Review: Wildwood by Colin Meloy

Prue McKeel’s life is ordinary. At least until her brother is abducted by a murder of crows and taken to the Impassable Wilderness, a dense, tangled forest on the edge of Portland. No one’s ever gone in, or at least returned to tell of it. So begins an adventure that will take Prue and her friend, Curtis, deep into the Impassable Wilderness. There they uncover a secret world in the midst of violent upheaval, a world full of warring creatures, peaceable mystics, and powerful figures with the darkest intentions. And what begins as a rescue mission becomes something much greater, as the two friends find themselves entwined in a struggle for the very freedom of this wilderness. A wilderness the locals call Wildwood.

Wildwood by Colin Meloy. First book in the Wildwood Chronicles trilogy. Narrated by Amanda Plummer. 15 hours and 52 mins. Published by Balzar + Bray on Audible, August 2011. Young Adult. Triggers: Animal deaths.

I had a lot of high hopes for this book. The author, Colin Meloy, is the lead singer and song writer for the band The Decemberists. They are an indie folk rock band from Portland, Oregon. I have been a big fan of the band for a while now. Their songs have beautiful lyrics that have this amazing, magical flow to them. It is hard not to have high hopes for Wildwood if you are a fan of this band.

The author did do a very nice job of creating a modern fairy tale. This story is seeped in a vibe that felt like old world folklore and magic. It could have easily fit in the world of Grimm’s Fairy tales. I loved all the talking animals that lived in this forest. Easily my favorite part of this novel. The flow of words have the similar lyrical whimsy feel to the band’s songs. The author’s word play is very strong. Almost too strong, maybe? I feel like this book will be really appreciated by people who are fans of The Decemberists, but I’m not sure how much non-fans will like it…? They might feel a bit annoyed with the ultra hipster whimsy of Portland and fancy wordy words.

The setting was one of the best parts about this book. It is a wonderful, magical forest. The author clearly loves nature and the mysterious woods around Portland. The way it’s described, the setting really comes alive. It feels like you are right there in Wildwood. Every slight ray of sun beam falling between the leaves of the trees. Every cool, dark shadow in the mouth of a coyote den. All kinds of animals and humans inhabit this area. I really enjoyed watching all these characters interacting in this wild location.

While I, personally, could over look the fancy word choices, it doesn’t mean I didn’t have a few annoyances with this book.

My biggest problem was the narrator, Amanda Plummer. Her performance grated on my nerves so much, it almost ruined the book for me. The way she read it… like, her cadence and inflection, was so frustrating. She read the book like she was a Story Time librarian reading to per-schoolers. I know this is a young adult / middle school book, but that doesn’t mean I want someone to read it to me like I’m 5. And yes, I know, this whole book just felt like a tale some parent reads to their child at night, but again… I just didn’t like that sort of performance. I get that she was probably going for a mystical hippie bohemian wanderlust feel to her narration. I just found it monotone and uber grating. It was very sing-songy and light. Like a sterotypical fairy godmother. I don’t know. It’s hard to describe. It just… wasn’t working. Plus! Everyone sounded almost exactly the same! Which is something you do NOT want when you have such a large cast of characters!

Another problem I had with Wildwood, is that there was a lot of vagueness. The book ends with way more questions then answers. I know it’s setting up for a book two, but it was still very frustrating that some things just weren’t very covered. Like, WHY are there all these people living out in the magic woods? Why are the bandits in Wildwood all seem to be Irish? How did the magic get here in the first place? Etc. I understand you want to have a few unanswered things to carry over to the sequel, but the way it was handled so casually made it feel like most of these answers aren’t ever going to have a satisfactory explanation. Who knows, maybe it will explain away these questions in book 2? I kinda… don’t care now, though.

Why do I not care now? Because this book was…. well… it was kinda boring. D: It went on for a very long time and there was a lot of down time with everyone just kind of sitting or walking around. Also, I didn’t really find the main character, Prue, that likeable. Some of the other characters were ok, but again, with so much down time, and the author getting a little too carried away with words, the story just ended up feeling a little… I don’t know, tedious maybe? It was hard for me to feel super motivated about finishing it up and it did take me a lot longer to finish it then most audio books for me. Honestly, if this book hadn’t been checking of one of my 2019 reading challenge prompts (Book writen by a musician), I don’t know if I would have kept reading. D:

The setting and the magic were cool, but with the problems I listed above, I ended up feeling more disappointed then entertained. I admit, I am not a fan of children main characters and I’m also not a big fantasy fan, but these issues were not really my complaints this time around. 😮 I was kind of surprised by that.

Wildwood was somewhat entertaining, but not entertaining enough for me to read book 2, and just left me feeling more MEH then anything else.

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