Andrew Peterson’s “On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness”

Adventure. Peril. Lost Jewels. And the Fearsome Toothy Cows of Skree.

I normally read a lot more non-fiction than I do fiction, but in the past five or six weeks I’ve read Jeffrey Overstreet’s Auralia’s Colors, John Grisham’s newest, Appeal, Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, and now Andrew Peterson’s On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness. And while I’ve enjoyed all of them, I think I’d have to say that Andrew’s is my favorite.

AP

The story follows the Igiby children, Janner, Tink, and Leeli, in their adventures in the land of Aerwiar as they run from the Fangs of Dang and their search for the jewels of Anniera. The redundancy in the title should clue you in to some of the writing style. A couple of my favorite parts toward the beginning include the introduction of the land of Dang, which was ruled by a Great Evil – “That evil was a nameless evil, an evil whose name was Gnag the Nameless.”, and the first time we see the town of Glipwood and “the biggest building in town, Glipwood’s only inn. Its sign read, THE ONLY INN at the top and below that, in smaller letters, “Glipwood’s Only Inn.”” The story is filled with delightful names and many wonderful places and creatures with evocative descriptions. And the fact that there are three Igiby children, with the book being written by a father of three, doesn’t seem to be an accident. Knowing Andrew and Jamie’s kids, I laughed more than once upon reading a passage that sounded like something they would say or do.

If you’ve been reading my blog for long, you’ve probably seen me mention Frederick Buechner more than once. Most recently I wrote about a common thread that runs through Buechner’s writing, the longing for home. My favorite part in On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is the story of when the town gathers on the edge of the cliffs to hear the dragons, rising from the depths of the dark sea of darkness, sing, which happens once a year. We get the first inkling of the beauty of their song from the opening paragraph of the chapter: “A long, warm note like the sound of a yawning mountain rose in the air and bounced off the belly of the sky. The deep echo was absorbed by the tall trees of Glipwood Forest and was answered a moment later by a higher sound that felt like a soft rain.” And then, as the dragons begin to sing, echoing Buechner, Andrew writes: “All of the passion and sadness and joy of those who listened wound into one common strand of feeling that was to Janner like homesickness, though he couldn’t think why; he was just a short walk from the only home he’d every known.” And later, when the children hear Armulyn, the traveling bard, sing, Janner is embarrassed when he finds tears in his eyes. He doesn’t know why, but tries to explain it to his mom: “There’s just something about the way he sings. It makes me think of when it snows outside, and the fire is warm, and Podo is telling us a story while you’re cooking, and there’s no place I’d rather be – but for some reason I still feel…homesick.” I love reading stories that articulate feelings and experiences that I haven’t been able to put into words on my own.

Another thing I loved about the book, that I don’t think I’ve seen before in a novel, is the abundance of footnotes. If you’re curious and want to know more about the world of Aerwiar, Andrew provides plenty of footnotes that give additional details, like this one: “According to Frobentine the Mumm’s The Fall of the First Epoch, the First Well was hidden near the unwalled city of Ulambria, where Dwayne and Gladys ruled their people with peace, wisdom, and an abundance of cheesy foods. Frobentine places the location of Ulambria somewhere north and east of the Killridge Mountains, in the heart of what is now the Byg’oal Forest. Other sources disagree, claiming that Ulambria lay in the Jungles of Plonst, in the troll kingdom. All scholars agree, however, that Ulambria is a good sounding name for a city.”
And there are little gems sprinkled throughout, like this one explaining what the children are studying in school: “T.H.A.G.S. = Three Honored and Great Subjects: Word, Form, and Song. Some silly people believe that there’s a fourth Honored and Great Subject, but those mathematicians are woefully mistaken.”
Don’t worry, though. Andrew knows there are some things about which he doesn’t need to go into detail, as evidenced by this footnote about a candle in the bookstore “Books and Crannies”: “Snot wax is too repulsive a thing about which to write a proper footnote.”

The publishers sent me an extra copy to give away, so leave a comment on this post with your favorite Andrew Peterson lyric and I’ll pick one to send the book to. Otherwise, you can order On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness from Amazon or pick up a copy (or two or three) at your local bookstore.

Music video for Will Hedgecock’s “I Don’t Know”

Back in August, I wrote a couple string arrangements for the debut project from Will Hedgecock, Reflections. One of the songs I wrote strings for, I Don’t Know, is the first radio single from the project (I posted the press release here). Last Saturday, I found out that Will shot a music video for it and posted the song on his myspace page. Check it out and let me know what you think. I had a 10 piece string section for the session – three first violins, three second violins, two violas, and two cellos. The cello solo at the end is played by Anthony LaMarchina, principle cellist of the Nashville Symphony.

Andrew Peterson – The Resurrection Letters tour

If you’ve ever had the good fortune to catch one of the concerts in Andrew Peterson’s annual “Behold the Lamb of God” tour, you won’t want to miss his concerts this month, the first annual “Resurrections Letters” tour. Andrew will be singing a couple songs from his upcoming release, Resurrection Letters, Vol. II, and a couple of older songs, including Flesh and Blood and Doxology (Romans 11) that he recorded on Appendix A (the leadsheets I transcribed for those last two are on Appendix M). Jill Phillips will also be singing songs from her album Kingdom Come. If you’ve ever sat through an Easter program at your church, you probably know that the defining characteristic of church musicals is bad, cheesy dialogue. Painfully bad, most of the time. Fortunately, and not surprisingly, Andrew’s writing does not fall into that category. The short meditations he wrote to transition between most of the songs, several of them reminding me of the kind of stuff Michael Card writes, brought a tear to my eye more than once when I read them yesterday. And I can imagine they will only be more moving in the context of the concert, with the songs swelling around them and over them, all of it coming together to remind us that Christ has made all things new, to tell us again the story of His love and His mercy and our salvation.

I’m bummed that I won’t get to hear any of the concerts on this tour. The closest stop to Nashville is the last show on the tour, in Knoxville on the 22nd, and since that is my Mom’s and sister’s birthday I’ve already got plans to be with them in Chattanooga. So yesterday afternoon, I dropped by a rehearsal and heard most of the songs as they were working through them with the full band. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this if you can help it. All Things New was one of the songs that jumped out at me when I read through the lyrics for Resurrection Letters, Vol. II a couple months ago, and it again grabbed my attention with lines like “Hold on to the promise / the story is true” and “He is making all things new”. I was telling my sister this past weekend why I love Andrew Osenga’s line in White Dove that says “Every sad thing will become untrue”, and the stuff I’ve read from N.T. Wright and Shaun Groves, among others, on living out the paradox of the now-and-not-yet of the Kingdom of God, something I never heard taught growing up in Fundamentalism. On Sunday I heard Craig, the pastor at City Church, talk about the effects of the curse being reversed through the work of Christ, and Andrew sings about the unraveling of the curse. Christ has redeemed us, has redeemed creation, but we still live in a fallen world. He is making everything new, but at the same time, again as Andrew sings, “My Jesus has made all things new.” Therein lies the paradox, and I’m glad to be reminded of it. Check out the tour dates here.

On a side note, Andrew’s new book, “On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness”, comes out next Tuesday. His publisher sent me a copy to review a couple days ago, and last night, sitting next to a blazing fire with a cold bottle of one of my favorite beers in hand (Black Mocha Stout: Highland Brewing Company’s most robust beer, having a very malty body with a large, roasted chocolate flavor), I read about two hundred pages and then finished it this morning. I’ll have a full review coming next week, so all I’ll say for now is that I loved it! It was a fun, entertaining, and suspenseful. I have one copy to give away, so stay tuned when I post my review.