What an odd mixture of a book!
- I liked the writing more than I expected. Meloy knows his words. Further into the novel, the same world-building I initially savoured was layered on still, thick and heavy, without reprieve. This meant I regularly felt like I needed a break from the information overload. Later in the book, I felt like I was still wading through exposition when I wanted the narrative to advance. The episodic style doesn't help -- we meet so many new characters from different parts of the world -- but if I find that hard, how is this for younger readers? Maybe they take it slower and it isn't so painful? Maybe it is okay for them for characters to come and go and not care deeply for them?
- I wasn't overly enthused about the Portland hipster content. I found it distracting and hampering. I get that such a girl might exist, but...the parts of her I do like are all of the parts that are not that.
- On the protag: She is interesting, but I didn't respect her. I wouldn't say I ever disliked her, and there are a few of her lines where I started to like her, but I never got there all the way there. I want to love my heroine (or at least be fascinated by her), not indulge or tolerate her. I didn't care for any of the characters enough to call myself invested. Curtis was sweet...but sadly little more.
- The villain was the most intriguing character for me...which isn't the best sign.
- I read a fair amount of children's and YA books, and don't often have difficulty connecting with younger protagonists. I have noticed I do think more on how their parents might be feeling than I used to...but this doesn't usually prevent me from empathising with their children well. Not so in Wildwood. In Wildwood, my inability to block what the parents must be feeling and my interests in them and how much better things would be if they were more involved continued to whisper from the wings in my mindscape. I couldn't buy into so much resting on Prue's shoulders alone, nor their distance from the action. They are so removed from the action and it makes no sense to me whatsoever.
- The inciting incident of the story -- a little brother being carried away by crows -- was the most tension/thrill/excitement I ever felt. I was disconnected soon after and remained so. Maybe I read the book at the wrong time for me (I'll never underestimate life context as a factor to any reading), but for me, Wildwood was never again as gripping as it was in the first chapter. Even war skirmishes felt silly instead of heightened. I've tried to identify exactly what prevented me from feeling more in action and conflict episodes, and I think there were at least three impediments to me feeling it; 1) the illustrations -- they are beautiful, but I found them more whimsical and innocent and therefore felt at odds with a dark narrative succeeding in achieving any emotional edge; 2) having animal characters -- this isn't the first time that talking animals has prevented me from feeling anything substantial in a story. Chimaera -- fine. Animals with paws wielding weapons -- I'm immediately removed from the story, attempting to make sense of how a coyote (not a biped with opposable thumbs that resembles a coyote, but a coyote that has just stood up) is doing this stuff; it makes it seem light to me. Similarly, it's wrong that an animal character's death matters less than a human's, isn't it? It softens things for younger readers that more animals than people die, but this solidifies my quibble with the inclusion of animals -- we don't feel for them the same. I think getting me to feel for them what I do for a baby is hard to achieve. 3) the writing -- ever-detailed, oft-times disrupts the action sequences -- instead of punchy dotted with poignant action writing was consistently grasping after detail detail detail, when sometimes, I need my action to move.
- Things actually seem well-paced, if you plot the episodes. The first three come quickly! I liked that! Yet from there on, the episodes keep coming, but they didn't help the story arc climb for me -- but rather offered little waves on an overall flat-line of emotional connection, events lapping at my imagination rather than climbing to a crescendo and climax. I felt no sting at loss or risk, nor constant thread to keep me wanting the world when I wasn't reading. I felt tempted to quit more than once, and then a new tidbit would be inserted that would tantalise me (almost always relating to the antagonist's machinations!), so I'd tarry a little longer. It was a repeated game of temptation then tarry.
- Pet peeve: There is no sex or drugs (although there is some other-world alcohol consumed) -- nor would they feel right in this world, yet there is plenty of blasphemy. It is a pet peeve of mine to so strictly exclude or censor the rest, but leave the blasphemy, as it articulates to me a loud pronouncement of what is acceptable, and tells a lot about an author's leanings. "This is a kids' book, so it is kid-appropriate. This language is kid appropriate." It stands out more to me when other things are obviously kept out of the story.
Overall: If you like slow and steady wins the race, Narnia-esque narratives only longer, this may just delight you. For me? I didn't look forward to reading, sadly. It felt like a chore. For me, I saw parallels to Labyrinth...and I'd rather watch the Labyrinth, even with Bowie's tights' crotch considered.