Tony's Reviews > Wildwood

Wildwood by Colin Meloy
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Nov 29, 11

bookshelves: novels, speculative-fiction, kids
Read in January, 2011

I suppose I should state up front that I can't stand Meloy's band, The Decemberists -- I find them boring and pretentious, but each to his own and whatnot. That said, I was intrigued by the illustration on the cover of this book and once I picked it up and gave it a few pages, I got sucked into its grasp and read on. The story is set mainly in a mystical titular wilderness abutting Portland, Oregon (based on Forest Park, which is a huge park extending northwest from the city), and follows the adventures of 12-year-old hipster Prue, as she tries to find her kidnapped baby brother. She was at a park with him when a murder of crows came along and swept him away into the Wildwood.


Prue (and her sidekick, nerdy classmate Curtis) are mysteriously able to bypass the enchantments that protect Wildwood from intruders, and finds themselves in a strange realm divided amongst several factions. Anthropomorphic animals feature heavily, along with a bandit band of hipster humans. Prue and Curtis are separated fairly quickly, allowing Meloy to show who the bad guys are (coyotes in Napoleonic garb led by an evil witch queen), as well as the bandits, an ineffectual kingdom, a kind of communal backwater, and the avian realm. There's a lot going on, and at times it kind of feels like a cross between The Hundred Acres Wood and Risk.


There are tons of interesting ideas, and plenty of commenting on our own "real world" culture and politics, but at 500 pages, it takes its own sweet time building to a climax. However, I suspect this is really more of an issue for adults than kids -- I work in a public library, and guess what: kids love long books. If they are into a setting and the heroes, they'll happily read about it forever (cf. Potter, Harry). So, much as I would like to criticize the book for not cutting to the chase a bit quicker, I'm not really the target audience. I've no idea if the book will become a classic, but it should please plenty of intelligent 10-13 year-olds for the next decade or so, and perhaps beyond. It's also worth noting that the book is heavily illustrated with charming hipster art by the author's wife. And, oh yes, this looks to be the first in a series.
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