It took me awhile to get into this book. There are three prologues, each increasingly tongue-in-cheek, and by the time I reached chapter one, I was a bit impatient with Mr. Peterson. If this was going to be an endless gag-reel (think Goldman), I wasn’t really interested. But with the genuine beginning, things warmed up.
Once, in a cottage above the cliffs on the Dark Sea of Darkness, there lived three children and their trusty dog Nugget. Janner Igiby, his brother Tink, their crippled sister Leeli are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice and pursue the Igiby's who hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.
There are some great elements—a black carriage that rides through the land each night, stealing children from their beds. Peet, the town’s potty Sock Man who wears knitted socks over his hands. A deserted, crumbling manor at the edge of a forest, a system of bridges through the treetops.
I liked how Peterson gave Tink, the hero’s younger brother, his share of smarts. So many times, the oldest child possesses all the courage, cunning and sagacity, while any younger siblings follow dumbly in his wake. In this story, however, Tink is almost co-hero material.
I have to say I’m not a footnote fan. There are moments when they hit the spot—break up sagging narrative at just the right moment, add a bit of trivia. Moments only, though. An example of one that worked:
Oskar closed his eyes with a finger the in air. “Ah! That’s it. ‘Like it or not, the dog stays outside.’ A wise fellow, Yakev was.” 1
1 Yakev Brrz abhorred all manner of animal abuse, most of all the habit of referring to pets as “baby” and attributing to them human characteristics. Yakav’s first wife, Zaga, esteemed her two Beckitt Terriers so much that she insisted they sit at the table with them at dinner and that they sleep at the foot of their bed. Yakev … failed to convince Zaga that her “babies” … would much rather have not worn the matching lavender lace pajamas to sleep in their bed. Late one fateful night, when Zaga was fast asleep, Yakav tiptoed to the foot of the bed, gathered Schpoontzy and Kiki in his arms, carried them outside, drew from his sleeve a sharp knife, and put them out of their misery. Which is to say that he cut the lavender lace pajamas from the oppressed dogs and set them running free in the moonlight, never to return….
As you might guess, however, after a few dozen such pages you stop reading the footnotes.
There were times when the action seemed repetitive—captured by Fangs, rescued by Peet, captured by Fangs, rescued by Peet. But all in all, “rip-roaring” is the phrase that comes to mind. A fun, flavorful world for a debut novelist, most assuredly. (First in a series.)