Review of ‘Beyond the Deepwoods’ by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

The best way I can describe this book is Alice in Wonderland crossed with one of those video games where there are several gruesome ways to die on every level.

Set in a place called The Edge, this story follows the journey of 13-year-old Twig. Adopted by woodtrolls as a baby, he’s a misfit. After straying from the path, he encounters one hazard after another in the dangerous Deepwoods. As the first published novel in the Edge Chronicles series, it sets the scene, introducing us to the creatures, geography and rules of this fantasy world. Having read the book several times before, predating even my book record, I find it difficult to stand back far enough to see the flaws. Compared to the subsequent books, there isn’t so much of a plot. The focus is on Twig’s navigation of the dangers, with a background story of wanting to find his identity. It’s a quick, action-packed read, with memorable characters and an intriguing setting.

Unusually for a novel at the time, aimed at young teens, this one is illustrated generously, with Chris Riddell’s elegant line drawings bringing the scenes to life. The illustrations are of equal importance to the text, evidencing a brilliant collaboration of writer and artist.

This book is the 1st of the ‘Twig saga’ and is followed by Stormchaser and Midnight Over Sanctaphrax.

First published in 1998.

11 thoughts on “Review of ‘Beyond the Deepwoods’ by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell”

  1. This sounds quite eclectic? I must look into it
    I liked how you put it, being unable to stand back far enough to see the flaws. I felt that so often but never found the right words to express it.

    1. It’s quirky and interesting 🙂 If you’re looking for an adventure story at the younger age bracket of YA and like the style of Chris Riddell, I would recommend!

  2. My sons all absolutely adored this series. Agree this isn’t the strongest – it takes a while to get going – but the world building is exceptional, and the creatures such as banderbears and wig-wigs have stayed in the memory long after the precise details of the plots have been forgotten.

    1. Yes, I agree on the world building, it’s fantastic. I remember the various creatures better than the plots too. The wig-wigs are the scariest, like a cross between piranhas and pom-poms! I don’t think I quite finished the series but I intend to in the future.

    1. Thank you 🙂 I think this series has been moderately successful, I always thought there should be an animated film!

    1. Yes, what would Roald Dahl books be without the illustrations?! Interesting how we associate Quentin Blake with him, even though Blake was not the first illustrator of Dahl books.

      1. They certainly wouldn’t be as fun, not in my opinion anyway. Yes, I always think of them as a double act, I couldn’t imagine anyone else illustrating his books. I actually wasn’t aware that he was not the first illustrator, I can’t believe I didn’t know that, I will have to read up on that 😊

    1. I think all of children’s/YA literature has roots in Alice 🙂 It’s often noted as the first book for children which was purely for entertainment, rather than having a moral purpose. And yes Chris Riddell has a very recognisable style, this series is really a partnership as he developed the world with Paul Stewart.

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