Far far away, jutting out into the emptiness beyond, like the figurehead of a mighty stone ship, is the Edge.
The Edge Chronicles are a young adult fantasy series written by Paul Stewart and illustrated by Chris Riddell. Surprisingly dark and cynical for its target audience, the novels take place on the Edge, which is essentially the edge of the world. Or, at least, this is what the series leads you to believe, before throwing you a curve ball in the last book of the franchise. Filled with sky pirates, bizarre wildlife, and a notable aversion to many stock fantasy tropes, the series is highly recommended.It should be noted that this series has some of the most detailed and beautiful art you will see in any novel, anywhere. Also some of the ugliest; also some of the scariest.It consists of three trilogies (each centered around a certain character) and two additional novels (well, one novel and one collection of novellas).The first trilogy (the Twig sequence) consists of Beyond the Deepwoods, Stormchaser, and Midnight over Sanctaphrax. The second (centered on Rook Barkwater) includes The Last of the Sky Pirates, Vox, and Freeglader. The third trilogy (a prequel starring Quint) is covered in The Curse of the Gloamglozer, The Winter Knights, and Clash of the Sky Galleons. The extra novels are The Lost Barkscrolls, a short story collection; and the The Immortals, a standalone novel set about 500 years after Freeglader.
0% Approval Rating: Vilnix Pompolnius only stayed in power due to his monopoly on phraxdust, and when that runs out...
Hemtuft Battleaxe, and later, Kulltuft Warhammer
Action Girl: Eudoxia in 'The Immortals', Varis and Magda in the Rook Trilogy. Maris could also qualify, but most of her action is off-screen between the Quint and Twig Trilogies.
Alas, Poor Villain: Vox Verlix. He's hardly the worst villain in Vox and, whilst he was definately a Jerkass when he was younger, he only really becomes a villain because he has been betrayed by everyone he has ever worked with. In the end he dies a broken old man with his palace falling to pieces around him, betrayed once again - this time by the one person he thought was actually on his side. It is also interesting to note that the name of this book is Vox rather than, say, Rook.
To a lesser extent, Screed Toe-Taker. His final words, and his final smile, are a poignant contrast to his 20-odd years of murder. Then you meet him as a noble young man in The Winter Knights, and his final fate seems even moretragic.
Always Chaotic Evil: Mostly averted. Even some of the more aggressive species, such as shrykes, flat-head goblins, and termagant trogs have individuals who side with the heroes, and most races have both good and evil members.
Sky pirate captains either choose their own cool name of have one chosen by their father. Particularly impressive names belong to Thunderbolt Vulpoon and his son Deadbolt Vulpoon. Thunderbolt turns out to be a subversion, as he's a cowardly slaver, but Deadbolt turns out awesome enough to match his name.
Thaw Daggerslash is another subversion, although it does sort of fit; the dagger is the weapon of backstabbing and treachery.
Most other characters also have really cool names, even if they are just bit-parts. For example, there is the creepy slaver named Ilmus Pentaphraxis. Vox Verlix also has a pretty cool name for a Fat Bastard.
Averted with Twig, although he doesn't seem to care. Besides, he does get an Awesome Mccool Name at the end of Stormchaser - Arborinus Verginix.
"What sort of name is Twig for the son of Quintinius Verginix, the finest sky pirate to ever sail the heavens blue?"
Beware the Nice Ones: The low-bellied goblins are one of the more peaceful species in a brutal world, but drive them too far and they can turn nasty, as the despotic clan leaders found out the hard way...
Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism: Female Termagant Trogs are hulking, ill-tempered bald amazons, while their male counterparts are small, skinny, and passive.
And Shrykes play on the reality that females are larger for many predatory bird species by having the females being larger, fiercer and much more aggressive. Males, or "shryke-mates", are invariably referred to as "weedy" or "pitiful", and are usually pictured as scrawny little things being hauled around on collars.
Body Horror: Hoverworm venom makes you inflate like a ballon, float into the sky, and eventually pop. Also noteworthy is the fate of Hax Vostillix in The Winter Knights: tricked into eating woodwasp eggs, which hatch inside him and sting their way out.
Brick Joke: Overlapping with Continuity Nod. The League-Master's round table is seen in Stormchaser first, and gets shattered by a falling weight near the start of Midnight over Sanctaphrax, and then in Vox, several books later, Rook finds himself in the palace, and notices an odd round table, that had at one point been snapped in half and then crudely bolted back together.
Happens again in Vox and The Immortals. Vox Verlix has the head of his own statue hurled through one of the skylights in the Palace of Shadows in Vox, and it reappears in The Immortals when Nate goes to meet his mother's brother, the Professor of Flight, who is apparently related to the lesser-known half of the Verlix clan. The Professor states that it was dug out of a pile of broken masonry in Old Undertown (the ruin of the Palace of Statues).
