Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Books 41 & 42 of 2015: Terrifying Tales by Edgar Allan Poe & Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stuart & Chris Riddell

Last year's reading challenge suggested that for Week 22 I read 'a book that scares you'. This was a tricky one for me since I couldn't think of a book off the top of my head that really scares me. There are a couple of the early Jack Nightingale books which creeped me out a little, but I don't really read horror stories and I really didn't fancy reading something that was going to give me nightmares.

In the end I had a skim through some of my free Kindle books and selected Terrifying Tales by Edgar Allan Poe, knowing that his stories are typically of the scary variety. This is a short collection of some of Poe's best known stories.

Although this wasn't a book I'd read before, so I didn't know whether or not it would scare me, I figured I was probably on the right track reading something with 'terrifying' right there in the title. I was also a little late starting the challenge on Week 22 so I deliberately went with something a little shorter so I wouldn't fall further behind. This one was only around about 100 pages so it ticked that box nicely.

The first stories were definitely creepy; they really weren't the sort of stories you want to be reading late at night. The later ones in the book didn't phase me as much as the earlier ones. I was familiar with several of the stories, such as 'The Tell-Tale Heart' and 'The Pit and the Pendulum' but hadn't ever actually read them before so it was good from that perspective just to read them.

There were a couple of C. Augustus Dupin stories and I found them interesting. They definitely weren't my favourites but it was interesting to read them as a comparison to Conan Doyle's Holmes stories. Dupin was basically the precursor to Holmes, in fact, without him there may have been no Holmes at all, so it was fun from a literary point of view to read.

Mr Click has a massive illustrated collection of Poe's works which he was given a few years ago. He started reading it but didn't get along very well with it and set it to one side. I may have to dig it out at some point to give it another go.

When I finished my week's Challenge book, I headed over to my Children's Bookcase in search of new reading material. You will not believe the stress I had in trying to organise the Edge Chronicles on this book case. The series is written by Paul Stewart and illustrated by Chris Riddell, It originally consisted of three trilogies (though a fourth is now in progress) and, a little like Star Wars, books four, five and six were released first, with a prequel trilogy following them, then a sequel trilogy (the books that have been published since 2014 are a sequel sequel trilogy).

So began the agonising decision of where to start. I carried around the first book (book 4) and the first book (book 1) for a whole day before eventually deciding to crack them open in order of publication (which meant starting with Beyond The Deepwoods rather than The Curse of the Gloamglozer).

Beyond The Deepwoods introduces the character of Twig, who has been raised as a Woodtroll but learns that he's not actually one of them. He sets out into the Deepwoods to meet a cousin, only to stray from the path and get terribly lost. In doing so he meets the weird and wonderful inhabitants of the Deepwoods, courting danger at every turn, until he learns just where his destiny is.

These books were a firm favourite with my brother growing up; he had a cuddly dog named Twig for the longest time, Twig's tag is still slipped in between the pages 228 and 229 as a bookmark. I acquired my copies of these books from him, though he only had six of them (the original trilogy and then three other books from the prequel and sequel). I keep on looking out for the other books on my travels but I always forget which ones I have so I think I'll just wait til I'm ready to read them and I'll buy them then.

A few years ago I picked up Walter Moers's Rumo and received the other Zamonia books shortly afterwards; Beyond the Deepwoods strongly reminded me of Moers's books. Although Beyond the Deepwoods is obviously geared for younger readers (and the Zamonia books are decidedly older), the similarities are striking. Both have an engaging mix of text and illustration; both feature fish out of water characters in fantasy worlds; both introduce a different adventure and new characters in each chapter. I'd go so far as to say that a reader who has enjoyed The Edge Chronicles will probably happily progress onto the Zamonia stories.

It's been almost a year since I read Beyond the Deepwoods and just thinking about it is making me want to grab The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear.

Because of the structure of the book (each chapter is another complete adventure for Twig) I think this would make a really good bedtime story book or book to share as a class/group of children. The chapters follow along from one another but they're also self-contained, so there's no need to end it in the middle of the action.

I'd definitely recommend this one for adults and children to share together; or for adults to indulge in for themselves.

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