The Wildwood Series by Colin Meloy

I'd like a time machine to go back to when my boys were young. I'd read them this series instead of Tolkien's Ring Trilogy. (ok, it was my partner who read it to them, but I'd convince him to read this instead)

There is so much to love about this series.

It's filled with magic, rich and complicated characters, plenty of battles and adventure, and luscious language. Even the most evil of characters have a depth to them that permits us to see how they came to be who they are. In addition to this, the series examines government and politics, environmental awareness, religion, and corporate capitalism. 

In Wildwood, the first book in the series, Mac, Pru McKeel's younger brother, is kidnapped by a murder of crows while she is babysitting him. She follows them to the edge of the Impassable Wilderness, and then, the next day, goes in after him. She is followed by her friend Curtis. Shortly after they arrive, they are separated and Curtis is captured by coyotes and taken to Alexandra, the Dowager Governess. This bit is reminiscent of The Chronicles of Narnia, as Curtis falls under her spell. Meanwhile, Pru discovers a corrupt and totalitarian government in her attempt to find someone to help her get Mac back. Talking animals, a nation of birds, bandits, and mystics who talk to plants, all come to her aid. It ends in a suspenseful battle that involves most of the residents of Wildwood. 

The second book, Under Wildwood, contains two parallel storylines. Pru is abducted from her home and returned to Wildwood in an effort to protect her from Darla, a shape changing assassin. She lands up with Curtis who joined the Wildwood bandits. Darla has a hitlist that includes Iphigenia, the leader of the mystics. Upon her death, The Great Tree tells Pru that she must find 'the makers' and reanimate Alexie, the mechanical boy, Alexandra, the Dowager Governess' son. By the end of the book she has managed to find one of them, Esben, a bear with hooks instead of hands. Meanwhile Curtis' two sisters, Elsie and Rachel, have been abandoned in an orphanage while their parents search for him. The orphanage is run by Joffrey Unthank, a corrupt industrialist, who wants entrance into the Impassable Wilderness to exploit its resources. He sends children into the Wilderness in hopes that they will discover a way in. The children get caught in the Periphery Bind, where they are looked after by Carol, an aging blind man, and the other maker of Alexie.

In book three, Wildwood Imperium, Zita, a young girl, reanimates Alexandra into the Verdant Empress. Now a giant ivy woman, she is is determined to complete the destruction of Wildwood and beyond through unfettered ivy proliferation. Pru and Esben search for Carol so she can reanimate Alexie. Curtis, unaware that the bandits have been drugged by a religious sect serving The Blighted Tree, tries to rebuild the bandit community on his own. This tale involves a corrupt government, a corrupt religious sect run by the industrialists, and a group of anarchists set on destroying the industrialists.  All the disparate storylines come together in a satisfying ending. 

I've listened to the Wildwood series as I went on with my life. Listening to a book is akin to straddling two worlds. One the one hand are the mundane everyday activities of life - cleaning, renovating, sewing, knitting, walking, travelling and even shopping. On the other, I am in Wildwood rooting for Pru, Curtis, Elsie, Rachel and the rest of the population. Our library copies have exquisite illustrations created by Carson Ellis that add depth to the story. I'm sorry I missed them in the oral telling of the tales. 

The only time I have been more heartbroken to come to the end of a series was when I finished up Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching books.

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