The Bully: Vox Verlix in Midnight Over Sanctaphrax, Branxford Drew in The Immortals.
Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": The first few books were chock full of original creatures with a light smattering of Mix-and-Match Critters, but as the series progressed the number of normal animals with "wood" tacked onto the beginning of the name increased. Woodbees, woodturkeys, woodwolves...
Quint's portrait, more than once. It plays an important part in the Quint and Rook trilogies, The Slaughterer's Quest, and The Immortals.
Honestly, if anything gets mentioned even in passing by a random unnamed creature, it'll be important at the end of the book. Also, any character given a name and doesn't die is guaranteed to return at some point.
Child Soldiers: The series loves this trope. We have the academics-at-arms in the Quint trilogy, the Librarian Knights and some of the Freeglade Lancers in the Rook trilogy, and at one point Nate and Eudoxia (and probably some others) in The Immortals. Results in a case of Fridge Horror when you read about the horrible fates some of them suffer and then remember how old they are.
Continuity Nod: All over The Immortals. For example, the scene where Nate meets Weelum is very similar to the one in Beyond the Deepwoods where Twig meets the first banderbear to appear in the series.
Another example appears in the final story in The Lost Barkscrolls anthology, when the main characters visit the ruins of the Foundry Glades and find the skeleton of Amberfuce in the cauldron he was boiled alive in at the end of Freeglader.
A subtle one in Midnight Over Sanctaphrax when Flabsweat, a minor character in the previous book, gets a passing mention.
Played with in The Last of the Sky Pirates. When Rook is talking to Deadbolt Vulpoon, the latter mentions how his father gave his life to save Twig in the last trilogy. It didn't quite happen like that.
Dark Is Not Evil: The Slaughters and the Professor of Darkness sound like evil people... but the Slaughters are merely the red-colored, happy-go-lucky professional butchers of the Edgewoods, while the Professor of Darkness studies literal darkness (as in, the absence of light).
Maugin, the stone pilot, is a possible Zig-Zagged example. In Beyond the Deepwoods the stone pilot never spoke, just grunted when moving the flight rock, We never even found out if they were male or female, due to the wording of the text. And that was it until they got to the mire in Stormchaser. Once she started actually talking to Twig, it became apparent she had plenty of reasons to hide her face. Nevertheless she still becomes more open in general; And doesn't hesitate to ditch the suit in front of Twig's crew, as opposed to wearing it all the time aboard the Stormchaser.
The Devil Is a Loser: The Gloamglozer is essentially a Captain Ersatz of Satan, and all he's interested in is playing petty (albeit deadly) tricks on people. Averted later when he's much more dangerous in subsequent protroyals.
Did They or Didn't They?: Minor example between Twig and Maugin in Stormchaser. While trapped in the Mire, Twig and the Stone Pilot work on making a wrecked ship skyworthy again. After several days' hard work, the pair sit down to enjoy dinner for the evening, whereupon she spots a shooting star and tells Twig to make a wish, to which he responds that he already has. It's later revealed that his wish was for them to return to the skies, but the framing of the scene suggests that he may have kissed her, at least.
Dirty Communists: Averted with the Freeglades. If this series was written during the Cold War, it might have been called Communist propaganda. Though they're not really affiliated with Soviet Russia per se in any way, the Freeglades' society is basically communism that works - everybody works honestly, money has been made unnecessary, and everyone is happy. (By contrast, many of the villains are ruthless capitalists.)
Doorstopper: The Immortals is essentially a sequence of four novels (one for each city) all bound together as a single book.
The special editions of each trilogy in one volume count too.
Rudd the cloddertrog in The Immortals, who looked out for Nate in the mining stockade ever since his father died, is killed watching his back in a bar fight gone horribly wrong, and is mentioned maybe twice, if that, in the rest of the book.
Cloud Wolf's original crew. They die/get lost in the Twilight Woods one by one during Stormchaser except for the Stone Pilot. Only Tem is ever mentioned again.
Averted with Twig's crew. He never forgets any of them, and it's clear how guilty he feels about their fates.
Killer Rabbit: Wig-wigs are best described as orange, fluffy, mouths full of sharp teeth. Despite being about 8 inches tall, they are at the very top of the Deepwoods' food chain.
Kill It with Fire: The only real defence against the above orange fluffy death-bringers.
Knight Templar: Orbix Xaxis seems to be one. Some might say he just uses this is merely his justification, but the fact that he willingly sacrifices himself to allow a lightining bolt to strike the Sanctaphrax rock proves he really believed in his cause.
