Into The Windwracked Wilds (The Up-And-Under series book 3) by A. Deborah Baker (book review).

There is a good reason why most authors stick to writing for a particular age group. The way stories are structured, the subject matter and the vocabulary differs widely between categories. Books for pre-teens are as different from those for teenagers as these are from YA or adult books. Though there are some readers who are happy outside their age group, most like to read about people just a little older than themselves. As they age, they will advance to other levels.

The same is usually not true for the people who write the books. An author of excellent children’s books may well struggle to capture the attention of the YA reader and vice versa. There are always exceptions. Seanan McGuire is one of them. A prolific author she writes adult urban fantasy in several series such as the ‘October Daye’ novels, and her ‘Wayward Children’ series is aimed at late teens. As A. Deborah Baker, she is writing for the pre-teens.

Whatever she writes has a mark of quality.

Into The Windwracked Wilds’ is the third book in the ‘Up-And-Under’ series. It follows the travels of Zib and Avery. They are two ten year-old children who, on their way to school, became diverted down a strange street only to find it blocked by a wall that shouldn’t have been there. Climbing over, they found themselves in a weird land and their way back had vanished. To get home, they are told that they have to go to the Impossible City and find the Queen of Wands, though the rumours are that she has disappeared.

Zib and Avery are from very different backgrounds and very dissimilar is characters. Zib is a scruffy, wild-haired girl who is quite happy climbing trees and doesn’t care what she looks like. Avery is a boy brought up to be particular about his appearance and is unhappy that Zib exchanged the shine on his shoes for safe passage. The friendship that has developed between them is one of necessity. On their travels, so far, they have gained the companionship of Crow Girl, who can disintegrate into a flock of birds, and Niamh, a drowned girl.

As this volume opens, the four children are walking along the Improbable Road which is currently stretching across the Saltwise Sea. In her frustration about having to stay girl-shaped because to break into crows would mean individual members of the flock being harried by gulls and probably drowning, Crow Girl called the road stupid and stamps on it.

It instantly disappears dumping them all into the ocean. Only being swallowed by a large prehistoric reptile, a monosaur, prevents them from drowning. It casts them up within reach of the shore of the Windwracked Wilds, where they have more obstacles and encounters before they progress towards their goal.

As with the previous two volumes, this is a delightful book full of impossible and improbable things but with its own internal illogic. Although aimed at younger readers, adults will also enjoy this.

Pauline Morgan

April 2023

(pub: TOR, 2021. 213 page small enlarged paperback – data is for hardback advance copy. Price: $19.99 (US), $26.99 (CAN), £17.00 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-250-84844-4)

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