Title: Wildwood (Wildwood Chronicles #1)Author: Colin Meloy
Illustrator: Carson Ellis
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication Date: August 30th, 2011
Genre: Junior Fiction, Fantasy
When Prue’s baby brother Mac is kidnapped by a murder of crows, she will do anything to get him back. If that means venturing into Portland’s Impassable Wilderness, then so be it. She meets up with Curtis, her classmate, who follows her into the wild forest that’s forbidden to everyone. When Curtis is taken by the coyote soldiers that live in Wildwood, Prue sets off find the Governor so that she can save Curtis and her brother. Prue and Curtis both find themselves pulled into the magical and mysterious world of the forest while searching for Mac. While Curtis becomes part of the Coyote army for the Dowager Governess, Prue meets a helpful mailman, an Owl King and some mystics. In the quest to save Mac, Curtis and Prue delve into the secrets of this magical world that has been right under their noses all along.
This book has such a beautiful cover that I couldn’t resist reading it. Plus, Colin Meloy is the lead singer of the Decemberists, so I was curious about what he’s like as an author, and not just as a songwriter. Wildwood is about children who enter a magical world, so I can’t help but wonder why the book didn’t feel magical at all. Although it had a promising start, it never managed to pull me in. It just felt long and drawn out, and there were parts where I was bored. While reading, I found myself thinking about slightly similar books and wishing I were reading those instead. The fact that I was craving Neil Gaiman, The Book of Lost Things and The Chronicles of Narnia while reading this is a sure sign that it just didn’t do it for me. Meloy uses a lot of big words that made the writing feel forced and the dialogue between Curtis and Prue felt the same way. Although none of the characters jumped off the page, I liked Prue. She’s clever and resourceful, and you have to respect that in a twelve year old. Having the narration also told from Curtis’ perspective was a smart choice, since it meant that the reader was able to see more of the forest. It also meant that we got to have a more in depth look at the Dowager Governess, who was easily the most interesting character. The plot showed potential at first, since no one can argue that a baby being kidnapped by crows isn’t original. However, the plot later proved to be nothing special. It could have worked, but Meloy just didn’t pull it off. The beautiful setting was one of the strongest points of the novel, and I think that the illustrations made full use of that. Wildwood was illustrated by Carson Ellis, who is married to Meloy. As you can probably tell from the cover, her drawings are completely brilliant and added a great deal to the overall story. Since I loved the illustrations so much and they were an important part of the book, I increased my overall rating by .5 stars.
Overall, Wildwood was disappointing. It never had any emotional effect on me, and I was never immersed in the magic of the Impassable Wilderness. Although it was written for middle school readers, I can’t help but think that it would not keep their interest. While reading, it reminded me of other similar books that I feel it couldn’t compare to. However, thanks to Carson Ellis and her illustrations, it is probably the most beautiful book I’ve ever read. While I will be reading other books that were illustrated by Ellis, I will not be continuing with this series. I feel that the best way to experience Colin Meloy’s writing is through listening to his band, The Decemberists.