And so starts another Series Week! I will be reviewing the ten books in The Edge Chronicles, one per day. The last post will be a wrap-up post discussing the series as a whole and my most to least favorite list!
Beyond the Deepwoods is the first book (fourth chronologically) in The Edge Chronicles, a ten-book series (made up of three trilogies and one wrap-up) written by Paul Stewart and illustrated by Chris Riddell. It was published in 1998 by Random House and is the first in the Twig trilogy. The Edge Chronicles website can be found here.
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
“Far, far away, jutting out into the emptiness beyond, lies the Edge. Filled with strange peoples and terrifying creatures, this is a world unlike any other, where action—and danger—await at every turn. Abandoned at birth in the dangerous Deepwoods, young Twig has been brought up by a family of woodtrolls. He has always thought he was one of them, until, one cold night, he finds out he’s not. Soon he sets off to find out who he really is, and he does the unthinkable—he strays from the path.
So begins the heart-stopping adventure that will take Twig through a nightmarish world of goblins and trogs, bloodthirsty beasts and flesh-eating trees. Only two things keep Twig going: the hopes of discovering his true identity and finding his destiny.”
“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…
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.”
“That’s more like it,” Mumsie growled. “What are you going to call it?” she said.
Mag shrugged and turned to her new pet. “Have you got a name?” she said.
“Twig,” he replied automatically—and immediately wished he hadn’t.
“What’s that?” roared Mumsie. “Was that a word?” She prodded Twig hard in the chest. “Are you a talker after all?”
“Twigtwigtwigtwig,” he said, desperately trying to make it sound as unwordlike as possible. “Twigtwigtwig!”
Warnings: There are some creepy and disgusting and disturbing creatures that do creepy and disgusting and disturbing things.
Recommended Age Range: 12+ (although be aware that there are a few scary/violent/creepy parts)
What I Liked:
Stewart has created a fantastic world in Beyond the Deepwoods (and in the entire series in general). Riddell’s illustrations only add to the experience. Twig is as new as the reader is to this whole new world, and his experiences serve to enlighten him, and us, to this place he has stumbled upon. The ending of the novel gives us hope that we will soon see more of this strange, wonderful world where trees sing and float and eat people, where rocks fly or sink depending on their temperature, where sky pirates rule the air, where a vicious creature known as the gloamglozer reigns, and where many more adventures are in store for Twig. This is a classic hero-goes-exploring-strange-lands story and the lands are amazingly thought-out and well-developed.
What I Didn’t Like:
The story itself—not the plot, more the writing style—is a bit simplistic. There are a few cheesy points of dialogue. The description and world are what stands out; the rest is a little mediocre. The ending is a bit too coincidental (however, it’s still an appropriate ending for the theme of the book).
Riddell and Stewart give us a glimpse of a fantastic world in Beyond the Deepwoods. While a few things can be improved on, this book (and the series itself) needs to be read just for the sake of the worldbuilding alone.
Coming Up Next: Stormchaser