In the vein of Chronicles Of Narnia comes Wildwood by Colin Meloy, illustrated by Carson Ellis (The Mysterious Benedict Society), a tale in which Prue’s baby brother Mac is abducted by a murder of crows and taken to the Impassable Wilderness, otherwise known as Wildwood. Joining Prue in her quest to save Mac is Curtis, a classmate who doesn’t quite fit in. Wildwood, like Narnia, is a vibrant world fit to bursting with an intriguing sociology and diverse residents. However, Wildwood does stand well on it’s own two feet.
I loved the language of Wildwood. Colin Meloy’s debut is absolutely a book for readers and people who love vocabulary. It does use some advanced language, however, I felt the language was no more difficult than Narnia, The Phantom Tollbooth, or The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In A Ship Of Her Own Making. Meloy treats young readers with trust and intelligence. This is not a book that has been dumbed down for it’s audience. There are context clues for the vocabulary as well. I really enjoyed Meloy’s style because it did remind me of the sort of fantasy I loved as a child.
Inside of Wildwood are lovely illustrations by Carson Ellis. The pen and ink drawings help to bring the story to life. It’s absolutely a treat to see as well. I think my favorite were the drawings of the coyotes and the bandits. Ellis is definitely an illustrator on my watch list.
Yet, a story needs more than pretty pictures and words to stand on it’s own. Friends, Wildwood is totally an epic story. The scope is big, yet I think there are enough pages to cover the discontent and rival factions of Wildwood as well as Prue’s quest and Curtis’s self-discovery. I think Meloy does a wonderful job of framing the story. Further, the backdrop of the Impassable Wilderness/Wildwood itself is well done. Actual world building takes place, and as a reader I do have a sense of the geography of the Wildwood. You see, Wildwood has it’s own different types of governments. There’s bureaucracy, town halls, tyranny, anarchy, and monarchy in the different segments of the forest. It’s brilliant. I would say this might as well be a book of bigger ideas on politics, but I am not the analytical type and would rather leave that up to more inclined minds, however, I could see this book having a bit of a fun use in a government/citizenship studies class.
From my grown up perspective, Wildwood totally has adult appeal. It hearkens back to that grand tradition of hero journey books that I grew up with. Books that treated you with respect, that make you think. It’s absolutely worth the amount of time it takes to read Colin Meloy’s 560 pages if you want middle grade that isn’t trite or unintelligent.
Disclosure: Received for review.