Review of ‘Midnight Over Sanctaphrax’ by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

‘Far out in open sky, a ferocious storm is brewing. In its path is Sanctaphrax – a magnificent city built on a floating rock and tethered to the land by a massive chain. Only Twig – a young sky pirate captain who has dared to sail over the Edge – has learned of the approaching danger. But his perilous voyage destroys his sky ship, hurling his crew into and beyond the Deepwoods, and robbing Twig of all memory…’

I wouldn’t usually reproduce the blurb from a book for my review, but I thought this one conveys how exciting this book is. The third in the Edge Chronicles, it concludes what was later labelled the Twig Saga, which began with Beyond the Deepwoods and Stormchaser. It’s also longer than its predecessors, which is fine because every chapter is packed full of action. The opening two chapters, in which Twig and his crew sail into a massive storm, are some of the most exciting I’ve read in any fiction.

Although this book is fantasy, there are parallels with our 19th century. The novel has a strong social conscience, with several chapters later in the story set in the horrors of a slave market. The conflict between the privileged academics of Sanctaphrax and the merchants and ordinary folk of Undertown is also a theme. The Edge is very much a cut-throat world. However, there are some progressive individuals who are trying to change the balance of power and strive for a fairer society.

As always, the illustrations are marvellous and bring the characters to life.

First published in 2000.

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