“Sounds like a country song,” Prue McKeel observes 60 pages into Wildwood. “If country songs were really, really weird.”
Wildwood is like American Gods for kids, in the forest. We’re back in the Old, Weird America with two kids having an adventure in a magical wilderness. The wilderness is one part Uncle Remus, one part Narnia and one part Neverland, all of it deeply American and quirky. We get talking animals, mailmen with rifles, conscript armies of coyotes, fox constables and a bereaved Dowager Governess bent on evening the score by human sacrifice. It’s like an epitome of alt-country in story form.
Like American Gods, Wildwood is completely driven by its milieu. There are main characters, but they are broadly drawn. There is a plot, but it’s straightforward. The two older kids wander around the forest looking for a kidnapped baby. They go from one avenue of help to the next very linearly and without surprises.
To paraphrase another famous writer of genre fiction, the place is the thing.