Author: Paul Stewart, Chris Riddell (illustrations)
Series: Edge Chronicles
Publisher: Corgi Childrens
Publish Date: July 6th, 2006 (originally 2001)
Genres: Middlegrade/Children, Fantasy, Adventure
When my boyfriend first told me about this series, I had to admit that I had never heard of it before. It does, however, seem to be somewhat of a classic amongst children in the UK, and, after reading it, I can totally see why.
I have always loved fantasy books with a well thought-out world, and the worldbuilding in this is absolutely stunning. The story takes place in Sanctaphrax, a floating rock connected to the “mainland”, The Edge, by a long chain. Sanctaphrax is the place where all the academics live with their families and servants, and the city is bustling with scholars, apprentices and professors debating and discussing or performing ancient rituals. Basically my favourite kind of setting for a book.
Dwelling and working in their sumptous palaces and lofty towers, they are academics, alchemists, sub-acolytes and apprentices, plus, of course, all those who make their lives of research and study possible: the guards, the servants, the cooks and cleaners.
For a children’s book, the plot is surprisingly (and refreshingly) dark. Quint, the Most High Academe’s new apprentice, has to go on a bunch of life-threatening adventures to solve the mystery behind the strange behaviour of his new master. There are many dangerous encounters and yes, characters die in this book. While I’m sure some kids don’t like these kinds of stories, I would have loved to read some more like this one as a child!
The Edge and Sanctaphrax are not only populated by humans, but also by a lot of different species, which is super interesting to read about and makes for a lot of amazing side characters. Both the housekeeper Tweezel and Welma, who looks after the Most High Academe’s daughter while he rules over the city, were great and added a lot of humour to the story, as well as the scholars who are steadily growing more infuriated with the way their ruler has been acting lately.
Of course there are a few “evil” characters the “good” ones have to deal with, but they as well are made to be very interesting and contribute some rather eerie scenes to the story.
The main characters (Quint and Maris, the Most High Academe’s daughter), on the other hand, weren’t able to satisfy me entirely. While they were both quite different and the development of their friendship was shown very well, I would have wished for their characters to be fleshed out a little better. Of course there are two more books in the series that are about them, so hope is not lost yet.
The book features a few problems that are very important in our world as well, and, in my opinion, teach children some great morals. Most of the characters that live on Sanctaphrax today are so called Sky people, but there used to be a time when most of the academics were Earth people, who had come to the floating rock to study that phenomenon. The Earth people have since been banned from Scanthaphrax and there is an on-going discussion about whether Sky or Earth studies are better, and which knowledge is the more valuable.
Furthermore, the book touches upon the issue of people trying to play god in order to make the world into what they personally think to be a better place, and how badly such attempts can go wrong.
The story continues to be different from many other popular children’s books, it does not end with all the bad people dead or defeated and all the good people living happily ever after. While theoretically, the adventure this book focused on is over, and the next book will introduce a new one, there are still some unsolved problems that will be carried on to the other books of the series, which I really liked.
The language used in this book is simple enough for children to understand, but is by no means too juvenile for an older reader to enjoy the story. Stewart uses many rather intellectual words and manages to keep the story interesting and entertaining without including any themes inappropriate for children.
Chris Riddell’s illustrations are beautiful and make it very easy to imagine this strange world and all the non-human beings populating it. I really wish YA/adult fantasy would feature more illustrations sometimes…
Overall, this was a thoroughly entertaining read and certainly one of the best children’s books I’ve read so far. While it didn’t blow me away entirely and I had some minor problems with the characters, I will definitely be continuing with the series.
As a little explanation: The Edge Chronicles series consists of several individual series, that are all set in the same world, but focus on different characters each.
If you’re planning on reading this book to your child or getting it for them to read themselves, please be aware that this is a slightly dark read, that features violence, death and evil creatures. If your child is easily scared by these kinds of things, maybe consider a different book, but The Curse of the Gloamglozer is by no means to scary to be enjoyed by children who don’t mind the occasional chill.