The family clearly loves each other.  There is no abuse, yet there is discipline and expectations.  The adults, while not always understood by the kids are not undermined and devalued.
  4. There is a great and dangerous enemy that is occupying the land.  The book does not pretend that children are capable warriors that can defeat an armed and trained adult or Fang –a fearsome lizard creature.

    a.       Adults do the majority of the fighting in protection of their family—so far anyway.  The swords, armor and other weapons that do appear are typically too big for the kids to handle effectively.  This is true to reality.

    b.      A long standing irritation now that I’m grown up (a little anyway)… a punch from a twelve year old will not knock out a grown man with few exceptions, no matter how many times you’ve seen Robin do it with Batman.
  5. The characters have a faith of some kind, referred to as “the Maker”.  There’s not so much religion talk that would make an atheist or agnostic cringe, but it is referred to in respectable ways.   In a similar theme, there is no bad language/sex/nudity and would be surprised if anything appeared in later books.  There is some rough battle sequences and disturbingly gross food recipes that the Fangs eat (maggotloaf & critternose casserole), but otherwise it is clean.
  6. There is a mystery  in the characters, their relationships and hidden elements that I look forward to seeing developed.
  7. There are real consequences to decisions—hurt and pain does not magically go away (very often anyway).  This helps reinforce the subject of responsibility.
Like I said, I really enjoyed this book and can really see why my son liked it.  As a parent, it has many elements that I would want to encourage and recommend to my kids.  I am looking forward to reading the remaining books in the series. 

UPDATE:  Here is my review of books 2 & 3 

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