Midnight Over Sanctaphrax


Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

July 21 2022

idnight Over Sanctaphrax is a children's book, the third in a twelve book series called The Edge Chronicles. The twelve books are divided into four trilogies. This is the third and final book of the Twig Saga. (Twig Verginix is the hero of the trilogy, he began as a 13 year old boy in the first book, and now, in Midnight of Sanctaphrax Twig is the young, heroic captain of the Edge Dancer - a ship that sails through the air.)

The series is called The Edge Chronicles because all the tales take place at the edge of seemingly vast continent that floats in the air. The edge of this continent is partitioned into various environments: The Deep Woods, The Edgelands, The Mire, The Stone Gardens, and teeming tough city called Undertown. Floating above Undertown (and anchored by an immense chain to prevent it from floating away) is the city of Sanctaphrax - it is upon this huge floating rock that the elite have built their university. Beyond the edge of this floating continent is endless open air - a terrifying infinite space of storms and wind currents. No one ever sails out beyond the edge.

At the start of this tale, Captain Twig stands at the helm of the Edge Dancer - he is following the caterbird on a quest to find his father, the Cloud Wolf. But the caterbird has led the Edge Dancer outward from the edge, flying into empty air where no one ever goes. Even worse, a giant storm vortex appears ahead, and the caterbird is flying straight towards it.

Twig has gathered a loyal crew on the Edge Dancer, rescuing each from desperate circumstances, and they have pledged to follow him anywhere - but sailing out into the void? Leave the safety of the land behind? The crew grows apprehensive, but Twig is determined. His motley crew consists of Spooler the oakelf, Goom the young banderbear, and Woodfish the waterwaif (who has such huge super-sensitive ears that Woodfish can even hear the thoughts of those around him). There is Tarp Hammelherd the slaughterer, Bogwitt the flathead goblin who is a fierce warrior, and the enigmatic quartermaster Wingnutt Sleet. Finally, there is the Stone Pilot, who is really the beautiful young girl named Maugin. Sensing the fears of his crew, Twig assures that he will look out for each them, that he is as loyal to them as they are to him - and so they continue until they encounter the Mother Storm.

At the heart of Mother Storm, Twig miraculously finds the ruins of his father's ship, The Stormchaser. Twig also learns some incredible information - every few centuries, the Mother Storm comes crashing against the Deep Woods, bringing life renewing waters to Riverrise. Yet now the floating city of Sanctaphrax lies directly in the path of the Mother Storm - if the Mother Storm is deflected from reaching Riverrise, the life-bringing waters will not be recharged, and the flora and fauna of the edge will perish. As soon as Twig learns this vital information, disaster strikes...

Stewart loves creating odd ball characters, various creatures, and giving them odd names. A major character introduced in this book is Cowlquape - a poor university student at Sanctaphrax who loves studying the ancient scrolls. In his dreams, Cowlquape imagines that the legendary Kobold the Wise speaks to him. Naturally, Cowlquape and his useless old knowledge prove to be critical to aiding Twig in his quest.

After the disaster that destroys the Edge Dancer, Twig must reunite with his crew members. This search takes him all over the various lands, from the dangerous alleys of Undertown to the frightening Great Shryke Slave Market. Twig and Cowlquape are constantly in peril, from the treacherouus captain Thunderbolt Vulpoon and his massive enforcer Grimlock, to the terrifying Wig-Wig arena, to dark heart of the Deep Woods, populated with fearsome denizens Waterwaifs, Flitterwaifs, Barkwaifs and Nightwaifs - who can hear your fears and attempt to lure you to your doom.

For a kid's book, there is a lot of violence. Characters good and bad meet untimely ends. The adventure never flags, it is always a case of out-of-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire. But Twig never falters. Undeterred by danger, unswerving in loyalty to his scattered crew, Twig displays heroic traits (and a good deal of luck!). As always, the book is accompanied by many delightful illustrations by Chris Riddell. Riddell must get a kick out of drawing the monsters Stewart describes - Wig-Wigs and banderbears and the sinister shrykes. I will have to look into starting the next trilogy of the Edge Chronicles next.