This charming British series, the Edge Chronicles, makes a transatlantic crossing with its launch title, a handsomely designed paper-over-board volume with pen-and-inks by the authors. In poetic prose, Stewart and Riddell invent the magical realm that culminates at the Edge (a precipice that resembles "the figurehead of a mighty stone ship"). The flow of water that ceaselessly falls off the Edge originates in the Deepwoods, where "countless tribes and strange groupings scratch a living in the dappled sunlight and moonglow beneath its lofty canopy." Twig, who is nearly 13, lives with a family of woodtrolls, but his non-troll appearance (except for the pointy ears) marks him as an outcast; it is not a total surprise when his "Mother-Mine" reveals that he was dropped "at the foot of our tree" as an infant. And so begins a journey that leads Twig to his destiny, as the ominous caterbird tells him, which lies "beyond the Deepwoods." The narrative will cast a spell over readers from the beginning with its utterly odd, off-kilter sense of logic and a vocabulary that is equal parts Dr. Seuss and Lewis Carroll ("Fromps coughed and spat, quarms squealed, while the great banderbear beat its monstrous hairy chest and yodelled to its mate"). The detailed artwork with numerous comic touches also offer clues to Twig's parentage (he bears a certain resemblance to a dreaded sky pirate who makes an early appearance). Twig winds up at the Edge, and his decision at the chasm leads him to self- discovery-and nicely sets up the next adventure, Stormchaser (-75070-6; also releasing this month), which sees Twig beginning his life as a sky pirate. Ages 10-12. (June) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
The first two installments of the British fantasy series "The Edge Chronicles" are set in the world of the Edge. In the first installment, Beyond the Deepwoods, Twig, a human abandoned on the doorstep of woodtrolls as an infant, is now a sullen teenager. He sets off to seek his destiny in Undertown, but first must make his way through Deepwoods, which is brimming with mysterious and perilous flora and fauna. Heart-stopping adventures come fast and furious as friends and foes become indistinguishable and more than once Twig narrowly misses becoming dinner. Eventually he assists sky pirates who have lost their "flight rock," and after more misfortunes and a close call at the precipice of the Edge, he joins the ship's crew, discovers the identity of his long-lost father, and safely makes his way to the city. The second installment finds Twig aboard the ship Stormchaser. The crew's mission is to locate a new supply of a magical, dangerous substance called "stormphrax," which keeps the city of Sanctaphrax stabilized as it floats above Undertown. The city's evil ruler has discovered a profitable new use for the substance, and his greedy depletion of the city's supply threatens to break the last remaining anchors that hold the floating land to the Edge. Twig again faces ambiguous foes, and while learning the ways of the sky pirates, he is inspired by his father's heroism. He also finds a love interest in an unexpected place. This second tale is more exciting than the first, as it mirrors the ripping yarns of traditional sea fiction. Riddell's evocative illustrations firmly fix the characters and settings in the reader's mind as the twisted plot maintains suspense. A cliffhangerending ensures future adventures. This tongue-in-cheek, sad, nonstop tale is suitable for fans of Harry Potter or Brian Jacques' Redwall series. VOYA Codes 4Q 3P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2004, David Fickling Books/Random House, 280p., Trade pb. Ages 11 to 15.
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-The first volume introduces Twig, a human boy being raised by woodtrolls in the Deepwoods. After he leaves his adoptive parents and "strays off the paths," he embarks on a series of encounters with strange creatures ranging from a "termagant trog" who keeps him as a pet to the "caterbird," whose hatching he witnesses. Twig survives a range of dangers and joins the sky pirate ship of Captain Cloud Wolf, learning secrets about his own past. In Stormchaser, Twig, now 16, finds himself involved in the politics of Sanctaphrax and in the conflict over "stormphrax," a magical substance that maintains the balance for the floating city and can be transformed into "phraxdust," which purifies water. As Cloud Wolf, Twig, and the crew travel in search of the Great Storm that creates stormphrax, they crash and travel through the surreal Twilight Woods. While Deepwoods seems more focused on introducing its setting and range of creatures than developing its characters, Twig grows and matures during his adventures in Stormchaser, and other characters gain depth as his adventures continue. Stewart has created a detailed, gritty fantasy world, bringing realism to even his most outlandish characters. Riddell's sketches bring detail, verve, and humor to the stark text. The rapid pace of events will draw in readers. Already popular in its England, this series will appeal to fans of J. K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" books (Scholastic).-Beth L. Meister, Yeshiva of Central Queens, Flushing, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR THE EDGE CHRONICLES:
"Sure to please the Potter fans."
–Detroit Free Press
"The narrative will cast a spell over readers from the beginning with its utterly odd, off-kilter sense of logic and a vocabulary that is equal parts Dr. Seuss and Lewis Carroll."
"Good fun." –Kirkus Reviews
“Stunningly original.”—The Guardian (UK)
“A richly inventive fantasy . . . one of the most exciting collaborations between a writer and illustrator for a long time.”—The Literary Review (UK)
Read an Excerpt
The Snatchwood CabinCopyright© 2004 by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
Twig sat on the floor between his mother’s knees, and curled his toes in the thick fleece of the tilder rug. It was cold and draughty in the cabin. Twig leaned forwards and opened the door of the stove.
‘I want to tell you the story of how you got your name,’ his mother said.
‘But I know that story, Mother-Mine,’ Twig protested.
Spelda sighed. Twig felt her warm breath on the back of his neck, and smelled the pickled tripweed she had eaten for lunch. He wrinkled his nose. Like so much of the food which the woodtrolls relished, Twig found tripweed disgusting, particularly pickled. It was slimy and smelled of rotten eggs.
‘This time it will be a little different,’ he heard his mother saying. ‘This time I will finish the tale.’
Twig frowned. ‘I thought I’d already heard the ending.’
Spelda tousled her son’s thick black hair. He’s grown so fast, she thought, and wiped a tear from the end of her rubbery button-nose. ‘A tale can have many endings,’ she said sadly, and watched the purple light from the fire gleaming on Twig’s high cheekbones and sharp chin. ‘From the moment you were born,’ she began, as she always began, ‘you were different . . .’
Twig nodded. It had been painful, so painful, being different when he was growing up. Yet it amused him now to think of his parents’ surprise when he had appeared: dark, green-eyed, smooth-skinned, and already with unusually long legs for a woodtroll. He stared into the fire.
The lufwood was burning very well. Purple flames blazed allround the stubby logs as they bumped and tumbled around inside the stove.
The woodtrolls had many types of wood to choose from and each had its own special properties. Scentwood, for instance, burned with a fragrance that sent those who breathed it drifting into a dream-filled sleep, while wood from the silvery-turquoise lullabee tree sang as the flames lapped at its bark — strange mournful songs, they were, and not at all to everyone’s taste. And then there was the bloodoak, complete with its parasitic sidekick, a barbed creeper known as tarry vine.
Obtaining bloodoak wood was hazardous. Any woodtroll who did not know his woodlore was liable to end up satisfying the tree’s love of flesh — for the bloodoak and the tarry vine were two of the greatest dangers in the dark and perilous Deepwoods.
Certainly the wood of the bloodoak gave off a lot of heat, and it neither smelled nor sang, but the way it wailed and screamed as it burned put off all but a few. No, among the woodtrolls, lufwood was by far the most popular. It burned well and they found its purple glow restful.
Twig yawned as Spelda continued her story. Her voice was high-pitched but guttural; it seemed to gurgle in the back of her throat.
‘At four months you were already walking upright,’ she was saying, and Twig heard the pride in his mother’s words. Most woodtroll children remained down on their knuckles until they were at least eighteen months old.
‘But . . .’ Twig whispered softly. Drawn back inside the story despite himself, he was already anticipating the next part. It was time for the ‘but’. Every time it arrived Twig would shudder and hold his breath.
‘But,’ she said, ‘although you were so ahead of the others physically, you would not speak. Three years old you were, and not a single word!’ She shifted round in her chair. ‘And I don’t have to tell you how serious that can be!’
Once again his mother sighed. Once again Twig screwed up his face in disgust. Something Taghair had once said came back to him: ‘Your nose knows where you belong.’ Twig had taken it to mean that he would always recognize the unique smell of his own home. But what if he was wrong? What if the wise old oakelf had been saying — in his usual roundabout way — that because his nose didn’t like what it smelled, this was not his home?
Twig swallowed guiltily. This was something he had wished so often as he’d lain in his bunk after yet another day of being teased and taunted and bullied.
Through the window, the sun was sinking lower in the dappled sky. The zigzag silhouettes of the Deepwood pines were glinting like frozen bolts of lightning. Twig knew there would be snow before his father returned that night.
He thought of Tuntum, out there in the Deepwoods far beyond the anchor tree. Perhaps at that very moment he was sinking his axe into the trunk of a bloodoak. Twig shuddered. His father’s felling tales had filled him with deep horror on many a howling night. Although he was a master carver, Tuntum Snatchwood earned most of his money from the illicit repair of the sky pirates’ ships. This meant using buoyant wood — and the most buoyant wood of all was bloodoak.
Twig was uncertain of his father’s feelings towards him. Whenever Twig returned to the cabin with a bloodied nose or blacked eyes or clothes covered in slung mud, he wanted his father to wrap him up in his arms and soothe the pain away. Instead, Tuntum would give him advice and make demands.
‘Bloody their noses,’ he said once. ‘Black their eyes. And throw not mud but dung! Show them what you’re made of.’
Later, when his mother was smoothing hyleberry salve onto his bruises, she would explain that Tuntum was only concerned to prepare him for the harshness of the world outside. But Twig was unconvinced. It was not concern he had seen in Tuntum’s eyes but contempt.
Twig absent-mindedly wound a strand of his long, dark hair round and round his finger as Spelda went on with her story.
Excerpted from Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. Text and illustrations copyright © 2004 by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell. Excerpted by permission of David Fickling Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.