Winter Wood (The Various) by Steve Augarde

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Winter Wood (The Various) by Steve Augarde

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Price
Reviewed by Ruth Price
Summary: A young girl is drawn into the lives of the Various, little people who live in the woods near her farmhouse. Her entanglement with them puts her life in peril when she discovers their sacred object, secreted by her mysterious ancestor. Heartily recommended fantasy adventure with a cracking story and lush use of language, perfect for children 9-13.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 512 Date: April 2009
Publisher: Corgi
ISBN: 978-0552549691

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We are all one. I am the fly upon my own cheek, and in another life I watch myself through his eye.

Pegs, an amazing flying horse that speaks in colours, gives Winter Wood's schoolgirl heroine, Midge, his parting words in this splendid fantasy adventure which can be enjoyed by confident readers, teens and adults alike.

Winter Wood is the final part of Steve Augarde's trilogy, set in the rural depths of the West Country. I was rather concerned about reading the final part without reading the others, but it works very well as a stand-alone tale - though I think any child that enjoys it will long for the first two volumes, The Various and Celandine.

Midge Walters has settled into Mill Farm - an old mill house that has been in her family for generations. It's a year since she encountered the Various - tribes of little people living in the woods nearby, and although her life was endangered when she stepped in to save members of the warring tribes, she finds in increasingly hard to believe that it all really happened. Until…

I am angry with Steve Augarde - why wasn't this trilogy around when I was ten or eleven - so I could re-read it through my teens? I forgive him though, for giving me a most enjoyable flight of fancy and a literary treat as an adult. I am not usually the biggest fan of fantasy novels, but Augarde made me completely convinced of the existence of his Various. For me, this was a perfect recipe for a fantasy novel - a world just out of reach from the real world, only perceived by sensitive observers, unfettered by cynicism.

The parallel lives of Midge and the tribes make this novel a real page-turner. While I longed to find out if Midge discovered the mystery behind her elderly , charismatic great-great-aunt, but at the same time, wanting to read more about Little-Marten and his beloved Henty, star-crossed lovers from opposing tribes, who escape into the terrifying world of the giants so they can be together. The lovers' struggles to survive are humorous as well as compelling, reminding me of Mary Norton's The Borrowers.

At the same time, Winter Wood is not to be rushed through, and the language, particularly in the world of the Various, is so earthily exotic, yet well-realised and convincing in its tone and accent, that I savoured every line. I was also delighted to spot some words which I knew to be local dialect - like rhyne for ditch which is used as far west as Monmouthshire.

In terms of structure, this trilogy is probably meant to be read in sequence. It would have helped if there had been a small glossary of vocabulary and a one-sentence description of the main characters and the tribes. I'd also have liked a map showing the various locations mentioned. These may have appeared in the earlier volumes, but I think they would have added to Winter Wood in any case. That's really my only criticism!

Now - for more lavish praise! Augarde is a highly-accomplished illustrator too, and Winter Wood benefits from his beautiful line-drawings within its pages, and (on the UK edition) one of the most attractive and distinctive covers I have seen on a book for older children in years. Once this is on a bookshelf, you'll always pick out its cream spine, gilded with earthy greens and browns and glowing red. This really adds to its subtle fantasy world and makes this a very special volume.

Thanks to the publisher, Corgi, for sending the Bookbag Wild Wood for review. It's a new children's classic.

If your children want more tales of the little people, The Carpet People by Terry Pratchett fits the bill as does Toby Alone by Timothee de Fombelle. For a fine fantasy series for confident readers and teens, Derek Landy's Skulduggery Pleasant novels are rip-roaringly robust.

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Buy Winter Wood (The Various) by Steve Augarde at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Winter Wood (The Various) by Steve Augarde at


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