Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Beyond the Deepwoods

Young Twig has lived his entire life with woodtrolls in the Deepwoods, but despite the fact that he looks nothing like them, he is astounded when the troll woman he'd always believed to be his mother tells him his true story: he was a foundling she and her husband have raised as a son. But when his height calls him to the attention of the sky pirates, who are known for abducting people to serve on their floating ships, his parents decide he must be sent away from home for his safety. He is to take the safe pathway through the Deepwoods to his cousin Snetterbark's house and live there for a while, just until the sky pirates forget about him.

Woodtrolls never stray from the path. The Deepwoods are dangerous, full of nasty creatures with sharp teeth and claws, carnivorous plants, and other nasty surprises. But Twig finds himself wandering off the path...and that's where his adventures begin. He meets up with the Slaughterers, is nearly devoured by a bloodoak, falls in with some goblins, and is held captive by termagants. Twig is never safe - how could he be, in such a dangerous place? Soon he is lost beyond hope of ever finding the way to his cousin's house - but could he perhaps find his way to where he truly belongs?

I loved Curse of the Night Wolf by Stewart and Riddell, and I positively adored Ottoline and the Yellow Cat by Chris Riddell, so I was excited to try this series. Unfortunately I just didn't connect with the story or the characters. I prefer a hero who faces adversity and learns to solve his own problems, but Twig just bumbled from one dangerous situation into another, getting either rescued or getting away by a stroke of luck. When he is held prisoner by a termagent child, forced to wear a collar and leash, he never even tries to escape - not until his life depends upon it, anyway. I don't think Twig has really learned anything or developed in any way by the end of the novel. The resolution of his story is fairly unbelievable as well, depending as it does on a purely chance encounter to wrap things up neatly.

Young readers may not have these issues - in fact, I think the spooky setting and gruesome characters will have immense appeal to its intended audience. The illustrations are wonderful - nicely detailed depictions of events in the story that are a ghoulishly humorous accompaniment to the text. My library shelves these books in the teen section because they are rather violent - characters die in fairly horrible (but not graphically described) ways. Evidently subsequent books in the series focus on different characters and situations, but I'm thinking I may just go back to waiting for the next Barnaby Grimes book instead of continuing on with these. If anyone has read more than the first book of this series, I'd love to hear what you think!

Books in The Edge Chronicles:

1. Beyond the Deepwoods
2. Stormchaser
3. Midnight over Sanctaphrax
4. The Curse of the Gloamglozer
5. The Last of the Sky Pirates
6. Vox
7. Freeglader
8. The Winter Knights
9. Clash of the Sky Galleons

Beyond the Deepwoods (#1 in the Edge Chronicles) by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (David Fickling Books, 1998)

Also reviewed at:
Ms. Yingling Reads: "It was nicely written, with good use of language and lots of inventive monsters, places and evil plants that could kill you, but I found Twig's story a little lacking."
Twisted Kingdom: "These books don't shy away of killing anyone as some of the creatures that inhabit these worlds can be downright cruel and you just never know who will make it to the end....of the series!"

13 comments:

  1. I watched an interview with the authors and they said that they didn't want him to be a hero but I think I'm with you, the only appeal this book holds for me is its illustrations that I have seen.

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  2. Character development is very important for me. I've been meaning to get something illustrated by Riddell, but I think I'll start elsewhere.

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  3. So this is the first in the Edge Chronicles? I always meant to get around this series at some point, I wonder if they are all focusing on Twig. Maybe the rest of the books are better?

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  4. One doesn't necessarily have to make the MC a hero... but at least make him interesting! For me, the world Stewart & Riddell created was fascinating, but Twig was a bore. Other books have different protagonists, so it may get better.

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  5. Ladytink - I think the series, from what I've read, is more about the setting itself. But I'm not sure if that works for me, at least in this case.

    Nymeth - I would definitely start with one of the others I mention in the review. I think you'd enjoy either of those quite a bit.

    Valentina - I think the main character changes from book to book, so I may pick up another one just to see.

    Sean - I had to laugh - yes, Twig is a bit of a bore, isn't he? I take it you haven't gone beyond #1 either? Please let me know what you think if you do!

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  6. I read the first four of these several years ago and have been meaning to get around to the others... I loved them all, but I can't remember any specific impressions at all anymore. I would've been 14-ish I think, which is closer to their target age...

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  7. Fatalis - I think the target age is so important, as I'm occasionally reminded when I pick up what I remembered to be an old favorite, only to find it a bit disappointing. I hope you do read some more in the series - I'll be curious to hear what you think of them now! I hope you'll still love them. :-)

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  8. I picked this up a while because of the beautiful illustrations but it seems they are the ebst thing about it. Sorry you didn't connect with Twig, if you do continue with the series I hope they improve.

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  9. Rhinoa - I can see why you'd enjoy these illustrations! He is really a wonderful artist, and I love that the illustrations go perfectly with the text. It really bugs me when it seems like the artist never bothered to actually read the book. My copy of the new Barnaby Grimes just came in, and I'm very excited to read it!

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  10. My two older brothers intruduced me to this series. both of them really like Rook and the bandabears I also love them but I think Paul Stewrt and Chris Riddle have done a GREAT job on The Edge Chronicles

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  11. Sierra - I still have only read this first book in the series. I really need to get to the next one soon. I'm glad to hear that you and your brothers are enjoying the series!

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  12. Alex SullivanJune 29, 2010

    This book was published in 1999 and i read it first in 2002. I have re-read it twice since then and every time I re-read it I have learnt somthing new. It is a captivating read with detailed and vivid images to compliment the highly descriptive vocabulary. I would recommend this book to anybody about the age of 7, when I first read it to 107 because it is interesting, enjoyable and a unique read

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  13. Alex - I'm so glad to hear you enjoy this series so much! I have recommended it often at my library since I read it, and kids are generally pretty enthusiastic about it.

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