This book looked so promising. I found it on the new book shelf and thought it might be great for my fantasy and adventure loving 8 year old. It looked so intriguing I decided to read it myself first. I can’t even begin to read all the books that he reads but I like to occasionally read things that I think might appeal to him or that do appeal to him. As he’s getting older and more independent, sharing books is a way for us to stay close even if we’re not reading the books together.
The author of Wildwood is Colin Meloy, the lead singer of the band The Decemberists. I’m not someone who listens to a lot of current music (I tend to have my favorites and just listen to the same things over and over) but it’s a band I’ve heard of and heard described as “literary”. (After reading, I went to YouTube and listened to some of their music. I liked what I heard pretty well, it reminded me vaguely of REM.) The illustrator is his wife, Carson Ellis, who is the talented illustrator of the Mysterious Benedict Society series. The premise is a classic fantasy adventure type of plot.
Prue McKeel lives in Portland, but a kind of alternate reality Portland. At the edge of this Portland lies a huge wild forest known to the residents of Prue’s neighborhood as the Impassable Wilderness. Prue has been warned to never go there and she has no desire to do so until the day her baby brother is abducted by crows. Prue knows the only thing for her to do is to brave the Impassable Wilderness and go in after him.
The beginning is quite promising as Prue and a classmate Colin enter the Impassable Wilderness in search of her brother and very soon thereafter discover that the wilderness is actually a whole separate world known as Wildwood to the local inhabitants (which include humans and talking animals). However about a third of the way in, the book just slows down and becomes ok but nothing great. It’s has a lot of elements of a great book: quirky situations, potentially interesting characters, good vs. evil, a new world. But what I found was that it just got boring. Part of this is that much of the plot depends on some complex political situations which were just not that interesting. Part of it is that I just didn’t care that much about the characters. To add to the boredom, there were some elements I thought were seriously goofy (and not in a good way). Primarily this involved a subplot about a group of mystics and a very Avatar like “Council Tree”.
In the end, I wouldn’t really recommend this book. It was ok but there is so much better middle grade fantasy fiction out there. I’m not going to pass it on to John. If he found it on his own and wanted to read it, I’d be ok with that as it isn’t objectionable in any way, but it just isn’t good enough for me to give it to him.