I like to keep with a theme, whether it be kids in space, dystopian youth gangs fighting the man, or scary birds. So naturally, after reading The Aviary, I wanted to read another book about birds that may be plotting to kill you.
Wildwood starts at a brisk pace, with the kidnapping of Prue’s baby brother Mac. This kidnapping, like most, happens in a split-second when Prue’s attention is diverted at the park. However, unlike the usual America’s Most Wanted kidnapping stories, Prue’s baby bro is snatched up by a flock of crows. A veritable, murder of crows if you will.
This large swarm of birds carry the child off into the distance, into the Impassible Wilderness, the large, imposing forest that no one in Portland (yes, Oregon) ever ventures into (or if they do, never returns from, natch). Prue, obviously not a shrinking violet, strikes off on her own to rescue her brother. She is joined at the last minute by her hapless, bespectacled (they always are bespectacled aren’t they?) neighbor, Curtis.
Not long after they enter the woods (and are immediately lost), Prue and Curtis almost stumble upon a crowd of arguing coyotes. Coyotes wearing tattered uniforms and carrying rusty muskets. Unfortunately, they are sniffed out quickly, and only Prue escapes. Curtis, unfortunately, is marched back to the warren to meet the Dowager Governess.
While Curtis is getting drunk on homemade spirits, while getting acquainted with the Dowager, Prue is almost flattened by a mail truck. The kind mailman escorts her to the South Wood, marvelling that an Outsider has made it into the woods, and gently letting her know that her friend Curtis and baby brother Mac have most likely been killed and dismembered by now.
Once in the relative safety of South Wood, Prue has to battle the complex political machinations in order to speak to the Governor Regent, only to be put under house arrest. Luckily, the birds (not the crows mind you, but the good birds), help her escape, and set her on the way to the North Woods.
Slowly, Curtis and Prue come to realize that they are both caught up in a dangerous conflict between the politicians of the South Wood, the backwoods hicks of the North Wood, the bandits of Wildwood, and most dangerous of all, the Dowager Governess and her band of coyote soldiers.
This all comes to a head when Prue finds out the true reason behind her brother’s kidnapping. Her parents, childless and desperate, made an unwise deal with the Dowager Governess (slash witch of the woods) in order to conceive her. In exchange, their second born belonged to the witch. They both seem strangely accepting of this. Luckily, Prue actually cares about her brother (pretty shoddy parenting skills, I must say), and doesn’t want him offered as a blood sacrifice (sorry, gave it away).
This book is such a charming mix of imagination and creativity. I was really surprised by it. I wish I had the text version and not the ebook, as I really missed out on the artwork. Once I’m settled somewhere and not moving house every month, I’m sure I will buy it in hardcover.
I rarely read the Author’s Note, but I’m glad I did in this case, because I had no idea that the author (Colin Meloy) is also the front man for The Decemberists (a very hip band), AND that this book is illustrated by his wife (Carson Ellis). Extremely talented people just make me nauseous, personally.
AND…my favorite Decemberist song