Guest Review! “Beyond the Deepwoods” by Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell

My best friend, Ruthie Brown, has been watching my blog from the sidelines and has finally decided to jump into the fray! Ruth enjoys reading young adult, chick lit, religious fiction and nonfiction, and fantasy. I’m looking forward to hearing about the rest of the series she’s been reading!

Title: Beyond the Deepwoods
Series: The Edge Chronicles
Authors: Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell
ISBN: 9780552545921
Pages: 288
Release date: December 1, 2000
Publisher: Yearling
Genre: Young adult; fantasy
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal collection
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary

This first book in the Edge Chronicles begins with an atmospheric description of the world on the Edge. Twig, the main character, is a young boy who just never seems to fit in with the woodtrolls around him. Ostracized by his “peers,” Twig longs for acceptance.

While working with his father one day, Twig has a chance encounter with dangerous sky pirates. Spelda, his mother, is fueled by the fear that the pirates will kidnap Twig, so she sends him away to a relative for safekeeping. She also mentions that Twig is not a woodtroll but an orphan boy, which explains why he’s always been treated so differently by everyone around him.

Twig sets out for his relative’s home, but first his mother warns him “never to leave the path,” as is customary among the woodtroll species. However, despite (or because of) his mother’s warning, Twig deviates from the path and embarks on a wild adventure. This single act helps him meet a whole slew of friends, from the Red-Headed Slaughterers to the mountainous and gentle Banderbear.

But throughout Twig’s wild adventure, he is shadowed by a dark and insidious creature known as the Gloamglozer. What does the Gloamglozer want with Twig, and what is his connection to the notorious sky pirate Twig met in the beginning?

Analysis

This book is a nice, quick read for kids between the ages of ten and thirteen. I recommend it for a parent who wants their kid to read more.

Twig seems like an average kid who struggles to be accepted by his peers. He doesn’t feel any different from them, so he doesn’t understand why it’s so hard to make friends. He tries to force himself to be a creature he can’t be, and he’s frustrated when he doesn’t look, sound, and act like everyone else. I think any kid who feels like he doesn’t belong would identify with Twig a lot.

Twig isn’t a particularly complex character, but he is just a kid, so that’s not surprising. I think the authors are trying to make a point that throughout the series, Twig will learn and grow. However, sometimes it seems like the authors are trying too hard to emphasize how young he is. Twig seems a little too whiny and kind of weak for a 13-year-old boy, especially given his upbringing among rough-and-tumble wood trolls.

Of course, if I were walking through dark woods full of carnivorous plants, I’d be scared too.

This is not a picture book, but it does combine its intricate and interesting descriptions with black and white sketches that give good guidelines for what the creatures look like, allowing the readers’ imaginations to spring into action and fill in the finer details. The prologue pulls the reader in with vivid, poetic prose that brings the imaginative world and its creatures to life.

Beyond the Deepwoods is pretty unlike any other fantasy or young adult books I’ve read. The authors have strong imaginations, and they have created a wonderful adventure filled with many types of creatures and people. Though the main character could be a little more complex, I look forward to seeing how he grows and matures in the rest of the series.

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