Allison's Book Bag

Winter Wood by Steve Augarde

Posted on: January 23, 2011

So far so good! The first two books in the Touchstone trilogy were fun and memorable to read. What about the third? Will it measure up to its forerunners or will it disappoint? So many trilogies these days seem to have one flop. To my relief and pleasure, Winter Wood also kept me reading far into the night. Moreover, it nicely answered questions raised in earlier books. Steve Augarde has written a satisfying end to an enthralling set.

For those unfamilar with the trilogy, in The Various, we met twelve-year-old Midge whose mom foisted her on relatives so she could perform around the world. On her uncle’s farm, Midge encounters the little people or the Various. Together with her cousins George and Kate, she helps some of the more likeable Various and battles some of the more despicable Various. Winter Wood picks up where the first book left off. The nicer Various need Midge’s help in finding the Orbis. When united with the Touchstone, the Orbis will allow the Various to leave the dangers of the human world and head homeward. The meaner Various only wish to exact revenge upon Midge for harm she brought to them, including their expulsion from their kind.

To find the Orbis, Midge must first find Celandine. Augarde introduced her in the second book. Celadine is Midge’s great aunt and in her time she also met the Various. She actually lived with them, influencing the culture of their cave-dwellers by teaching them how to read, write, and sing. The leader of the cave-dwellers entrusted Celadine with the Orbis, when invaded by another Various tribe. Problem is, no one in Midge’s family knows if Celadine is even alive. If she is, they have no idea where she is. And what if Midge does find Celandine? Her great aunt is probably in her nineties. Would she remember the Various?

In reviews of earlier Touchstone books, I alluded only briefly to Augarde’s ability to create a whole new society. The Various are travellers. During Celandine’s time, these little people migrated to Howard’s Hill (on her family’s property) and secluded themselves within a jumbled barrier of trees and briars. There are four tribes: the Ickri hunters, Naiad farmers, Wisp fisherfolk, and Tinkler and Troggle cave-dwellers. Each lives a tenuous existence with each other, bound  only by the Touchstone. They live in relative safety, because few humans dare to venture into the thick and thorny brambles. And those who will are turned back by arrows of the Ickri long before discovering the tunnels that lead to trees, caves, and an entirely separate world.

In earlier reviews, I also alluded only briefly to Augarde’s references to the supernatural. Midge catches glimpses of Celandine; who in turn catches glimpses of Midge. Celandine possesses special gifts such as healing and premonition. Midge apparently also has unique gifts. In her time, Celandine is even accused of being a witch; Midge just wonders if she is losing her mind. I didn’t actually care for all the mystical connections between the two girls, nor the connections referred to in Winter Wood regards the Various and the girls. The book would have been less confusing without all these references.

Yet for all the trilogy’s uneven qualities, the set is an impressive feat. I could claim that this is because its fifteen hundred pages made me laugh and cry and kept me up past my bedtime for a week, but really lots of books do that for me. This set is special for another reason. Whenever I put the book down, my normal life felt unreal. I kept expecting to see the little people and their human friends. Augarde immersed me that well into the world within his books. Which is something I can’t say about many books. For that reason, the set is a must read.

My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.

How would you rate this book?

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