Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Edge Chronicles: Beyond the Deepwoods

The Edge Chronicles: Beyond the Deepwoods

Paul Stewart , Chris Riddell
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Random House, 2008   ISBN: 978-0440420873

Hold onto your hats, grab a sword, and take a deep breath for you are about to enter a world where nothing is even vaguely familiar. Unless of course you have been to The Edge before, in which case you know what to do.

The Edge is a world which is bizarre, full of deadly and unpredictable creatures, and which has more than a few mysteries hidden in its swamps and forests. For example, Twig, who grew up thinking he was a funny looking "different" woodtroll discovers that he is not a woodtroll at all. In fact he is... well he is a something else that is yet to be determined. At long last all the bullying and strangeness of his childhood makes sense and yet Twig still loves his woodtroll ?mother.? In fact he is determined to remain as he is for he was taught to "always stick to the path." Twig wants to stick with what he knows even if it does make him miserable a lot of the time. Then Twig is forced to leave the home where he grew up, for the sky pirates may be looking for him. So he sets off through the Deepwoods to stay with cousin Snetterbark until the troubles blow over. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending at how you look at it, Twig does just what "Mother-mine" entreats him not to do- he strays from the path.

In no time at all he is hopelessly lost in a place filled with dreadful monsters that all seem to want him to be their next meal. There are the blood thirsty bloodoaks, the deadly halitoad, vicious hover worms, the drone-like gyle goblins, and always, in the background, the mythical and terrifying Gloamglozer. To balance this litany of dreadful creatures there are those that are kind to him and who befriend Twig in his times of trouble - and there are many such times in this tale.

One of Twigs happier moments is when he is befriended and soon protected and cared for by a banderbear, a huge furry animal which develops a soft spot for the strange and awkward boy. They travel together and Twig learns a great deal of woodcraft from the enormous beast. And yet, always there is a "and yet", the banderbear comes to a dreadful end and poor Twig must press on alone.

This is not a story for the squeamish or tender-hearted reader. Blood and gore is prolific and many of the fascinating pen and ink illustrations are enough to make most stomachs feel a little odd. The hero of the tale is always making mistakes, and anything good that happens to him always seems to turn sour. In fact one would almost think that there is some evil spirit dogging Twig?s heels for surely he has truly dreadful luck. And yet, at the same time, he always seems to survive somehow.

The question is, where is he going? Will Twig be able to find some answers to the questions that lie in his past before something or someone eats or disembowels him?

Fascinating, horrifying, and addictive, this first book in "The Edge Chronicles" is a treat for all lovers of the fantastical and peculiar. Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell have created a world quite unlike any other, a world which promises to attract many "visitors" in the years to come.