Courtesy of Beaverdale Books
Review by Catherine Rihm
Balzer and Bray
Talented husband-and-wife team Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis reveal part two of their middle-reader, adventure story with the recently published “Under Wildwood,” a sequel to last fall’s bestselling “Wildwood.” Ellis masterfully illustrates the text, her art the perfect companion to Meloy’s tale.
Celebrated heroine Prue McKeel reappears, and as she leaves her parents’ home in Portland, Ore., to grab some naan for their dinner. She abruptly finds herself whisked — er, flown on the back of a giant talking bird — back into the world of the Impassible Wilderness. She is reunited with her friend Curtis, with whom she began her journey in the first book and who had stayed behind to join the bandits in Wildwood. She sees old friends and meets new faces. She learns of great dissent in South Wood, as political unrest threatens the harmony there. And her own life is in danger as some factions of the dissenters come after her.
Prue and Curtis set out to save Wildwood. This time, though, Meloy spends a lot more time with Curtis’ sisters, who have been temporarily left by their parents at the Unthank Home for Wayward Youth in the Industrial Wastes, adjacent to Wildwood, where they are forced into manual labor making machine parts alongside hundreds of orphans.
With imaginative, varying characters — from hardened bandits to gentle mystics to savage shape-shifting killers to steadfast moles — Meloy creates a detailed, fantastical adventure story hearty enough to entertain a 9-year-old or adult alike. His word choice is nicely challenging, and his protagonists are strong, smart, helpful, caring and independent. Surpassing 550 pages, it’s still a breeze to remain engaged and surrender oneself to the Woods. CV