Wildwood by Colin Meloy, is the first of a trilogy of fantasy books set in a magical wood on the outskirts of the less than magical, Portland, Oregon. The first book is currently available in the UK in paperback, and the second is available on Kindle.
The book tells the story of Prue, a twelve year old girl who has a baby brother Mac. Prue is often asked to babysit Mac by her parents. One day as she is sitting, watching Mac in the park as he toddles about, Mac is kidnapped by a large flock of crows. Prue tries to keep pace with the crows on her bike, but the crows disappear over the vast wood that edges the city, and which Prue has been forbidden by her parents to visit.
Prue manages to cover up Mac’s disappearance that evening, but knows that she must act fast. The next day she gets up early and goes to the wood. Along the way she bumps into a nerdy school friend, Curtis, who insists on tagging along with her.
As they reach the wood they realise that strange events are in play, as they are ambushed by coyotes in military uniform. Curtis is taken prisoner, while Prue manages to escape to another area of the wood, where she hopes to find help to rescue both Mac and Curtis.
As the book progresses, the children are drawn into the magical world of the wood and the civil war that is about to erupt within its borders.
There is all sorts going on in this book. There are Yoga practising mystics, talking birds, evil witches, secret police and bandit kings. The whole story erupts into a quite surreal melee of everything anyone has ever thought of putting in a fantasy novel, with the possible exception of aliens.
I enjoyed the book. Parts of it were very amusing. Parts of it were quite tense, and there were some nicely dramatic bits which really pushed the story along. It was though, quite patchy, with the plot all over the place and quite a lot of things left unexplained. I am hoping these will be covered in the second volume, and enjoyed it enough to want to give the second volume a try.
The high point of the novel, for me, were the wonderful illustrations by Carson Ellis, something which surprised me, as I’m not a great one for illustrations in novels. I loved them and they helped the whole, large, rambling novel into a real sense of coherence it would otherwise have lacked. It also gave the story a great charm.
It is a long book, at over five hundred pages, but it would be a very enjoyable read for boys and girls aged seven to twelve as long as they’ve got the stamina and the vocabulary. It would be a good story to read to younger children as there is enough humour and drama to make story time very enjoyable indeed for many weeks to come.
There is an excellent blog by Meloy and Ellis about Wildwood, here.