Too Much Fairy Tale, Not Enough Wildwood

For a writer’s first book, setting a reader’s expectations depends—in a large part—on the marketing department. In the advanced reader’s edition sent to me, the PR about Wildwood celebrated its writing in “the grand tradition” of The Chronicles of Narnia. HarperCollins enthusiastically recalled classic fantasy and fairy tales as the inspiration for this new fantasy series for eight-to-twelve year-old readers.

The story did not meet my expectations. Perhaps if I had not been constantly comparing it to the Narnia books, I would have liked it more. The worldview for all the Narnia books displays courage, hope, and faith in spite of the evil inherent in the situation. Wildwood‘s worldview is expressed best by the mystic, Iphigenia, in chapter 21: “…we are the inheritors of a wonderful world, a beautiful world, full of life and mystery, goodness and pain. But likewise are we the children of an indifferent universe. We break our own hearts imposing our moral order to what is, by nature, a wide web of chaos. It is a hopeless task.”

Against this backdrop, no action by Prue, her almost–friend, Curtis, or any of the other characters appears heroic. Instead, every scene has this vague sense of inevitability to it. Many times, the characters seem indifferent to the consequences of their actions.

I think the PR folks had one thing right. The book did remind me of fairy tales, but I doubt it’s what they had in mind. In many fairy tales, the heroine has a lot that happens to her; there’s a victim quality to the narrative. I sensed this same quality in Wildwood. I think that will bore today’s young readers.

I do not recommend this book.