It feels as though I have been reading this book for many weeks. This might be the longest book I have read on my Kindle – it has 576 pages. While this is not the longest book I have ever read it did seem especially long and at times I did not think I would reach the end. This is one disadvantage of reading a novel on a Kindle. I like to see page numbers when I am reading but the Kindle only gives you percentages. I find I like to have a better sense of how much I have read and how much reading I still need to do.
It may be simplistic but one of the ways I judge a book is by how reading it consumes me. If I love a book I am happy to devote many continuous hours to reading. When I gobble up a book this way it means I have really enjoyed it! Because Wildwood took me so long to read I cannot say I loved it but there were moments when I did get completely caught up in the story. I was interested to read some of the Kindle reviews because they were so divergent. Some people gave this book 4 or 5 stars while others gave it only one or two…. Wildwood seems to be a book that does provoke a strong reaction. It has won lots of awards but the New York Times reviewer agrees with me that parts of this book were quite slow. You can read about the story from the series web site and the NY Times review but here are some of my observations :
I knew the story would end in a fierce battle right and yes it certainly did. The battle was so graphic I could hardly read all the details.
Alexandra, the Dowager Governess reminded me of so many thoroughly evil, power crazed, women we find in fantasy writing – I am thinking of the Queen of Narnia and The Snow Queen as obvious examples. But also of Robe of Skulls. Here is a graphic description of Alexandra : “Her face was ovoid and pale, though her lips shone red like the freshest late summer apples. Her hair was electric copper-red and it hung in braided tresses … she was discernibly human, yet she struck Curtis as being entirely otherworldly, as if she’d been pulled from the face of some ancient cathedral’s … fresco.”
I did like the opening chapters when Prue watches, helpless, as her baby brother Mac is lifted from the park and flown away to the Impassable Wilderness. The inclusion of detailed maps help the read make sense of this wild area.
The link to Rapunzel, while obvious, was also somehow reassuring. Prue’s parents make a promise to the evil queen that they will relinquish their second child if she will help them to conceive. “one day … we were at the farmer’s market … and I was off getting … rutabagas.” “So you need a baby?’ and we nod yes. ‘I’ll make you with child but you have to agree to something.’ And we say okay, what it is? And she says ‘If you ever have a second child, that child belongs to me.”
The cast of characters are diverse and interesting. The Dowager Governess wants to use the ivy to take over the whole kingdom. She enlists the help of coyotes. She tames them and gives them smart uniforms and military discipline. On the other side, apart from the two heroes Prue and her class mate Curtis, we have a disparate bunch of Bandits, farmers, animals like rats, sparrows, badgers and a very impressive owl. Various trees and plants also pay an important role in the eventual triumph over evil.
I am quite lost as to why Curtis stayed behind and deserted his family. He is such an important character in this story but even now right at the end I feel I know very little about him and this is frustrating.
To some extent this book reminded me of Toby Alone (which is an utterly fabulous book) and The Emerald Atlas. If you are a Narnia fan you should also enjoy this book. I have read a good review of the audio version which might be worth looking for.
The stage is set at the end for the sequel but I am not rushing to read it just yet. There is a good video on the series web site.