The Immortals (Edge Chronicles) by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

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The Immortals (Edge Chronicles) by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

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Category: Teens
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: The tenth and last volume in the Edge Chronicles is an almighty conclusion – in size if nothing else. For me the incredible detail hid the fact there was no compelling reason to make this fantasy quest any more likeable than all its rivals.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 384 Date: February 2009
Publisher: Doubleday
ISBN: 978-0385607223

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Nate is working in an awkward and nasty mine, for an awkward and nastier mine operator, when he learns of a conspiracy against his life. Only pausing to snatch a friend who was destined to be an innocent victim of the crime as well, he flees and escapes to the city of Great Glade. But the awkward and nasty is not going to let him settle there.

This is a fantasy quest book of huge proportions. It reads very well in the fact that we never get any overarching factor – fate, destiny, a missing whatjamacallit needing discovery – guiding Nate; instead there is a smooth-flowing life of a young lad and his shifting band of travelling companions, as they fall into the habit of putting their world to rights – they need to defeat the cruel and warlike, the stubborn and selfish, and finally those working against hope, only to leave us with a cliff-hanging conclusion.

For conclusion this apparently is – after three trilogies and various tie-in books (maps, short stories, and so on), we are told this is the last Edge Chronicles book to come our way. Set some way beyond the others, it covers a Third Age of Flight, and is in a world where people mine and use solidified lightning bolts for everything – aviation, munitions and more.

As a result this seems the chunkiest volume so far, at nearly 700 pages. It must have demanded a huge sourcebook for the creators, as they keep track of countless different types of animal and plant and when they were last mentioned. The main personnel are kept to a tidy few, happily, and all are very strong and well-realised characters. The world is fabulously portrayed, and is very well defined in our mind, but with all the wealth of detail to absorb, the reader is nearly swamped.

One knows where one is very early on, when Nate's initial escape is interrupted by a not insubstantial paragraph about a passing bird of prey capturing an animal. Nothing is overwritten, but there is definitely too much going on here. The book does successfully absorb you, offering as it does airborne flight, cities of night, conscription to warring factions, Chewbacca-style language translation difficulties and a host more, but there is a breath of welcoming air coming off the pages when the few and far too little action set pieces come along.

The experience nearly made me doubt the copious testimonies from other (younger) readers who say how this cycle of novels compelled them to become a bookaholic. There was nothing beyond a straight-forward fantasy story, set in admittedly brilliant locales, here – nothing of the spark or energy or quirk that I would have thought necessary to make the book completely appealing.

I know what I'm saying will be heresy to the creators' fans. This book is very well-done as far as making a tenth book self-contained, but I can clearly see what is referring back to past adventures and how important this book will therefore be to fans seeking some unexpected closure and answers. But I don't consider this book nearly unique enough to have provided such a generally warm response as any earlier books might. Oddly, considering its size, I might say that if this had come to me as a first book, or a stand-alone, it would have passed me by.

There will be adults drawn to this book as well, due to the depth to the creation. To them again the storyline will be quite straightforward, and I think they will join me in wishing the authors had stepped back and looked at making the drama more dramatic, the plotting tighter and the action as vivid as the world it's set in.

After nine books this last must come as a gift to many, covering what it does. In my final dig at its size, the gift must be considered a bit of a white elephant however.

We must still thank Doubleday for our review copy.

For something briefer, just as well realised but a lot livelier, we can recommend The Mapmaker's Monsters: Beware the Buffalogre! by Rob Stevens

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