The 5th novel in the fantastic Edge Chronicles, this is a coming-of-age story introducing a new protagonist, Rook Barkwater. It’s therefore the 1st in the ‘Rook saga’ and is set about 50 years after Midnight Over Sanctaphrax.
What I like the most about this book is the concept of ‘librarian knights’ – they don’t just keep and organise knowledge, they also go on quests for it, writing their own papers to add to the library. Librarians are literally heroes! What I don’t like so much is the new level of violence, which I feel was unnecessary, although perhaps appealing to a bloodthirsty teenage audience.
The plot focuses on underdog and orphan Rook being chosen, along with two other apprentices, to make the perilous journey from the sewers of Undertown across the Deepwoods to the academy where they will train to be librarian knights. There are enemies wherever they turn and injustices to be fought. Society has taken a backward step, as sky-ships no longer fly, all the buoyant rocks having succumbed to disease. The land routes are controlled by fearsome bird-creatures, shrykes, while evil academics have forced the librarians underground and there are goblin armies too.
The story leaves us with many loose ends, but that’s fine because the story continues in the next instalments, Vox and Freeglader. As always, it’s great escapism with an array of wonderful creatures, superbly rendered by Chris Riddell.
First published in 2002.