Review Detail

Meloy's Time Would Be Better Spent on His Music
(Updated: November 13, 2012)
Overall rating
Wildwood was only just okay for me, but, because of my love of Colin Meloy's music, I determined to give his books one more chance. I like to be open-minded about my reading, but, sometimes, certain authors just don't resonate. Colin Meloy makes beautiful music, with lyrics that tell a marvelous story, but his efforts in fiction seem to me too be trying to hard and not aimed at the right audience.

Once again, I feel the need to clarify that I think these books are marketed to entirely the wrong age group. According to Amazon, these books are for ages 8+. Well, that just does not seem right to me at all. The writing is complex and the subject matter seems like it would alternatingly bore and frighten and eight year old. Certainly, there are children or teens that might enjoy this, but, on average, I think this book would make them feel rather stupid. I mean, heck, there are even words I don't know, and that doesn't happen often to me in pretty much any book. On the bright side, if you're looking for interesting SAT prep materials, this might help with the verbal section.

As I noted in my review for Wildwood, some reviewers, disappointed like I was, said that it read as though Meloy wrote the book with a thesaurus in hand. Personally, I didn't feel like that, but, when the option to review the audio came around, I took it, curious to see how it would sound. Clunky language of the overblown variety really stands out when it comes time to read it aloud. Having listened to Meloy narrating his own novel, I stand by my prior assertion: I think he just has an awesome vocabularly and loves big words.

For the most part, I don't see this book really taking off to much except in hipster circles. The villain of this one is a captain of industry, a maker of machine parts. Unthank also runs a home for orphans. If you guessed child labor, then you're right! I don't like corporations any more than the average person, but I find it highly unlikely that a corporation could get away with such flagrant child labor in the US in this day and age, particularly if it's one of the biggest corporations. I mean, come on, there would be people sent in to check out his factory AND to observe the treatment of the children. Perhaps this could be explained, but no reasons for this were given, so I'm calling bullshit. Also, if this book is for kids, I could maybe see them creeped out in a good way about the child labor, but all of the meetings between the captains of industry and belaboring of the anti-corporate message? I doubt it.

There's also a weird, incongruous scene in which Prue and Curtis see some litter. The litter had no effect on the plot whatsoever really, but there's a discussion of it. Why? Because the piece of litter is a can of PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon). As I said, this book is for hipsters. There's absolutely no reason to have the can be beer (or a specific type of beer) unless the target audience is people who drink beer, especially hipster beer.

Aside from that, I have the same complaints that I did the first time around: static characters, unrealistic dialogue and perhaps too much violence for a middle grade audience. Sure, the violence in the book does not phase me, as I read a lot of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction. However, if I were a kid who'd mostly read children's books, I'm pretty sure this would freak me out. Prue obtains some pretty ghastly injuries, animals kill one another, children fight with glee, and we learn that two characters were tortured in the past, one losing his eyes and the other his hands. It just all felt a bit excessive for an eight year old.

Basically, if you're an adult and you're interested in this, by all means. If you think your kids would like it, great, but just be aware that it's more mature than perhaps implied. I do not plan to continue with this series, sadly, but highly recommend checking out The Decemberists if you haven't heard them before.
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