Monday, December 18, 2017

The Wildwood Chronicles

Inhaled three books of the Wildwood Chronicles’ by Colin Meloy. Yup, of The Decemberists. Otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered reading this children’s fantasy where the protagonists are two seventh-graders. The books are beautifully illustrated by his wife Carson Ellis. The Wildwood Chronicles have been described as a very age-appropriate series that is a mix of 'The Chronicles of Narnia', 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Alice In Wonderland'(Reviews here, here and here.)

Just a week after I was done with these books on the Kindle, I was quite tickled when Missy picked out Book One ‘Wildwood’ (2011) at Kinokuniya. I didn’t influence her at all! She devoured the book in a day. Initially she didn’t want Book Two ‘Under Wildwood’ (2012) or Book Three ‘Wildwood Imperium’ (2014) because the covers looked ‘scary’ and she wasn’t sure of the contents based on the summary. But she enjoyed Book One so much that she finished it in a day and requested for the next two books. Yay! Girl's got good taste. Went off to the bookstore to get the rest of the series for her.

The story begins when thirteen-year-old Prue McKeel’s one-year-old baby brother Mac is taken by crows to the Impassable Wilderness, some huge swath of forest in a Portland neighborhood. I believe it refers to Forest Park in Portland's Tualatin Mountains. Prue’s classmate Curtis Mehlberg helps her to chase after Mac, in spite of her not really wanting his help. Predictably, there's this whole spiel about Prue's parents making a deal with Alexandra, the dowager-governess who was exiled to Wildwood for the practice of black magic, and how in exchange for the parents to be able to have children, Alexandra demanded their second-born child in return. There're bandits, revolutions, coyote armies, battles, and the triumph of North Wood over the corrupt government of South Wood, giving rise to a new peaceful Wood.

Prue McKeel is the target of unknown assassins from the Impassable Wilderness in Book Two 'Under Wildwood' (2012). We see Curtis again, as a bandit, with Bandit Leader Brendan who helped Prue escape and took her to the Bandit's Camp in Wildwood to protect her. There's an evil industrialist Joffrey Unthank who has grand plans to decimate and drain the resources of Impassable Wilderness. We're introduced to Prue's new companion, Esben the Bear, and Curtis's sisters Rachel and Elsie. The story doesn't quite end nicely in Book Two, and it continues on in Book Three.

All of this: the boy and the rat crossing the Outside, the crying man in front of the burning building, the captive child and her blind friend, the lost children in search of a new home. The bear in the metal lean-to, the quiet, thoughtful girl pondering the road ahead, the sleeping town—all of this, he sees. 
The snow has stopped falling; the rain has come. 
Winter is passing. 
A Spring will soon arrive.  
~ The last paragraph of Book Two

In Book Three 'Wildwood Imperium' (2014), the story picks up from Book Two. There's young Zita who called up the vengeful spirit of Alexandra and decided to help her. Esben the Bear continues his companionship with Prue McKeel, even more battles with more new characters, and the fight against Ivy who puts all residents of South Wood and all of Portland into a deep sleep. Prue McKeel of course, fighting the Ivy (the spirit of Alexandra), and somehow, fell unconscious, became a sapling that was known as the One Tree, before returning to the land of the living. This book contains the most illogical space-distance concepts and some odd lines. I've got no idea what the book's target (younger) readers would think, but I was highly amused at the many loopholes.

She told them about a ship that took her to a faraway rock in the ocean, where she thought she'd die—until the great bird prince rescued her and returned her to a land overcome by a reborn spirit, made of ivy, bent on the destruction of the land, and how only the return of the spirit's son, the heir to the kingdom, would stop the devastation. She described the heartbreaking reunion of these two, mother and child, and how the ivy was pulled away and the boy became the emperor of this strange land.  
The girl's mother listened to the story attentively; her brother barraged her with questions; and her father, shaking his head and smiling at the incredible tale, only said, 
"Who's up for some hot chocolate?" 
And indeed, they all were. 
~ The last paragraph of Book Three

No comments: