Hey remember me? I used to write book reviews and post interviews. I have been a little pre-occupied with other things lately and in a bit of a book slump. (If you are interested in my thoughts on politics, foreign policy, sports, and other subjects check out my other blog, A Nickel’s Worth of Free Advice, which has recently been revived from a six month slumber) I have, however, managed to read an actual book, albeit a book for young adults. Review follows.
I am not sure why but I love well designed, nicely illustrated, and adventuresome children’s/young adult books. Perhaps it is a reaction, and an escape from, more serious works that involve complex history, arguments and issues. Lately I just seem to need lighter fare and I find myself turning to this kind of work (see here, and here for past examples). My most recent foray into this genre is The Edge Chronicles a series described by Amazon as a “fantastic boy-meets-world saga from British author-illustrator team Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell.”
The first book in the series, Beyond the Deepwoods, tells the story of Twig a boy who grew up among the wood trolls of the deepwoods but who never quite felt at home. Forced from his home out of fear of marauding Sky Pirates Twig is sent to visit his cousins. Intrigued by the wild world outside his door, Twig strays from the path and is immediately caught up in trouble. From this point on, the book basically combines a series of adventures with Twig’s search for his identity.
Given that the book is aimed at readers aged 9-12 it is not surprising that the story lacks the depth and complexity you might find in other sorts of fantasy works. But it makes up for this in its creativity and good nature. The Edge, as the world Twig inhabits is known, is an interesting and diverse setting. Fantastic and yet simple and recognizable. Practically each chapter brings Twig in contact with a different community of the inhabitants of The edge. Most of these groups have their good and bad attributes but Twig never really feels at home; he is an outsider and often in danger. Eventually Twig learns a great deal about himself, his past, and his future. All of which will be further developed in forthcoming books of course.
I found the story fun and good natured. The illustrations are great and capture the creative and fantastic world of The Edge. Twig is a believable and likable character, even if the orphan/adopted kid searching for his identity is a bit overdone. You must have a heart of stone if you aren’t touched my Twigs encounter and relationship with the banderbear. The Rotsucker – a bat like creature that encases his victims in a hardened shell that slowly liquefies them and the Termagant Trogs – monsters that start out as cute young girls only to turn into ugly enormous troll like creature after drinking from a bloodoak – were particularly creative and interesting antagonists for Twig; not to mention the greatly to be feared Gloamglozer. Sure, the book has a rather sappy ending but I confess I can be sentimental that way.
All in all, I found Beyond the Deepwoods to be enjoyable and entertaining. The illustrations are great and who doesn’t like a series with repeating characters. I plan on recommending them to all my friends children.