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Under WildwoodReview - Under Wildwood
by Colin Meloy
Balzer + Bray, 2012
Review by Christian Perring
Apr 23rd 2013 (Volume 17, Issue 17)

This second book in the Wildwood series is another long and involved story.  The paper version is 576 pages, while the audiobook is over 13 hours.  It continues from the first book, featuring main characters Prue and Curtis, who may be children but face adult responsibilities of deciding what is important to them in life and whether their loyalties are to their families or the new world they have discovered.  There are new battles between good and bad in Wildwood, with many different factions, and all kinds of creatures with different powers.  Prue and Curtis are being pursued by assassins, and they are in real danger of being killed.  The pursuit lasts the whole book, and many people help Prue and Curtis along the way, and some characters do indeed die.

The other main part of the plot has Curtis's sisters Rachel and Elsie deposited at a home for children while their parents go off to Turkey to search for their missing son.  The home, called the Jeffrey Unthank Home for Wayward Youth and Industrial Machine Parts, turns out to be a place of exploitation, where children are forced to work in a factory.  The children at this home get into another adventure, bringing in a whole new set of characters.

So the story is sprawling.  Fortunately the characters are vivid enough to keep track of.  Meloy uses a good deal of unusual language and young readers may well need to refer to a dictionary to work out what he is talking about, but that indicates a love of language that is endearing.  The events are set in Portland, Oregon, where Meloy lives; his descriptions of the buildings and geography are very much rooted in the real place, even with all the talking animals and magic powers -- see this review in an Oregon paper for some detail.

Meloy himself reads the unabridged audiobook.  Since a different reader, Amanda Plummer, did the first one, it takes a little while to get used to him doing it.  He is slightly more monotone, and he does not do as many accents as Plummer, but his voice will be very familiar to fans of his band The Decemberists, and he brings a consistent energy to the task. 

There is a great deal to enjoy in this story, and it should appeal to fans of epic tales.  Meloy does not shy away from depictions of genuine brutality and sadness, but the plot moves on and the heroes do of course remain intact.  As with the best heroes, his are morally complicated, and make choices that hurt other people.  So this is a story of some sophistication which should appeal to at least some imaginative children.  The audiobook version might be especially good for long family journeys, since there is also plenty here for parents to enjoy.

 

© 2013 Christian Perring        

 

Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York

 


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