This fun kid's book was a huge seller during the fall, so it was with great anticipation that I began reading it. As fun as it is, I was heartily disappointed by the lack of originality. It is, essentially, the movie "Labyrinth" mixed with the Chronicles of Narnia books. Prue McKeel's baby brother Mac is stolen away by a murder of crows and taken into the Impassable Wilderness, just outside of Portland. Prue and her friend Curtis enter the Wood, in which they meet plenty of magical folk and talking animals, in addition to an initially kind and beautiful queen who quickly turns out to be evil and bent upon destruction and domination. Sound familiar?
When reading, my greatest joy and highest respect is reserved for those authors who create unique stories, or at least tell familiar stories in very original ways. The best writing in the world cannot make up for a story that is so obviously culled from well-known cultural icons. Meloy is good at plot and movement and a little shaky on description (again, we encounter some rather cliched phrases). I just wished he had applied it to a more unique story. It's surprising, since Meloy is the writer and singer of The Decemberists, a band known for its vivid storytelling and original sound. I'm willing to give Meloy the benefit of the doubt and hope that as he develops as an author, he will be able to draw on his considerable songwriting skills to weave for us less formulaic story.