Review | Wildwood – Colin Meloy (illustrated by Carson Ellis)

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  • Paperback (Canongate Books, 541 pages)
  • First published 2011; this edition published 2012
  • Rating on Goodreads: 3 stars
  • Buy the book here

“Prue McKeel’s life is ordinary. At least until her baby brother is abducted by a murder of crows. And then things get really weird.

You see, on every map of Portland, Oregon, there is a big splotch of green on the edge of the city labeled ‘I.W.’ This stands for ‘Impassable Wilderness.’ No one’s ever gone in—or at least returned to tell of it.

And this is where the crows take her brother.

So begins an adventure that will take Prue and her friend Curtis deep into the Impassable Wilderness. There they uncover a secret world in the midst of violent upheaval, a world full of warring creatures, peaceable mystics, and powerful figures with the darkest intentions. And what begins as a rescue mission becomes something much bigger as the two friends find themselves entwined in a struggle for the very freedom of this wilderness.

A wilderness the locals call Wildwood.”


What a charming book.

I do love what seems to be titled ‘middle grade’ fantasy – or children’s fantasy. It’s often quirky, light-hearted, and filled with magic and wonder that may at times rival Harry Potter.

And this almost, almost hit that point. Wildwood is beautifully crafted, and kudos has to go to the world-building, which brings to mind a mix of Stardust and Narnia. It’s very easy to get sucked into the many marvels and eccentricities of the world that Meloy – and illustrator Carson Ellis – seek to display to the reader. And the illustrations are lovely in their childlike simplicity, which only adds to the charm of the novel.

However, as delightfully quirky as Wildwood is, it struggles plot-wise. It seems to lag at what should be pivotal points, and at 541 pages, I wonder if it’s not too long for a young children’s fantasy book. It certainly dragged for me, which is a shame, because I often loved parts of Wildwood. It also suffers from having too many characters who aren’t fleshed out or memorable enough, which made for much confusion as to who they were later on in the novel.

Overall, I did enjoy this book, hence the three stars – but it’s not the best children’s fantasy I’ve read, and certainly not the most cohesive. It could have been tightened up considerably, and I really wish it had been.

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