'In poetic prose, Stewart and Riddell invent the magical realm that culminates at the Edge. The narrative will cast a spell over readers from the beginning with its utterly odd, off-kilter sense of logic and a vocabulary that is equal parts Dr. Seuss and Lewis Carroll'. Ages 10+.
Young Twig lives in the Deepwoods, among the Woodtrolls, but he isn't one of them. In a brave attempt to find out where he belongs, Twig wanders into the mysterious, dangerous world beyond the Deepwoods. He meets a collection of odd companions, such as his wise guardian, the Caterbird; the Slaughterers, a peaceful race who butcher animals for their livelihood; and the vicious, bile-swilling Rotsucker. Always watching out for the horrible Gloamglozer, whose presence haunts the thoughts of all the inhabitants of The Edge, Twig steadfastly pursues his quest until he discovers his roots, not among the trees, but in the skies. . . .
The Snatchwood Cabin
Twig sat on the floor between his mother's knees, and curled his toes in the thick fleece of the tilder rug. It was cold and draughty in the cabin. Twig leaned forwards and opened the door of the stove.
'I want to tell you the story of how you got your name,' his mother said.
'But I know that story, Mother-Mine,' Twig protested.
Spelda sighed. Twig felt her warm breath on the back of his neck, and smelled the pickled tripweed she had eaten for lunch. He wrinkled his nose. Like so much of the food which the woodtrolls relished, Twig found tripweed disgusting, particularly pickled. It was slimy and smelled of rotten eggs.
'This time it will be a little different,' he heard his mother saying. 'This time I will finish the tale.'
Twig frowned. 'I thought I'd already heard the ending.'
Spelda tousled her son's thick black hair. He's grown so fast, she thought, and wiped a tear from the end of her...
I've been anticipating the arrival of The Edge Chronicles series in the USA for almost three years - ever since our son's Godmother, who lives in the UK, gave him the first three books in the series. Why it took 6 years from the time the first book in the series (Beyond The Deepwoods) was published in the UK to it crossing the Atlantic is one of life's mysteries, but the good news is that it and the second in the series (Stormchaser) are now available in the USA, and others in the series will be following shortly.
I've read the first two books, and our son (aged 10 now) has read a few more. Personally, I think they're great - in fact I'd go as far as to say that I think they're the most imaginative books I've read in a long time. These are classic adventure stories - an orphan boy 'strays from the path' in order to pursue his destiny in a fantastic world of foul-mouthed halitoads, red-faced slaughterers and galumphing banderbears. I've been racking my brain for a book to compare these to but am drawing a blank - the best I can come up with is The Phantom Tollbooth by way of Lewis Carrol's Jabberwocky.
Enhancing the tale are the many pen and ink drawings by accomplished cartoonist Chris Riddel. The 'official' reading age for the series is 9-12, but I think it would be enjoyed by some younger readers and many older ones.
If you liked Beyond The Deepwoods, try these:
A young boy, in a coma after an accident, wakes up in a new world full of danger and aventure.
Criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl is back . . . and so is his brilliant and dangerous enemy, Opal Koboi. For ages 9+.
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