Review: North! Or Be Eaten

So the Igiby family is on their way to Kimera, to join the colony of rebels hidden on the vast Ice Prairies.  The Nameless One still grasps for them, stretching long fingers across the Dark Sea. His trolls, his armies of Fangs are on the hunt for the Jewels of Anniera. If the Igibys manage to evade the forces of Gnag, plus various malcontents and hungry animals, they can then attempt the cold, cold trek to the hidden colony.

What could go wrong? More than they would even guess. Through over three hundred pages, North! Or Be Eaten details the pitfalls. Climb out of one, fall into another. It’s fun to live in a fantasy book.

North! Or Be Eaten is the second book in the Wingfeather Saga. The silliness is lessened here, but it by no means disappears. Andrew Peterson continues to prove, along with Jonathan Rogers, that fantasy can be very funny. Yet the book has a more serious tone than its predecessor. The dangers are more frequent, and often of a darker nature.

This is one of the ways in which North! Or Be Eaten broadens and deepens the saga. Another is one of simple geography. On the Edge* takes place almost entirely within the Glipwood Township and the land surrounding it. North! Or Be Eaten leaves Glipwood behind, traveling to the mighty, dangerous falls, the Strand with its outlaws, Dugtown, Kimera, the Ice Prairies, the Fork Factory, the Sea.

The characters, too, are deepened. This book focuses more narrowly on Janner than the other did, cementing his status as the lead character. But other characters are developed even more than he. Podo – who had a great deal of color in On the Edge and not much complexity – gains some. The Fangs, surprisingly, progress from decent, cookie-cutter hobgoblins to something more terrible and more tragic.

And if you like Peet the Sock Man – and if you don’t, I wonder about you – you have even more reason to be happy. Peet’s role is, unfortunately, smaller in this book, but it is gold.

North! Or Be Eaten is a worthy continuation, a sequel that not only lengthens the story but deepens it. On the Edge was a good book; this one is even better. Exciting and at times intense, with humor and high emotion, it’s a happy experience for the fantasy reader. At least it was for this one.


* The full title is On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, but this takes too long to type. Also, it makes writing reviews harder. By the time I put in that title, the sentence I’m trying to write is already too long.

The third book in the Wingfeather Saga, Monster in the Hollows, will be toured later this month by the CSFF. Now for the links: North! Or Be Eaten on Amazon – and look, it’s a bargain price, $5.60; and Andrew Peterson’s website. He is also a songwriter, interestingly enough.

Review: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

Far away, on the edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, lies the land of Skree.  It is filled with quiet, gentle folk, which made it easy pickings for Gnag the Nameless. Now the country is infested by the Fangs of Dang. They’re stupid and lazy, but make up for it with their indefatigable brutality.

A wild forest sprawls over the land, spilling dangerous animals from its eaves. The Skreeans keep a good distance, but one man is rumored to live near the forest. Most people believe it, too. You’d have to be crazy, but he is. What else can you say about a man who wears knitted stockings on his hands, chants gibberish, and picks fights with street signs?

Despite this abundant opportunity for excitement, Janner Igiby is bored. He has spent all twelve of his years in a quiet little cottage outside a quiet little town. He yearns for adventure, for the wide world. But he should be more careful about his wishes. They’re about to come true.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness was once toured by CSFF, and after joining I saw it mentioned. And I felt definite disinterest. “The dark sea of darkness” is bad writing. If even the title needs a content editor, I don’t have high hopes for the book.

Then I won its sequel in a book drawing. If I get a free fantasy novel, I’m going to have to try it. And if it happens to be a sequel, I’m going to have to read the first book first. So, with small expectations, I began On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness.

On the first page I had a revelation. There Peterson wrote this line: “That evil was a nameless evil, an evil whose name was Gnag the Nameless.” And I realized something. The title is, of course, bad, but it is bad in the way this sentence is – on purpose, and a good one.

Humor is abundant in this novel, particularly humor of an absurd flavor. The absurdity runs deep, runs through Peterson’s whole invented world. It is displayed on store front signs – THE ONLY INN – and in the most ancient legends, which often revolve around the First People, Dwayne and Gladys. The villains make their subjects fill out forms to use garden hoes; the Chief Advisor to the High King begins his journal with the warning: “Read this without my permission and I will pound your nose.”

Yet the sea-dragons have a real and mysterious majesty, old legends are powerfully true, and the Jewels of Anniera are a matter of deathly importance – and you may take that adjective to its most literal meaning. Andrew Peterson both parodies the tried-and-true devices of fantasy and uses them seriously. In the same way, over-the-top humor coexists with danger and sadness, and comically bad writing gives way to skillful story-telling.

I would like to insert two caveats here: One, the book is YA and its main character is a twelve-year-old. This is not criticism, just something readers should know beforehand. Second – and this is criticism – the book contains instances of gross humor.

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is a unique story – a romp through a world of pandemic quirkiness that eventually pushes past all the absurdity to adventure and beauty and tragedy. Worth the price of admission.