This is a spoiler free review, but I do comment on broad themes in the books. So, if you want a fresh start at these books without any kind of teaser or foretaste, then go read them first.

Edit: I forgot to provide details on the books (e.g. page counts), so I’ve added such information under a new heading, “Analytics.” (February 3, 2021)


Andrew Peterson may be best known for his song, “Is He Worthy?” While he does write very good music, he should be renowned for his fictional work The Wingfeather Saga (TWS). The four books, published between 2008 and 2014, tell the story of a family in the fictional world of Aerwiar. In order not to spoil anything, I’m going to keep this brief.

Analytics

  • Title: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness
  • Publisher: WaterBrook (Hardcover)
  • Page Count: 304 pages
  • Title: North! Or Be Eaten
  • Publisher: WaterBrook (Hardcover)
  • Page Count: 352 pages
  • Title: The Monster in the Hollows
  • Publisher: WaterBrook (Hardcover)
  • Page Count: 352 pages
  • Title: The Warden and the Wolf King
  • Publisher: WaterBrook (Hardcover)
  • Page Count: 512 pages

Positives

I greatly enjoyed Peterson’s style. He is a very talented writer. The world he designed and described is at the same time believable and fantastic. The scope of TWS is very grande, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Peterson did a fine job capturing the wonder of Middle Earth without pretending to be Tolkien (which always turns-out embarrassing).

I think Peterson’s greatest feat in TWS is the execution of theme-weaving. All four books fit together as a unified work of art, with dozens of storylines threading together, beginning and ending and reemerging throughout the tale. This creates a very satisfying reading experience, where the individual words and phrases lay a smooth path through the awesome narrative forrest. Related to this is Peterson’s ability to develop characters. There is hardly an unrecognizable, unsatisfactory character arch.

Most of the marvels of TWS cannot be relayed without spoiling the tale altogether. I will resign with what has been said.

Negatives

The whimsical style of the first book is not so present in the fourth (though perhaps least in the third). The books become progressively more serious and mature, so in that sense this is appropriate. However, I think there are some stylistic choices that could have been made (e.g. continuing the expansive use of footnotes as seen in the first installment) to bring the books closer together. It was just a little too obvious that the last books were written later (also evident in some ethical themes present at the beginning that do not reemerge at the end).

Circling back to character development… the only quarrel I have is the main villain. I thought his conclusion was unsatisfying (mainly because it was unbelievable). The unbelievable part also touches on a deeper ethic in the book that is usually spot-on, but that goes too far in this case. From research I’ve done on Peterson, I imagine we would have several theological differences that explain this.

After my first time through, I think the second book is the strongest and the fourth book is the weakest. A fifth book would have been ideal. This would have given Peterson some much needed breathing room for more textured character development and more satisfying conclusions. I believe the fourth book was produced via kickstarter, which may suggest the original publisher was not interested in paying for another installment. So, for all I know, Peterson may have been limited to just one more book.

Verdict

I emphatically recommend TWS. I finished the series last night and may start it over this afternoon. It’s a wonderful story filled with lessons in forgiveness, family, beauty, redemption, and strength. New hardback editions were printed last year. Go to Christianbook.com and, in the words of Oskar N. Reteep, “Just holler out the title and author” (On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, 87).

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