On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (Book One in the Wingfeather Saga)

Boy holding a staff - On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness book cover

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Book Review

The venomous Fangs of Dang have crossed the Sea of Darkness to maliciously rule the land of Skree while seeking out the legendary jewels of Anniera. Janner Igiby, his young brother Tink, and disabled sister, Leeli, unknowingly hold the secrets to it all.

Plot Summary

If there’s one thing that keeps 12-year-old Janner Igiby up at night, it’s the thought of the Black Carriage; a dreadful coach that arrives at night with the thud of horse hooves, the jangle of chains and the caw of circling crows. The dark conveyance carries off unfortunate victims—usually human children—at the will of the Fangs of Dang.

These lizard-like horrors crossed the Sea of Darkness and conquered all of humankind in the land of Skree. Now they rule with a heavy claw and whisk away children for any whim or reason they may have.

Only last week, Janner had heard whispers about a girl named Sara, the same age as himself, who was taken. One night she was lying in bed, after probably kissing her parents goodnight and saying her prayers, and then the Black Carriage came for her.

Had she been awake? Janner isn’t sure, but it keeps him up at night.

Janner, his thin and wiry brother Tink, and his little sister, Leeli, all live with their mother, Nia, and grandfather Podo. They make up an average-looking family in the little township of Glipwood. Their father had died in the war with the Fangs, like many fathers had. And even Podo shows the signs of battle—having replaced the lower part of one leg with a wooden stump.

They live like other humans in the area: carefully. The foul-smelling Fangs keep eye, and the human residents of Glipwood stay as quiet and out of sight as possible.

Janner, however, longs for more than reading books and digging weeds out of Podo’s garden. He dreams of adventure, even though he isn’t sure how that could ever be. The most adventure he’s ever seen is during Dragon Day, a local festival that the Fangs endure, because each year majestic dragons appear in the nearby sea and sing. It’s special, but still fairly adventure-free as far as Janner is concerned.

This year, however, will be different.

Podo, sensing Janner’s restlessness and thinking some freedom and responsibility would be good for him, allows his grandson to take Leeli and Tink to the festival unaccompanied. While there, Leeli gets separated from her brothers after chasing her dog, Nugget, and she crosses the path of a passing Fang with the desire to beat or eat something.

Janner and Tink run to the rescue, but soon all three are thrown into the local Fang jail. Frankly, they’re lucky to be alive with all their limbs intact. Here they sit, shivering and afraid, waiting to hear the clop-clop-clop of heavy hooves and jangling of chains.

The Black Carriage is on its way.

What Janner, Tink and Leeli don’t suspect, however, is that they’re also sitting at a crossroads. This is the beginning of something that the Igiby children would never expect. It’s the beginning of a story that will shake the township of Glipwood and shock its scaley, venomously fanged rulers. For Janner, Tink and Leeli are part of a secret that even they aren’t aware of.

The three Igiby siblings are linked to the legendary jewels of Anniera, powerful things that the Fangs are desperately seeking. And those fabled jewels will change everything.

Christian Beliefs

The book repeatedly references 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 is a fabled source of water that also has healing properties.

The Igibys pray when they are in difficult situations and praise the Maker when those situations are resolved. For instance, when forest beasts kill a large group of armed Fangs, Janner thinks it is a miracle of the Maker. And Podo states that a part of their family history is the product of the protection of the Maker.

Other Belief Systems

When Janner and Tink explore a dilapidated manor on the outskirts of town, they hear a groaning noise in the cellar. They become frightened, thinking it’s the ghost of a former resident. Later, Podo assures them that the sound is “just the wind.”

Authority Roles

The kids’ mom, Nia, is loving, protective patient, and kind. And she stays reassuringly tempered even in the tensest of situations, calming the family and pointing them toward wise choices. For instance, Nia doesn’t blame Janner after Leeli is kidnapped, even though she instructed him to stay with Tink and Leeli at all times.

On the other hand, she keeps a lot of secrets from the children about their father and history. Janner resents that fact and snaps at her a few times. She always responds gently, even if she doesn’t give him the answers he wants. Ultimately, we learn that her secrets are withheld for an important reason, and that she will do anything to protect her children in the face of the Fangs.

Podo is willing to do anything to protect his family. He rides off to rescue Leeli without hesitation, for instance, despite being unarmed against a Fang. He fights fiercely and shows great courage at moments in the tale, even putting his life on the line for their sake. He is sometimes hard on Janner for not protecting his siblings, but it is out of love. He comes off as hard and unreasonable with one individual in town, but we learn later about a connected great loss that he endured.

Janner sometimes resents the responsibility he’s given to look after his siblings, especially when Tink insists on making unsafe choices. However, he loves his brother and sister and does his best to protect them.

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 a dreaded place called Fort Lamendron. The Fangs physically and verbally abuse the citizens under their authority. They steal from the Skreeans and each other, and they fight among themselves. They are portrayed as excessively cruel and violent.

Some townspeople can be self-serving and even duplicitous.

Profanity & Violence

No foul language. The Fang sometimes drink a foul brew of some sort.

The Fang are also the focus of most all of the deadliness and harm we see. They are reported to be humanoid but with heavy scales and sharp claws. And their fangs are venomous and deadly. On several occasions a Fang named Slarb thumps the children around, and he is especially nasty to little Leeli, whom he drags around, pins to the ground, jerks back by her hair, bares his fangs at her neck and throws roughly over his shoulder. Slarb also smacks Leeli’s brothers around and holds them at sword point.

Slarb and his heavy-handed ways are only the tip of the Fang spear, however. We see multiple instances of the Fang soldiers attacking various humans, driving them to the ground and hacking at them with swords. Tink is kneed in the stomach and slammed to the ground with the pommel of a knife, for instance. Podo is stabbed in the stomach. Another man is stabbed in the chest and bleeds out.

Fangs also take after each other. Some are killed in one squabble or another. And one soldier approaches a Fang general with fear, noting that the leader is known to decapitate those who displease him.

That said, the humans end up giving as good as they get in the course of the story. Fangs are knocked unconscious by rocks; stabbed with spears and swords; attacked angrily by a man with talons on his hands and feet; set afire in a crumbling old mansion; and set upon by wild, deadly animals.

Leeli’s small dog, Nugget, is kicked into walls and stabbed at with poles and spears. He’s stabbed in the side and left for dead at one point. We hear of numerous cases where battlers or victims are covered in blood. There are also reports of many fallen Fang soldiers whose bodies quickly decay and crumble.

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. Later, a Fang opens a trunk, expecting treasure, and is surprised by an angry swarm of thwaps that proceed to bite and attack him.

Sexual Content

None.

Discussion Topics

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you or a friend were being treated unfairly? How did you handle that situation? How would you?

Take a look at James 1:2-4 and James 1:12. How do you think those verses apply to being treated poorly by someone else? Is there a difference between being treated badly and being hurt? What do you think you should do if you see someone being hurt?

Janner and his siblings have a mom and a grandfather who love them deeply. How important is that kind of love and protection? Does a loving family make a difference when we face trials in life? How?

What was your favorite part of this book? Are you looking forward to reading the next in the series?

Get free discussion question for books at focusonthefamily.com/magazine/thriving-family-book-discussion-questions.

Additional Comments

This is the first book in a popular series that’s being made into a TV show. And that alone will likely raise interest in the books. Parents can, however, rest easy that the books, while a bit violent in spots, are immersive reads with solid messages about making good choices, protecting others and standing against tyranny. 

You can request a review of a title you can’t find at [email protected].

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Bob Hoose