The first book in the epic middle-grade fantasy series full of magic, wonder, and danger—nothing less than an American Narnia—from Colin Meloy, lead singer of the highly celebrated band the Decemberists, and Carson Ellis, the acclaimed illustrator of the New York Times bestselling The Mysterious Benedict Society.
Wildwood is the first in a planned trilogy.
Wildwood Chronicles #1
Balzer + Bray Publications
Publication Date: August 30th, 2011
Get a copy here!
Quick Reasons: lyrical, melodic, atmospheric prose; beautifully vivid descriptions and scenes; a few parts of this seemed to drag; quirky, unique cast of characters; vibrant, well-rounded emotions and situations; action-packed and decently paced plot
The illustrations that accompany this story are WONDERFUL, guys–seriously! They are so filled with intricate, delicate details and movement, you’ll feel as if you’ve crash-landed into the middle of the scenes being depicted each time you stumble across a new one. Carson Ellis did a masterful job combining elements of the narrative with his own personal artistic flair, and helped to bring this story more fully to life for me, so huge hats off to the artist!
First off: this book was not quite what I was expecting, going in. I mean… I’m not rightly sure what I WAS expecting, but a battle between bandits, coyotes, and bloodthirsty ivy was definitely not it. This book has a smattering of dark and realistic undertones that both enthralled me and pushed me away in turn…and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey!
The characters are vibrant and unique, a motley cast of personalities that was both a blur of chaos and a mixed bag of entertainment. I don’t feel as if we really got a SENSE for many of the characters, however–most of them, in the long run, fell a bit flat overall, instead relying heavily on the cliches of their roles to carry them through and/or “round” them out. The only characters I feel we really got an HONEST sense for were Prue, Curtis, and Alexandra–and even they, at times, felt a bit stiff and formal to me.
The language was also pretty heavy-handed; while I enjoy the lyrical or melodic prose, this book felt a bit TOO overdone in places, and instead became a hindrance instead of an enjoyment. Certain scenes, therefore, felt a bit like I was slogging my way through a bog–a bit heavily weighted, a bit slow to the point. These moments were ones where I found the book to be a bit dragging–a lacking of, I suppose, the type of adventure and action I had fully expected to come across when opening this book.
However, the plot IS full of action, and there are plenty of battle scenes and snarky moments to go around. I especially loved watching how the inhabitants of Wildwood reacted to and interacted with Prue and Curtis; it was in these moments I found the most character growth, the most pertinent pieces of information. And there is, of course, a sort of Narnia-esque feel to this read in general.
Overall, I enjoyed this read, though it wasn’t quite as full of adventure as I’d been expecting. The illustrations and artwork are beautiful and delicately done, matching well with the vibrant and clashing personalities of the characters we meet throughout the journey. I definitely recommend this to lovers of mid-grade novels; Narnia; and snarky, headstrong female protagonists. There’s an understated magic to this book; perhaps you should give it a try!