The Oddmire, Book One
by William Ritter
Algonquin Young Readers
Middle Grade Fantasy
JULY 16th, 2019!!!
Magic is fading from the Wild Wood. To renew it, goblins must perform an ancient ritual involving the rarest of their kind—a newborn changeling. But when the fateful night arrives to trade a human baby for a goblin one, the goblin Kull is briefly distracted from his task of laying the changeling in a human infant’s crib. By the time he turns back, the changeling has already perfectly mimicked the human child. Not knowing which to return to the goblin horde, he leaves both babies behind. Tinn and Cole are raised as human twins, neither knowing what secrets may be buried deep inside one of them. When a mysterious message arrives calling the brothers to be heroes and protectors of magic, the boys must leave behind their sleepy town of Endsborough and risk their lives in the Wild Wood to discover who they truly are
In hopes of renewing the goblin magic, a goblin uses the very rare chance to exchange a human boy with a changeling. But he gets distracted and can't seem to figure out which one is which. The mother, despite knowing something isn't right, simply keeps both, raises them and loves them with her whole heart. Until one day, the boys wander off into the woods to discover the secret of who they really are.
Changelings are a mystical folklore which carries a sense of dark dread and intrigue at the same time. While I wondered if the author could really pull these creatures down to a middle grade level, my suspicions weren't not only unwarranted, but completely blown away. The author weaves a fantastic tale with the heart-warming bond of brotherly (and motherly) love. And yet, there is so much dark creepiness and chills to insure young readers won't put this one down.
The characters are easy to connect to and react as any boy that age would. While adventure and shadows remain high on every page, there's a nice amount of humor built in to keep it light at just the right times. While more sensitive readers might find the spooky side to be a bit heavy, others will love the dive into this story about the creatures of folklore. It's magical, mystical, dark and inspiring.
A VERY LONG TIME AGO, HUMANS AND FAIRIES
and elves and dolphins and all of the other intelligent beings of the world got sick of one another—which was understandable, as intelligent beings were all pretty much rubbish in those days. After much arguing, they decided to split up the world and build a sort of magical wall between the two halves. On the human side of the barrier, life would be governed by logic and reason and the laws of nature. It would be an honest world of soil and struggle. The other side would be ruled by forces more ancient than any earthly science, a world of magic and madness and raw potential. Humans called their side the Earth, and
magical beings called their side the Annwyn (all except for the gnomes, who called it Pippin-Gilliewhipple—which is one of many reasons that, to this day, nobody from either side much cares for gnomes).
For many centuries, the wall stood—a sort of veil between two worlds, invisible but everywhere. Neither side could see or touch the other, and in time many creatures forgot there was another world at all. This remained the state of things until rogue groups brought their simmer- ing strife to an unruly boil and a new war broke out. As it turned out, intelligent beings were still fairly rubbish if not properly supervised. The resulting battle blasted a great, gaping hole right through the invisible barrier.
When the dust had settled, some felt the hole in the wall should be patched back up, and others felt the barrier should come down entirely. In all the hubbub, nobody noticed as the thing that had been inside the wall—the thing that may have been the very soul of the wall—escaped. Nobody was watching as the thing that had spent countless centuries listening at the cracks and growing hungrier and hungrier slipped past the rubble and across the bloody battlefield. Nobody saw it slide quietly into the forest.
The Thing clutched at shadows as it moved between the trees, drawing the darkness around itself like a rid- ing cloak. It had never known sunlight, or birdsong, or
honey-sweet breezes, or even the sound of its own name. If the Thing even had ever had a name, it had never had anyone to speak it.
The Thing whipped past mossy boulders, through tow- ering trees, and over the muggy, murky Oddmire. When it reached the very heart of the Wild Wood, it finally slowed and came to rest. The trees grew more densely there, and the air was still. Even the sound of the birds died away. The shadows here were thick and heavy, and the Thing gathered them up, greedily.
The Thing knew shadows. In that sunless, starless place between worlds, there had been shadows so absolute they had no form. The Thing’s whole world had been a shadow—its whole life had been one great shadow, and within it, the Thing had felt impossibly small. But the shadows in this new place were different. They would do as it bid them. They were powerful, those shadows of stones and boulders and tall pine trees, and the pieces torn from them felt comfortable as they knit together across the Thing’s back. The Thing felt strong. Beneath its swelling cloak of darkness, the Thing began to take on new shapes. Bigger shapes. Terrible shapes. Still, there was one shadow that caught the Thing like a thorn: its own. The creature’s meager slip of a shadow followed it, clung to it, taunted it with its own true, trifling form.
The creature plunged its talons into the forest floor, and for a time, the only sound was the scratching of unseen claws digging into the soil. When the hole was deep enough, the Thing turned its talons in on itself. It tore and it ripped until finally, reverently, it lowered its own severed shadow into the cold earth and buried the humble scrap beneath the dirt. All around it, pools of darkness blossomed as if the entire forest floor were a fresh, clean napkin laid over a seeping ink stain.
The darkness grew.
The Thing drew itself up to its full height, and then it drew itself up a little higher, and higher still. Countless stolen shadows rippled along its cloak like waves of grain shimmering in a breeze. The Thing would be whatever it pleased now. It was never going back.
The darkness spreading across the forest floor solidified into angry coils and knots as it grew. Wicked thorns burst from its surface. For just a moment, there was silence and the forest was still. And then the darkness began to creep.
And here he is...
William Ritter is an Oregon author and educator. He is the proud father of the two bravest boys in the Wild Wood, and husband to the indomitable Queen of the Deep Dark.The Oddmireis Ritter’s first series for middle-grade readers. He is also the author of the New York Times bestselling, award-winning Jackaby series for young adult readers. Visit him online at rwillritter.wordpress.com and find him on Twitter: @Willothewords.