27 June 2011

Book Review: Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
The Edge Chronicles #1
December 1, 1999; Corgi Children's
Amazon USAmazon UK

Here is a tale of fantastic lands at the edge of the world, where certain rocks float in the air and the feared Deepwoods are crowded with extraordinary trees and creatures. Paul Stewart tells the story with considerable input from Chris Riddell's copious and wonderfully detailed line drawings of fabulous creatures, often reminiscent of Tenniel's or Mervyn Peake's grotesques. Overall the narrative has a familiar shape, as the young lad Twig who's been raised by woodtrolls learns that his destiny lies elsewhere, and blunders off through the Deepwoods to find teeming horrors, unexpected friends, comic menaces, enslavement as a pet, his true parentage, and the nature of his feared nemesis the Gloamglozer. It's all told with joyously inventive relish, and the cavalcade of life never slows: sky pirates, smelly halitoads, hover worms, slaughterers, hammelhorns, caterbirds, skullpelts, bloodoaks, gyle goblins and their Grossmother, spindlebugs, milchgrubs, banderbears, wig-wigs resembling carnivorous tribbles, the very disgusting rotsucker, and more--each illustrated in loving detail. - Goodreads Page
I first read Beyond the Deepwoods when I was still in primary school. Recently I bought a new copy of the book, and thought I would have a good reread of the story I remember loving as a child. 

The main draw of the book is the world in which it is set. The novel opens with a map of The Edge, showing various different locations and landmarks, and throughout the book the reader is introduced to a variety of different creatures and places. The fantasy world that Stewart and Riddell have built is truly breathtaking; I have never read anything like it. 

Our protagonist in the novel is a young boy named Twig, who was brought up by his adoptive family of woodtrolls. Circumstances change, events happen, and Twig is sent to go and live with another family member. But along the way, he strays from the path and becomes lost in the Deepwoods. 

To me, Twig's character was nothing special. In fact, I found him irritatingly plain. Twig kept getting himself into trouble, and making the same mistakes over and over. Of course, there are several different factors involved but we don't learn of these until the end of the novel. This made the overall reading experience kind of annoying.

This book is middle grade, but the world and overall plot makes this a definite read for adults. The illustrations - by Riddell - make the book so much better. I loved reading the descriptions of the different creatures and then looking at the pictures to help me visualise and differentiate between each one.

If you're looking for a fantasy world to lose yourself in, this is the book for you!

1 comment:

  1. So far I've read Curse of the Gloamglozer, The Winter Knights and Clash of the Sky Galleons. I love these books - so unique and the illustrations are gorgeous!


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