Hey, take a walk on the wild(wood) side

Sarah Contreras

It is shaping up to be an incredible year for Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy. In January, the band released its sixth full-length album, The King Is Dead, which received widespread critical acclaim. February saw the Decemberists embark on the rollicking, seven-month-long “Popes of Pendarvia” tour. Now, Meloy’s first foray into the literary universe is hitting shelves and promising to launch the talented word-weaver into “household name” territory.

The book is called Wildwood. Written by Meloy and illustrated by long-time Decemberists artist-in-residence Carson Ellis (who, it so happens, is also married to Meloy), this 541-page tale is a testament to the couple’s creative prowess as well as a love letter to fans of fanciful stories everywhere. Wildwood is set in Portland, Ore. and tells the story of young Prue McKeel, who embarks on an adventure to save her baby brother from a rather unscrupulous murder of crows. After witnessing his abduction, Prue and her tag-along friend Curtis find themselves entering a fabled patch of forest called the Impassable Wilderness. It is here that the duo is thrown into a well-hidden world of talking wolves, amiable locals and dark-hearted leaders – it is here that they find Wildwood.

Though it is technically aimed at middle-grade readers, this isn’t your mother’s kids book. Meloy, deploying his penchant for big words that Decemberists fans have come to know and love, has painted a world that is simultaneously dark and delightful, as well as stimulatingly smart. His is a refreshing and original voice in an era of “fad” character sketches and disappointingly formulaic storylines. There are no lovesick teens or sparkly heroes here, and thank goodness. Wildwood‘s Prue is a savvy young lady with a voracious book appetite and a fearless spirit who will hopefully inspire generations of females to come. And, of course, the impressive prose is enhanced by Ellis’ gorgeously detailed, whimsical illustrations.

In short, if you are looking for a literary refuge from the woes of student-dom, grab your dictionary, brew some tea and escape into the waiting arms of Wildwood.