Lantern Jaw of Justice: Felix Lodd is both described and drawn as having one; apart from some daddy issues, he's probably one of the most traditionally heroic characters in the series, so it's fitting.
Late Arrival Spoiler: Wonderful though the UK cover art for Clash of the Sky Galleons is, it means you're going to know that Thaw Daggerslash is masquerading as Turbot Smeal long before it comes out in the plot. This applies in a lesser way for most of the other covers as wel.
Loads and Loads of Races: There are upwards of 40; about a dozen kinds of waifs, eight kinds of trolls, a few kinds of trogs, around twenty kinds of goblins, and then assorted races like slaughterers, fourthlings, and spindlebugs.
And a lot of them are cross-fertile, leading to a Heinz Hybrid (like one of the Hive conscripts in the Immortals, who's part woodtroll/part fourthling/part slaughterer).
Which leads to one incredibly badass scene where Twig and the Stone Pilot have to get a rock into a ship to get it flying again, but, naturally, they need to heat it up so it won't fly away while they're getting it in. The Stone Pilot ( who is a Termagant Trog who missed the coming-of-age ceremony and thus is an incredibly small, wispy girl, albeit normally in a bulky protective suit that hides this) does this single-handedly by setting herself on fire.
Also most quarter-masters. It's sort of their thing; there are occasional exceptions, but it does get to the point where you begin to wonder why captains ever take on the same quartermaster for more than one voyage.
Merciful Minion: As a part of Xanth Filatine'sHeel-Face Turn, he shoots the rope tethering the protagonist's ship instead of shooting Rook himself, allowing Rook to flee from the Mooks swiftly closing on his location.
Mind Rape: Certain waifs have this ability to go with their mind-reading capacities. Amberfuce tries to erase Rook's personality in Vox, but luckily proves unable to touch the furthest reaches of his soul...
Minovsky Physics: Stormphrax and flight rocks/buoyant wood. There's also Chine, the Librarians' version of Stormphrax.
Monster of the Week: Most of 'Beyond the Deepwoods' has a Monster of the Chapter format. Each nastier and weirder than the last.
The Mutiny: Sprinkled liberally in the Quint and Twig trilogies. Twig finally starts showing a bit of Genre Savvy regarding this by the end of Stormchaser; he nips the possible mutinous nature of new crewmember in the bud and shows hesitance at taking on a quartermaster who has nothing to deter him from mutiny.
An example of the 'overthrowing tyrannical captain' kind in Midnight Over Sanctaphrax when Twig successfully carries off a mutiny on the Skyraider, overthrowing Thunderbolt Vulpoon and earning the everlasting loyalty and devotion of the crew.
My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Hekkle is a shryke (albeit a male one) who actively works for the good guys in The Last of the Sky Pirates. Another good shryke, an unusually kindly female named Mother Bluegizzard, owns the New Bloodoak Tavern in Freeglader.
Never a Self-Made Woman: Quite a lot, although Magda is an aversion, since we never learn anything about her family. Technically, it applies to men too, especially in the Rook trilogy. Everyone expects Felix to be chosen as a Librarian Knight elect because of who his father is.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Rook accidentally sets off the explosive "baby" after fighting savagely to prevent it from going off... by sweating on it.
Parental Abandonment: In the Verginix/ Barkwater family, try to think of one example of a child not becoming an orphan or at least separated from his or her parents at a very young age. It was revealed in The Immortals that Rook managed to break the chain.
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Used and averted: a sky pirate is more of a freelance merchant/smuggler than an actual pirate, but they do raid league ships when they have to.
Pregnant Badass: Maris worked beside her husband on a sky ship while pregnant, gave birth during a storm, while the ship was crashing and then made a trek directly afterwards to a woodtroll village so her son would live.
Samus Is a Girl: Maugin, aka the Stone Pilot. Extra points because immediately before this was revealed, Twig braced himself to confront another hideous monster, reaching the wrong conclusion about why the stone pilot concealed their appearance.
Scenery Porn: There are some insanely detailed and beautiful pictures of sky ships, not to mention the maps.
It may go horribly right, and not only will the result will be murderously insane, it will summon a continent-sized space whale that will suck all the heat out of the world unless you feed it a piece of crystallized lightning. It gets worse when we learn about stone sickness, which causes stone everywhere to crumble to dust which eventually spells the end of society as many know it, in the Rook trilogy
Or, it may go horribly wrong, and you get The Giant Glister, an Eldritch Abomination tentacle monster that will suck out your emotions and strength and leave you an empty shell (and get the same space whale side effect as previously mentioned.
So at the end of Stormchaser, Twig brings back the first batch of Stormphrax in decades, along with the formula for the safe production of phraxdust, thus both freeing Sanctaphrax from having to build extra chains to keep it from drifting and making clean water available to all. Sounds like the Edge is in for a new era of peace and prosperity, right? Wrong!
