By Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell
I stumbled across this book in the recently returned section of my local library. I was drawn to it by the beautifully illustrated cover by Jeff Nentrup, this magically floating ship with it’s starry lights along the hull, and a delicate plume of smoke coming from a giant metal-plated ball, which I later learn is it’s phraxchamber, and this is in fact, a skytavern!
This is the first book in The Edge Chronicles I have read (even though it is book twelve in the series), and it is the second book in The Cade Saga, a trilogy of books focusing on the main character, Cade Quarter. But it doesn’t matter where you join in, as the authors (writer, Paul Stewart, and illustrator, Chris Riddell) do an excellent job of introducing you to the series, gradually filling you in on the character’s history as you go along. There are no lengthy sections of backstory, just gentle titbits fed to you as and when needed. The language used just lightly challenges you too, I only had to reach for my dictionary a couple of times, having not come across a ‘coracle’ before, for example.
I had no preconceptions of this series so I had no idea what to expect. From the cover I assumed this might be a steampunk novel, and there are steampunk elements, but I think this book really excels at creating a fantasy world in the Farrow Ridges, a beautiful idyllic wild land surrounded by woods. The novel starts off slow and safe feeling, it kind of reminded me of my days reading The Borrowers by Mary Norton, when they first venture afield, the lazy summer days admiring the natural beauty of nature around them. The descriptions in this novel are amazing, you never forget you are in a fantasy setting, with materials such as ‘ironwood’ and ‘snailskin’, creatures like ‘Glitterwings’ and ‘Tilder’, give an otherworldly feel to it, yet somehow they seem relatable too. The attention to detail, the different settlements built by the different races of goblins, they all have different cultures and ways of building their homes that sets them apart, they are unique and I loved discovering so much. You feel fully immersed in this beautiful world.
The illustrations by Chris Riddell are brilliant, with such great descriptions in this novel, it feels vivid and real to you anyway, and you could argue you don’t need them, but Chris Riddell captures the feeling of the scenes perfectly. You feel the excitement, the joy, the calm before the storm, and the immediacy of the action, not to mention all the details in costumes and scenery. The illustrations help to bring the story to life.
My only gripe, and it’s really only a small one, is at least at one point, Cade Quarter’s dialogue sounded just like the narrator, describing the beautiful scenery in exactly the same style as the author. It’s almost like he lost his personality and became the narrator. It’s only one brief moment of only a few lines, it soon passes allowing you to get back on with the story.
There is so much to enjoy in this novel, there is danger, excitement, joy, halcyon days when the characters relax and enjoy their life, and you have to see and experience the good, to realise what they potentially have to lose. You really get to know their characters, the land they live on, and the dangers they face. There are some amazing creatures too, and the writer cleverly ups the ante as you progress through the novel, and often surprises you. This novel has been described as original and unique, and I completely agree. It is refreshing, awe-inspiring, and exhilarating; as a really good adventure should be. You think you know what’s going to happen next, and you are surprised at every turn. Fresh, fun, and you just have to know more.
I love the ending of the novel too, without giving anything away, the novel has a fully rounded up ending. But just like any great movie, there was a scene saved right to the end, like a teaser for the next instalment, and it just left you dying to read the next one! This was handled beautifully in this novel. I also want to check out the first book in The Cade Saga, The Nameless One. But I’m not sure I can resist the pull to see what happens next, and where the authors are going to take me next.
If you crave adventure, excitement, beauty and wonder in a book, with characters you really get to know and care for, then this book is for you.
Oh, and there’s monsters!