Monday, March 17, 2008

Book Review: Andrew Peterson

Andrew Peterson reminds me of carpet. In squares. When I was in elementary school, storytime always began with the teacher telling us to go grab a carpet square from the stack in the corner. As I read On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, Andy’s first novel in the Wingfeather Saga, I could see him standing in front of me in Ms. Smally’s class at Emmett Field, spinning a yarn with gusto from the heart of an old sea dog. The setting draws you into a world that is not unlike the world of my favorite Final Fantasy game (except Andrew’s is much less prone to geekiness). You can smell the cheesy chowder mumbling into a rollicking glorious glop and hear the mournful and joyous melodies of the sea dragons. And as you walk into Books & Crannies with the Igiby children, you can feel that slightly disquieting bookstore air that lulls you into a wakefulness beyond sleep in the mysterious zig-zagging shelves, surrounding you with the whispering voices of writers long dead or disappeared.

After following Andrew’s music for several years and watching him grow as a writer and a musician, I waited on pins and needles for this book, biting my nails and pacing a rut in the floor. So when the chance came to review the novel, I vaulted from my rut (several feet deep by this time) and put my nose about as far into its pages as I could get it. And so, dear reader, here we are…
One of my favorite aspects of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is that there is no shortage of possible references to Andrew’s family in the Igiby clan, whom we follow on their sometimes alarming but adventurous adventures in the little town of Glipwood. You can sense his understanding of the precarious, hazardous, and extremely rewarding nature of raising kids and loving one’s spouse. I, for one, am challenged to identify with finding adventure in the everyday and meaning in the mundane. Perhaps I am challenged to see, as Chesterton said, that “having a nose is more comic even than having a Norman nose.” The fierce integrity of the Igibys and their tenacious love for each other and for the protection of the mysterious Jewels of Anniera is as challenging as it is riveting. I am inspired to remember the pearls of great price in my own life. Andy’s sense of humor does not fail to make a grandiose appearance either, as drawings of toothy cows and side-splitting footnotes about “Snot Wax” and “Ships and Sharks” smatter the pages. I also giggled scandalously at words like “meep,” “thwap,” and “flabbit,” which reminded me why my favorite poem is Jabberwocky, by Lewis Carroll.

I really did not come to this book expecting a tale that was geared toward children of all ages, but it has further muddied the categorical waters of what defines a “children’s tale,” along with works by Tolkien, Chesterton, Lewis, and L’Engle. I also wasn’t aware that these stories were first spun as he told bedtime stories to his kids, but I’m pleasantly not surprised. The narrative is also rife with the idea that the world is more than we see with our eyes, which is something that pervades much of his songwriting, from songs like 'Carolina' on his first album Walk to his later releases Love and Thunder and The Far Country. Complete with illustrations by Justin Gerard of Portland Studios fame, this introductory novel kept me turning pages with a hunger, and I can’t wait to find out what happens in the next one. I’m cheering for the Igibys.

The book comes out tomorrow. And you should buy two copies and give one away.

-Andrew Peterson
-On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness
-The Rabbit Room

Orthodoxy. Chesterton, G. K., Ignatius Press, San Francisco. 1995.


and Blogger Travis Prinzi addressed the Senate...

Great review! I agree. Andrew's storytelling is most definitely in the tradition of people who take "Fairy stories" seriously - Tolkien, Lewis, MacDonald, L'Engle.

8:36 AM, March 19, 2008  

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