The arrival of the Mother Storm forces Twig to cut Sanctaphrax's Anchor Chain in the very next book, Midnight Over Sanctaphrax, and by the Rook Trilogy, the world has entered a Dark Age. At first glance, this would seem to make everything Twig did be in vain... but if there hadn't been just one chain remaining, Sanctaphrax could never have been cut loose, while phraxdust later gets used as a fuel supply which puts civilisation back on track.
Also after reading all the books, the Aesop could be pirates make bad parents. All the characters who have close relationships with their pirate parents end up being horrible parents themselves: Wind Jackal and Cloud Wolf, namely. Twig was initially said to have waited until Keris grew up before leaving, but The Slaughterer's Quest revealed that he actually left when she was three. Granted, he did have a fairly important quest to finish, and he left her with her uncle, but still.
The Starscream: Orbix Xaxis was one of Vox Verlix's right-hand men until it no longer suited his purposes.
Amberfuce counts as well.
Not to mention Slyvo Spleethe, in "Stormchaser," and Turbot Smeal in "Clash of the Sky Galleons." Given that sky pirate-quartermasters have to be cunning to be good, it seems that having a Starscream on board is a hazard of the business.
Take Up My Sword: In the literal and figurative sense. In "Stormchaser," Cloud Wolf gives Twig his sword and tells him to complete the Stormphrax quest. This happens throughout the series: The protégé of the older sky pirate must complete the quest, sometimes doing so inadvertently. The older sky-pirates never live to see their quests completed.
Too Dumb to Live: Cloud Wolf keeping SlyvoSpleethe on as part of the crew, despite repeated attempts at mutiny. Even though Spleethe is usually incompetent, what kind of idiot captain keeps on a crewmember who has shown time and again that, at best, he wants to take over your ship and, at worst, may shoot you into open sky, a known consequence of mutiny for whichever side loses. Eventually, Spleethe succeeds, proving that Cloud Wolf really isToo Dumb to Live.
Tragic Villain: Vox Verlix, to an extent. He is an extremely intelligent man who has been screwed over by severel different factions. His doomsday device is simply his revenge, yet he manages to be somewhat sympathetic at times, particularly at the end of Vox when he is trapped in his crumbling palace.
Screed Toe-Taker, to a lesser extent, once you learn that the failure of his quest drove him mad.
Translation: Yes: The banderbear language consists mostly of the word "wuh", which can have a myriad of different meanings depending on body language and inflection. The Immortals contains several prime examples.
The Dog Bites Back: In the end of Freeglader, Amberfuce is trapped in his special bath, abandoned by the gabtroll nurse for which he abandoned his old faithful nurse to abusive treatment as a slave. His old nurse then creeps into the room... and promptly boils him alive in his own bath for mistreating her.
The Trickster: The Gloamglozer is a particularly malevolent example.
Ultimate Evil: The Gloamglozer, who is also directly responsible for causing stone-sickness and thus setting civilisation back by centuries.
Vindicated by History: An in-universe example with Vox Verlix who is remembered in The Immortals as a great genius and spectacular architect (which, admittedly, he was, but he was also a Fat Bastard).
There's also Thunderbolt Vulpoon, who we'll remember tried to kidnap Twig and Cowlquape so he could sell them to the shrykes as bait for the Wig-Wig arena. Rook, however, heard a tale of his selfless sacrifice to save the pair from Thunderbolt's shryke-imprisoned son Deadbolt on the Great Mire Road.
"Well Done, Son" Guy: In a rare father-daughter variant, Maris just wants her father's love and approval.
In Stormchaser, Twig wanting his father to be proud of him is a recurring theme. It doesn't really help that Cloud Wolf isn't the best parent.
In the Rook trilogy, Felix Lodd to his father, Fenbrus.
Who Wants to Live Forever?: Evil waif keeps all of the life-giving Riverrise water for himself in The Immortals, only letting some down to the world below... and feels very bitter over his life's emptiness.
A World Half Full: No matter how much the world tries to cancel out the heroes' efforts with each passing generation, Edge society becomes gradually more progressive, and life is shown to be not without its merits, tough as it may get.
Xtreme Kool Letterz: Pick a page, any page, and count the number of X's on it. Seriously. Some of the character names have three or more.
Zero-Effort Boss: The Bringer of Doom. The most impressive skyship ever to exist. Nothing can stand before this behemoth... or so it seems, or so it would be. Instead, it makes an impressive entrance, then anticlimatically tumbles to the ground because the guy charged with harvesting the floating rock used to keep it flying couldn't be bothered to remove the Stormphrax weight inside it. However, it did demonstrate it's invincibility by devastating ships that did get in it's way before hand.