The UK is known for its contributions to the world of literature; series such as "Harry Potter," "James Bond" and "The Lord of the Rings" have gone on to become legendary figures in American culture. There is, however, one series that has been overlooked by comparison: “The Edge Chronicles”, written by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell.
In the first book of the series, “Beyond the Deepwoods”, the reader is immediately thrown into the world of the Edge, bombarded by the smells of tripweed and the warmth of luftwood burning in the fireplace. The presence of the woodtroll grooming the protagonist’s hair serves to inform that this is no world we’ve ever seen before. Even the protagonist’s name, “Twig”, is so tied to nature that it serves as a direct contrast to the consumerist factory-fed world we the readers know.
The foreignness of the Edge, however, masks the true message of acceptance and belongingness that fills the pages of the series.
In the Edge, everyone has a role to play, from the librarians who study the world around them to the Knights Academic who gather lightning to purify water, and from the warrior clans of the Deepwoods to the wandering Banderbears who protect various travelers in the forest.
The reader also gets to see each novel’s protagonists evolve from solitary children to brave adventures, each greatly respected by their companions and communities. Along the way, they make many friends among the Edge’s varied inhabitants, from woodtrolls to gnokgoblins, waifs to banderbears.
Even if one isn’t interested in the story aspects of the series, the "Edge Chronicles" establishes a unique world with locations as diverse as those who live there. On the same continent containing the giant Deepwoods forest can be found the Mire, an oozing land where vultures hunt those caught stuck in the ensnaring mud. A few kilometers away yields the Twilight Forest, where psychic mirages drive insane any and all who enter.
Rising over all of these is the glittering city of Sanctaphrax, a symbol of the academic pursuits undertaken by the Edge’s more studious inhabitants. Secured to the ground by only a rusty metal chain, Sanctaphrax is also a metaphor for academics who let their wildest theories carry them into Open Sky.
Yet he real magic of these places comes from actually visiting them in each novel. As the introduction puts it, “behind each name lie a thousand tales - tales that have been recorded in ancient scrolls, tales that have been passed down the generations by word of mouth - tales which even now are being told.”
Contrary to the Edge’s established themes of acceptance and belongingness exists the Gloamglozer, a hideous devil who prowls the Edge feeding on creatures’ fear. Introduced in Beyond the Deepwoods, the Gloamglozer is immediately established as a foul, shapeshifting trickster who seeks to lead Twig astray, always telling him he has no place in the various communities he stays in. His true form, however, is that of a robed goat with twisted horns.
What is unique about the Gloamglozer is that he exists as an embodiment of all the evil in the series. While there are definitely villainous characters in the Edge Chronicles, all of them attempt to justify their actions with their own twisted morals, unlike the Gloamglozer, who exists simply to terrify other creatures.
No matter what the Edge throws at them, however, the Chronicles’ protagonists emerge stronger than before. Each emerges a true hero strengthened by the adventures, trials, and friendships experienced during their time on the Edge.
If you are looking for your next favorite novel and want to read about friendships, adventure and fantasy, look no further than the Edge. For as the intro to every Edge Chronicles novel concludes: “What follows is but one of those tales.”