Fantasy, powered by a real-world morality framework
Reviewed in the United States on 13 March 2014
The real world of human interaction isn't the black-and-white, good versus evil, stuff of traditional fantasy and fairy tales. We're all at times selfish, impulsive, overly-ambitious individuals. Communally, we can find ourselves prone to xenophobia, protectionism, and exclusivity. Meloy and Ellis have created a world in Wildwood that reflects these complexities. Throughout the trilogy, characters routinely make self-interested decisions and power grabs. Still, none of them is beyond redemption, and many of the characters do exhibit learning and find redemption. There is no real villain in Wildwood, save for the selfishness and short-sightedness that can tempt us all at any time.
This is a refreshing departure from so many mythologies, which conveniently draw a line in the sand. Characters choose a side, good or evil, and remain on that side throughout the story. The only drama comes when a token character or two makes a dramatic switch to "the other side" at some point. In Wildwood, characters trample that line, as their concerns for self-interest, family, community, security, and nationalism compete against one another for primacy throughout the trilogy. Most characters in Wildwood "mean well," yet still misstep at some point along the way. Some become quite entrenched in evil actions, though driven by very real (and valid) human emotions and concerns.
I think fantasy worlds like Wildwood are increasingly important in our modern, global world. We are often told that people from [INSERT COUNTRY NAME HERE] are [INSERT DISPARAGING TERM HERE], and are therefore not to be trusted. True, some folks in this world do fit the "villain" profile a lot better than others, and we must fight and defend ourselves against them. Wildwood represents this well. However, contrary to the portrayals of our attention-grabbing media, not everyone who is unlike us is against us. Rather, most people around the world have the same concerns - safety, family, community, liberty, and self-realization. Just because a person or group of people is seemingly at odds with us does not make them inherently evil or alien. Wildwood gives us a mythology that reflects this reality, yet does so in such a beautiful, non-preachy way... in other words, Wildwood makes the points of my above post, but does so in a way that is actually FUN to read.
TL;DR - The good vs evil construct in fantasy is normally far too simple to accurately reflect the real world. The Wildwood Chronicles addresses this in an engaging world full of complex characters. Five stars!
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