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Book Review

Book Cover

Winter Wood


Author: Steve Augarde
Random House
RRP: £6.99
ISBN: 978 0 552 54969 1
Available 02 April 2009

Life is changing for Midge, and she has little time to think about the extraordinary events of last summer. Her discovery of the hidden tribes is like a dream to her now, their existence all but forgotten. But the voice that calls out to her in the winter darkness one night is real enough and the hand that comes rapping against her bedroom window cannot be ignored. This no dream. The Various have returned, and their desperation has made them all the more dangerous. The only way that Midge can help the little people is by tracing the whereabouts of her great-great-aunt Celandine. But Celandine must be long dead, surely...?

It is forever the bane of reviewers to be presented with a book which is the third in a series which you patently haven’t read and so it is with Winter Wood the new children’s novel by Steve Augarde, and having read this book all I can say is that I’m obviously the poorer for not having read the preceding two novels.

Winter Wood tells the story of Midge, who had previously helped the Various, a race of knee high people who live in a wood near her home. In this latest novel Midge must track down her great-great aunt Celadine who was the last person to have the Orbis, the only thing that stands between the Various and annihilation.

One of the greatest mistakes that an author of children’s books makes is to talk down to their audience; thankfully Winter Wood does not do this. Like Tolkien, Augarde has been just as careful to create a realistic world for his fantasy creatures as he has for Midge and her family, this is children’s writing at its best.

Although the main action is with Midge, an equal portion of the book is given over to the internal politics and general concerns of the Various, not least of which is the love affair between Little-Marten and Henty, who come from different tribes and so are possibly destined never to be together because of the prejudice of their elders.

The book is full of wonderful imagery, especially Peg's ability to talk in colour, an idea which at the same time is beautiful and frightening for humans. The book isn’t only rich in imagery but also in language as well. The tribes of the Various have individual and specific ways of talking, I never once had the feeling that I was just reading characters with a single voice, that of the author.

The book isn’t perfect, but pretty close to it, it would have benefited from a map and a glossary. Okay, it’s a small niggle, but then critics have to find something wrong otherwise we would all be authors.

This is the sort of book that I used to love to read during long teenage summers and I still find that intelligent fiction, like this, is never a waste of time. Preferably, Augarde could emulate J. K Rowling and rather than ghettoise the book into children’s fiction this book has the potential to be loved by both children and adults alike.


Charles Packer

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