Book review

The Last of the Sky Pirates by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell (2002)

Book 5 of the 'Edge Chronicles'

Have you visited the strange Edge territories before? Do you recall the fantastic floating city of Sanctaphrax, built upon a floating rock and anchored to the mainland by a stupendous chain?

Well, it's gone. It was blown away by the Mother Storm. And instead of bringing rejuvenation to the Edgeworld, the storm apparently brought a terrible pestilence, stone-sickness. Without flight-rocks, there are no sky ships and no sky-trade. New Sanctaphrax has crumbled and sunk, and Undertown is beleaguered.

Naturally, the disaster has fed the discord between the earth-scholars and sky-scholars, and as we begin this story, the sky-scholars are in the ascendancy. They have driven the earth-scholars, the Librarian Academics, deep underground - literally - for they live in the great sewers of Undertown.

And none knows his way round those sewer tunnels better than young Rook Barkwater, lowly under-librarian. Rook is a natural academic, and a dreamer:

As he laid the treatise out on the desk before him, he felt a familiar surge of excitement, tinged with just a hint of fear. He opened it up at random.
His head bowed forwards. His eyes narrowed in concentration. No longer was he sitting at a floating lectern, in a vaulted chamber, deep down underground ...
Instead, Rook was up there - in the open, in the vast, mysterious Deepwoods, with no walls, no tunnels, and no ceiling but the sky itself. The air was cool and filled with the sound of bird-cry and rodent-screech ...

Now, today is the Announcement Ceremony, when three apprentice librarians will be named, and called upon to venture deep into the Deepwoods, in order to complete their education, on their way to becoming Librarian Knights.

Rook thinks his best friend Felix will be selected, but if you want to know what actually happens, you will have to read the book.

I love the Edge Chronicles! It's a brilliant world, as full of magic and monsters as you could possibly want it to be.

' ... sacred, but also arduous,' the High Librarian was saying. His voice dropped. 'And deeply perilous. Those of you who are selected must fight against over-confidence, for that is your worst enemy. You must remain on your guard. The world outside is a dangerous place.'

What can I read next?

If you enjoy the Edge Chronicles, there are others:

If you enjoy visiting really strange otherworlds, I think you might like to look at this one by Robin Jarvis:

Or you could try this one by Chris Wooding. It isn't so light-hearted as the Edge Chronicles, but it's an extraordinary world, and there are plenty of ghouls:

And, of course, you should check out this one by Philip Reeve:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

The Last of the Sky Pirates features in these lists: