Are you one of the many Millenials experiencing loss without the wizarding world of Harry Potter, Narnia, and overall end of the book depression? Do you attempt to fill this void with stories like “The Hunger Games,” “Divergent,” and, if you’re feeling really low, “Twilight?” Then “The Chronicles of Wildwood” will surely help fill this void and provide you with illustrations that will delight.
Author Colin Meloy, and illustrator/wife Carson Ellis published the first book of the three in 2010, and having recently just finished the third book last year. Set in Portland, OR (which warms my Pacific Northwest heart), readers follow Prue, an intelligent twelve-year-old girl, and her friend Curtis as they cross over the mysterious bridge to the Impassable Forest in order to find Prue’s brother who was kidnapped by a murder of crows. From there, the story follows Prue and Curtis’s journey as they meet different communities around the forest, humans and animals alike, in an attempt to stop the grieving, manipulative, evil Dowager Governess before she sacrifices Prue’s baby brother Mac to the Ivy, a blood-thirsty force of nature powerful enough to consume the entirety of the forest if awakened.
Even though “Wildwood” exudes a bit of Harry Potter, C.S. Lewis, Lemony Snicket, Pacific Northwest hippy-dippy-ishness, it separates itself through its message of finding the value within the nature around us. And when I say hippie-dippy, I mean that a large part of Mac’s attempted rescue has to do with the power of meditation and becoming one with the earth, and understanding the plants to be above us in the hierarchy of mankind. “Wildwood” is a story about kids finding their confidence, and courage in order to defeat those who have lost sight of what it means to be human. As Prue ventures further into the Impassable Forest (which she later finds out is called Wildwood) she is confronted with more and more comments on the metallic, iron state of life Outside. The people of Wildwood frequently remind Prue and Curtis of how the Outsiders have lost sight of the power of nature due to materialistic stress and city growth. Eventually down the road, Prue finds that the silence of the forest is more soothing than the comforts of home and all of her Stuff.
The illustration definitely set this book apart in comparison to other fantasy/adventure stories. From the cover, to the colorized prints within, to the random specs of black and white doodles scattered in between the words, the book is chalked with amazing visuals that add to the creativity of Wildwood.
Indeed “Wildwood” is independent of some of our favorite alternative worlds, but it does have some commonalities we can all appreciate. Wildwood’s magic doesn’t come through wands, or spells, or cauldrons. Wildwood’s magic comes through with its relationships amongst animals, people, and the Forest. The only time magic is used is by the Dowager Governess and portrayed as something evil. Wildwood, particularly when Prue and Curtis first enter the Forest, reminds me of Harry Potter seeing Diagon Alley for the first time, witnessing different, non-human folks walking amongst the streets. Instead of goblins, ghosts, and giants, Wildwood is full of the Avian Principality made up of all the birds in the forest including the Owl King. Wildwood is controlled by The Council Tree, and the Elders who listen to it. Wildwood is filled with wolves in military uniforms fighting for the Dowager Governess. Similar to C.S. Lewis, Wildwood is a world where animals and humans interact, getting on with daily life as one.
Wildwood doesn’t have all of the mystical powers of the world of witch and wizardry, or the dystopian nature of other blockbuster hits. But it has the captivating courage necessary for a young, seemingly impossible girl to defeat the evil forces that threaten her family and well-being of the forest. It includes the importance of friendship, the power of desire, and the value of having a community.
The“Wildwood” chronicles can be purchased online here, and at your nearest bookstore. I was lucky enough to discover and purchase the series at Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, OR., a highly recommended tourist stop for anyone passing through. Each book is only ten dollars and ranges from 500-600 pages. Enjoy!
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