Audiobook Review: Under Wildwood

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Audiobook Review: Under WildwoodUnder Wildwood by Colin Meloy
Length: 13 hrs, 20 mins
Series: Wildwood Chronicles #2
Published by Harper Audio on September 25, 2012
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher

Ever since Prue McKeel returned home from the Impassable Wilderness after rescuing her brother from the malevolent Dowager Governess, life has been pretty dull. School holds no interest for her, and her new science teacher keeps getting on her case about her dismal test scores and daydreaming in class. Her mind is constantly returning to the verdant groves and sky-tall trees of Wildwood, where her friend Curtis still remains as a bandit-in-training.

But all is not well in that world. Dark assassins with mysterious motives conspire to settle the scores of an unknown client. A titan of industry employs inmates from his orphanage to work in his machine shop, all the while obsessing over the exploitation of the Impassable Wilderness. And, in what will be their greatest challenge yet, Prue and Curtis are thrown together again to save themselves and the lives of their friends, and to bring unity to a divided country. But in order to do that, they must go under Wildwood.

In Under Wildwood, Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis reveal new dimensions of the epic fantasy-adventure series begun with the critically acclaimed, bestselling Wildwood.

Wildwood was only just okay for me, but, because of my love of Colin Meloy’s music, I determined to give his books one more chance. I like to be open-minded about my reading, but, sometimes, certain authors just don’t resonate. Colin Meloy makes beautiful music, with lyrics that tell a marvelous story, but his efforts in fiction seem to me too be trying to hard and not aimed at the right audience.

Once again, I feel the need to clarify that I think these books are marketed to entirely the wrong age group. According to Amazon, these books are for ages 8+. Well, that just does not seem right to me at all. If you check out the labels, you’ll see that I’ve marked this book as for adults. The writing is complex and the subject matter seems like it would alternatingly bore and frighten and eight year old. Certainly, there are children or teens that might enjoy this, but, on average, I think this book would make them feel rather stupid. I mean, heck, there are even words I don’t know, and that doesn’t happen often to me in pretty much any book. On the bright side, if you’re looking for interesting SAT prep materials, this might help with the verbal section.

As I noted in my review for Wildwood, some reviewers, disappointed like I was, said that it read as though Meloy wrote the book with a thesaurus to hand. Personally, I didn’t feel like that, but, when the option to review the audio came around, I took it, curious to see how it would sound. Clunky language of the overblown variety really stands out when it comes time to read it aloud. Having listened to Meloy narrating his own novel, I stand by my prior assertion: I think he just has an awesome vocabularly and loves big words.

For the most part, I don’t see this book really taking off to much except in hipster circles. The villain of this one is a captain of industry, a maker of machine parts. Unthank also runs a home for orphans. If you guessed child labor, then you’re right! I don’t like corporations any more than the average person, but I find it highly unlikely that a corporation could get away with such flagrant child labor in the US in this day and age, particularly if it’s one of the biggest corporations. I mean, come on, there would be people sent in to check out his factory AND to observe the treatment of the children. Perhaps this could be explained, but no reasons for this were given, so I’m calling bullshit. Also, if this book is for kids, I could maybe see them creeped out in a good way about the child labor, but all of the meetings between the captains of industry and belaboring of the anti-corporate message? I doubt it.

There’s also a weird, incongruous scene in which Prue and Curtis see some litter. The litter had no effect on the plot whatsoever really, but there’s a discussion of it. Why? Because the piece of litter is a can of PBR (Pabst Blue Ribbon). As I said, this book is for hipsters. There’s absolutely no reason to have the can be beer (or a specific type of beer) unless the target audience is people who drink beer, especially hipster beer.

Aside from that, I have the same complaints that I did the first time around: static characters, unrealistic dialogue and perhaps too much violence for a middle grade audience. Sure, the violence in the book does not phase me, as I read a lot of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction. However, if I were a kid who’d mostly read children’s books, I’m pretty sure this would freak me out. Prue obtains some pretty ghastly injuries, animals kill one another, children fight with glee, and we learn that two characters were tortured in the past, one losing his eyes and the other his hands. It just all felt a bit excessive for an eight year old.

Basically, if you’re an adult and you’re interested in this, by all means. If you think your kids would like it, great, but just be aware that it’s more mature than perhaps implied. I do not plan to continue with this series, sadly, but highly recommend checking out The Decemberists if you haven’t heard them before.

Other than being able to hear whether the story read smoothly and naturally, I don’t think I gained too much extra from listening to the audio instead of reading the physical book. Meloy has a bit of an odd voice, which works for the songs he sings, but not so well for the narration of an audiobook. I agree with my friend Mandy, who said that she would prefer he spent his time writing and performing more songs. He does not make a terrible narrator, but he’s not outstanding either.

The most interesting thing is that the intonation he uses for the moles sounds so much like the way the aliens speak in the movie Galaxy Quest. Random, I know.

6 responses to “Audiobook Review: Under Wildwood”

  1. KM says:

    I think you’re so right about hipsters – this should be marketed to all those cool 20-something hipsters with kids. Of course, the book IS set around Seattle, which is basically the hub of hipster, you know? I’ve got the first one but still haven’t read it yet. I want to, if only to see all these big words. lol

    • Christina says:

      Exactly. The hipsters with kids can buy them without shame, even if they don’t actually read them to the kids. I didn’t know that about hipsters, haha. Well, if you do, I’ll be excited to see what you think!

  2. Hipster beer — huh I didn’t know that existed. Beer is gross. That scene sounds really disjointed and pointless. It’s cool that the author narrates it himself on audio, but I don’t think this is one for me at all. I’m not as wordy as you and often times find myself looking them up on my kindle, so I think this book would definitely make me feel dumb. Weird that with the wordiness of it, it is aimed at 8 year olds. Thanks for the honest review, Christina!

    • Christina says:

      Yup, PBR is hipster beer. It’s cheap and not that great, but has been embraced by hipsters everywhere. I like when authors narrate their own books, but it doesn’t always turn out that well.

      I love all of the words!

  3. Kat Balcombe says:

    Those crazy hipsters and their cheap beer.

    If there were words that you didn’t know, it’s going to take a pretty special 8 year old to know them. And on audio there’s no double-tapping the screen for a definition!

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