Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

May 28, 2022

tormchaser is a children's book, the second entry in a 12 book series called The Edge Chronicles. It is set in dangerous, bleak fantasy world populated with a creative population of monsters - prowlgrins, woodtrolls, nightwaifs, flathead goblins and many more creatures. Violence is everywhere, many of the characters perish in this book. There is betrayal, greed, lies and more violence. And yet it also seems to have a light-hearted touch, perhaps due to the silly names of the characters and their outrageous behavior. Stewart loves to bestow names like Slyvo Spleethe, Mother Horsefeather, Stope Boltjaw and the arch villain - Vilnix Pompolnius, the Most High Academe of Sanctaphrax. Stewart reminds me of Jack Vance with his love of bizarre customs and amoral characters. It is a fun world, and the book is made more enjoyable by the numerous illustrations provided by Chris Riddell. Clearly Riddell was having a grand time when he drew the many pictures for this book, depicting the various monsters and environments: the magical Twilight Woods, the grim trackless Mire, poisonous Undertown, the perilous Edgelands or the wonderous floating city of Sanctaphrax.

The hero in this tale is a young lad named Twig. He is the son of Cloud Wolf, the most accomplished sky pirate in the air. (Flying ships have always been a source of delight for me ever since I first encountered them in the skies of Barsoom when I was reading fantasy novels back in high school.) Exploring the markets of Undertown, Twig discovers his friend, the Caterbird, in a pet shop. The Caterbird tells Twig an amazing story of greed and treachery by Vilnix. It seems Vilnix is robbing the treasury of Sanctaphrax of its supply of stormphrax. Without stormphrax to weigh down the air-borne rock, the wonderful floating city of Sanctaphrax will drift off into the sky. But Vilnix has discovered that just a few grains of phraxdust will magically purify the most foul water. And phraxdust is created from stormphrax, so Vilnix starts on a scheme to sell phraxdust to the Leaguemasters of Undertown, where clean water is precious. Sanctaphrax grows more and more bouyant as Vilnix pilfers its supply of stormphrax, and despite huge anchoring chains attaching the city to the Edgelands, it threatens to pull away.

The professors of Sanctaphrax see that a Great Storm is brewing, and so someone must fly into the heart of the storm and retrieve the stormphrax that will be generated. Such a mission is incredibly perilous, but the need for stormphrax is dire. Who better to sail into the storm than Cloud Wolf, and his ship the Stormchaser? So Twig, Cloud Wolf, and his crew of monsters set out in a desperate mission to succeed where so many previous airships had failed - to sail into the storm and discover stormphrax.

Twig faces numerous obstacles, but survives due to a combination of luck, wits, courage, and his ability to inspire loyalty in his fellow monsters, making friends as they face danger at every turn. I found Stormchaser to be a fun read, and I delighted in Riddell's imaginative illustrations. I will be looking for the next book in the series.