‘I hope you enjoy this!’ said Chris Riddell when he sent me his and Paul Stewart’s first book in their Wyrmeweald trilogy. So did I. I knew I liked the writing on the jiffybag. It’s not every day you get stuff addressed quite so artistically.
Returner’s Wealth is rather like sourdough bread. It’s a long and slow-ish process to begin with, where not much happens. With the bread you know the end result will be worth it, if you’ve eaten it before. If you haven’t, you worry a little that you’ll arrive and find you wished you hadn’t bothered with all that warm water and flour. You realise you don’t like sourdough. It’s good stuff, but not for you.
But the jiffybag spurred me on. I wanted to like this book. I just wondered if and when things would happen, and whether I could like the characters, another hundred pages along.
I needn’t have worried. It really is sourdough (which I like), and you barely notice as you get to know the characters, and slowly feel that you actively like (some of) them. I even grasped after a while what was going on and why. I’d been afraid I was too thick. Besides, I’m not madly keen on dragon-like creatures per se.
Returner’s Wealth is a kind of fantasy western, and the man who teenage boy Micah meets is a Clint Eastwood/Lee Scoresby type. He grows on you.
There are ‘dragons.’ Wyrmes. They are birdlike in some ways, and there are very many species of them in the Weald. Some of them have relationships with their own very special human; their ‘kin.’ The others are called ‘kith.’ Some hunt the wyrmes, and others don’t. Micah happens upon some fairly bad kith, and also some really very OK kin.
It’s hard to explain what happens. There is some pretty gruesome violence. But above all there is love and trust and respect between some men and some wyrmes.
Knowing this was part of a trilogy, I was curious to see how it would end. Would it feel partly finished, or might there be a cliffhanger? Well, I’m obviously not going to tell you. But now that I know I like sourdough I can see myself eating it again.
I don’t know how they divide up the work, but Chris’s drawings for each chapter are absolutely beautiful. I still don’t like the dragons, but that’s beside the point. I am not a bad kith.