Wildwood Imperium: The Wildwood Chronicles, Book 3

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Wildwood Imperium: The Wildwood Chronicles, Book 3 Book Poster Image
Satisfying end to highly original, whimsical fantasy.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Wildwood Imperium is set outside of Portland, Ore., and reflects a bit of that city's ambience. Most of the narrative is firmly fantastical, however, and does not present a realistic picture of forest or city life.

Positive Messages

As with previous volumes, Wildwood Imperium emphasizes the value of bravery, empathy, and community-mindedness. It also spotlights the healing power of love.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although there definitely are villains to be found in Wildwood Imperium, nearly everyone in the book has a good side, if you look closely enough. Prue, Curtis, his sisters, and even Septimus the talking rat are brave, resourceful, and empathetic and clearly the heroes of the tale, but the most minor characters display impressive physical and emotional skills.

Violence

There's some violence in Wildwood Imperium but less than in the previous volume. A reformed villain is shot to death by his former coconspirators. Children are placed in mortal danger again and again, but they usually escape unharmed. The volume ends with a great battle, but it's mainly against giants made out of shrubbery and therefore not particularly disturbing.

Sex
Language

"Damn" is used a handful of times.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An underage character mentions having drunk wine on one occasion, schoolgirls smoke illicit cigarettes, and some adults (and giant birds) celebrate with "blackberry wine" and "poppy beer," whatever that might be. These episodes are only mentioned in passing.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Wildwood Imperium is the concluding volume of the trilogy begun in Wildwood by Colin Meloy (lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter for the folk-rock band the Decemberists). It brings many story strands together for a satisfying conclusion and displays favorite characters in a new light. There's only minor cursing (a couple of instances of "damn"), no sexual content, and only passing references to smoking and alcohol. Despite a climactic battle against a magical empress who controls ivy, the level of violence is lower than in previous volumes.

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What's the story?

Zita, the May Queen, unwisely conducts a seance that awakens the Verdant Empress, a malevolent spirit that mourns for her long-lost son. Elsewhere in Wildwood, a group of "unadoptable" orphans joins up with a collective of saboteurs to rescue their friends held captive somewhere in an industrial wasteland. And fate brings two old friends closer together as they struggle to protect a blind old man and a bear with prosthetic hooks for hands, the only two who might be able to reanimate a mechanical toy prince.

Is it any good?

After stumbling a bit in Under Wildwood, the second volume, The Wildwood Chronicles rights itself and arrives at a satisfying conclusion. Favorite characters return and are displayed in a new light. New threats appear, and the large cast of good guys must be extra-clever in defeating them. Colin Meloy's lively prose and Carson Ellis' evocative illustrations bring the fantastical forest to abundant life. WILDWOOD IMPERIUM is a fitting end to a highly original fantasy trilogy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can discuss how individuals from different cultures can work together to create a community. Have you seen this happen in your life?

  • How does this third volume compare with the others in the series? 

  • What makes a good leader? What skills must he or she have to organize and maintain a healthy society?

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