Returner's Wealth (by Paul Stewart and illustrated by Chris Riddell) introduces a well-built fantasy world in Wyrmeweald and a congenial and goodhearted protagonist in Micah. Initially, I thought it would be a great adventure for ages 10-12, but the further I read, it became evident that an older audience would be better. In spite of the occasional violence, Stewart has created a grand adventure.
Weald in Old English has two meanings: 1) forest and 2) power, authority. Wyrm or wyrme in Old English can mean dragon or snake; the warrior Beowulf battles a wyrm and becomes the first dragon-slayer. Stewart's use of these terms indicates a fondness for the epic poem Beowulf and /or a fondness for Tolkien's works. I share this weakness for both Beowulf and Tolkien.
Another feature (and dip into OE) that I enjoyed was Stewart's use of kennings, imaginative and poetic compound words: two-hides, festercrags, rockscape, wyrmehost, hackdagger, tooth-tugged, stoppertight, and limbwithered, for example.
On to the plot--
Micah decides to visit the Wyrmweald, a harsh, dangerous, and mountainous landscape, in search of wealth that might help him win the heart of the girl he loves. He quickly discovers that the hostile landscape alone can kill--but there are other things that are even more frightening.
At the wrong place at the wrong time, Micah is seriously wounded by a wyrmkin. Fortunately, Micah meets Eli Half-Winter, who takes him to a healer and saves his life. Rather reluctantly, Eli takes Micah under his wing, but soon realizes the benefit of Micah's company.
Together, they unite with Thrace, a wyrmkin, and the three of them will do their best to defeat the evil kith who deal in the death and destruction of the wyrms.
An exciting adventure with a bit of romance.
NetGalley/Open Road Media
YA/Fantasy. originally publ. in 2010; republ. Sept. 2014. Print version: 374 pages