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  • Edge Chronicles: Freeglader
  • Written by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
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  • Edge Chronicles: Freeglader
  • Written by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell
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Edge Chronicles: Freeglader

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Written by Paul StewartAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Paul Stewart and Chris RiddellAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Chris Riddell


List Price: $7.99


On Sale: December 30, 2008
Pages: 416 | ISBN: 978-0-307-52276-4
Published by : David Fickling Books RH Childrens Books
Edge Chronicles: Freeglader Cover

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Fleeing from the ruins of New Undertown, Rook Barkwater and his colleagues — the librarian knights, Felix Lodd and his banderbear friends — must lead the escaping population to a new life in the Free Glades. But perils aplenty are ahead for the crowd — not to mention some goblins with plans of their own. This is the dramatic and exciting conclusion to the Rook Barkwater sequence that takes the reader on a thrilling journey across the Edgeworld.

From the Hardcover edition.


* Chapter One *

The Armada of the Dead

'What are we going to do?'

Deadbolt Vulpoon turned from the cabin window and glared at the thin quartermaster who had just spoken.

'The storms over Undertown are growing, if anything,' said a cloddertrog in a bleached muglumpskin coat.

The other sky pirates at the long table all nodded.

'And there's nothing moving on the Mire Road,' he added. 'All trade has stopped dead.'

The nodding turned to troubled muttering.

'Gentlemen, gentlemen,' said Deadbolt, resuming his seat at the head of the table. 'We are sky pirates, remember. Our ships might no longer fly, but we are still sky pirates. Proud and free.' His heavy hand slammed down on the table so hard, the tankard of woodale in front of him leaped up in the air. 'And no storm--dark maelstrom or not--is going to defeat us!'

'I repeat my question,' said the thin quartermaster with a supercilious sniff. 'What are we going to do? There are over thirty crews in the armada. That's three hundred mouths to feed, three hundred backs to clothe, three hundred purses to fill. If there is no trade on the Mire Road, then what shall we live on? Oozefish and mire water?' He sniffed again.

'No trading, no raiding,' said the cloddertrog.

Again, the assembled sky pirates nodded in agreement.

Deadbolt Vulpoon grasped the tankard and raised it to his lips. He needed to collect his thoughts.

For weeks, the dark clouds had gathered on the far horizon at the Undertown end of the Great Mire Road. Then, two days ago, the huge anvil formations of cloud had merged into the unmistakable menacing swirl of a dark maelstrom.

Sky help those caught underneath, he'd thought at the time.

Now Undertown was lost from view and the Mire Road was deserted. A great shryke battle-flock had disappeared in the direction of Undertown just before the storm struck, and then the remaining shrykes from the tally-huts had retreated back to the Eastern Roost . . .

Deadbolt took a deep draught from the tankard and slammed it back on the table. 'I have sent out another raiding party,' he announced with a confidence he didn't feel. 'And until we get to the bottom of this, I for one don't intend to panic.'

'Raiding party!' snorted the thin quartermaster, pushing his chair noisily back and climbing to his feet. 'To raid what?' He paused. 'I hear there's opportunities opening up in the Foundry Glades, and that's where my crew are headed. And you're all welcome to join us!'

He strode from the cabin.

'Gentlemen, please,' said Deadbolt, raising a hand and motioning to the others to remain seated. 'Don't be hasty. Think of what we've built up here in the Armada. Don't throw it all away. Wait until the raiding party returns.'

'Until the party returns,' said the cloddertrog as the sky pirates got up to leave. 'And not a moment longer.'

As they trooped out, Deadbolt Vulpoon climbed to his feet and returned to the window. He looked out through the heavy leaded panes at the Armada of the Dead beyond.

What exactly had they built up here? he wondered bitterly.

When stone-sickness had begun to spread through the flight-rocks of the sky ships, he and the other sky pirates had read the writing on the wall. They came together and scuppered their vessels, rather than letting sky-sickness pick them off one by one.

The hulks of the sky ships had formed an encampment in the bleak Mire, and a base from which to raid the lucrative trade along the Great Mire Road. It wasn't sky piracy, but it was the closest thing to it in these plagued times. And sometimes, when the mists rolled in and the wind got up, he would stand on his quarterdeck and imagine he was high up in Open Sky, as free as a snowbird . . .

Vulpoon looked at the grounded vessels, their masts pointing up so yearningly towards the sky, and a lump formed in his throat. The ships still bore their original names, the letters picked out in fading gold paint. Windspinner, Mistmarcher, Fogscythe, Cloudeater . . . His own ship--the Skyraider--was a battered and bleached ghost of her former glory. She would rot away to noth_ing eventually if she didn't raise herself out of the white mire mud.

But that, of course, could never happen, for the flight- rock itself at the centre of the great ship was rotten. Unless a cure for stone-sickness was discovered, then neither the Skyraider, nor the Windspinner, nor the Mistmarcher, nor any of the other sky pirate ships would ever fly again.

Thick, sucking mud anchored the great hulls in place, turning the once spectacular sky vessels into odd-shaped buildings, made all the more peculiar by the additional rooms which had been constructed, ruining the lines of the decks and clinging to the sides of the ships like giant sky-limpets.

What future lay ahead for him? he wondered. What future was there for any of the those who called the Armada of the Dead home?

Deadbolt reached for the telescope that hung from his breast-plate. He put it to his eye and focused on the distant horizon.

He could see nothing through the impenetrable black clouds--either of Under-town or of the Great Mire Road. Even the distant Stone Gardens, normally silhouetted against the sky, were covered with a heavy pall that obscured them completely.

Deadbolt Vulpoon sighed. He lowered the eye-glass and was about to turn away when something caught his eye. He returned the telescope to his eye and focused the lens a second time.

This time his efforts were rewarded with a clear picture of seven, eight . . . nine individuals tramping towards him. It was the raiding party.

Back so soon? he wondered, a nagging feeling of disappointment settling in the pit of his stomach.

Two of the sky pirates were holding up poles, at the top of which was a large brazier-cage. The burning lufwood charcoal it contained blazed with a bright purple light which illuminated the treacherous Mire, ensuring that no one inadvertently stumbled into a patch of sinking-sand, stepped on an erupting blow-hole, or stumbled into a fearsome muglump . . .

As the raiding party came closer, Vulpoon leaned out of his cabin window. 'Any luck?' he bellowed.

Yet even as he cried out he knew the answer. The sacks slung across their shoulders were empty. The raid had yielded nothing.
Paul Stewart|Chris Riddell

About Paul Stewart

Paul Stewart - Edge Chronicles: Freeglader

Photo © Rolf Marriott

Paul Stewart is the co-creator of the bestselling Edge Chronicles series, with Chris Riddell. He is also the author of a number of previous titles for children including The Wakening.

About Chris Riddell

Chris Riddell - Edge Chronicles: Freeglader

Photo © Rolf Marriott

Chris Riddell is the co-creator of the bestselling Edge Chronicles series, with Paul Stewart. He has illustrated many children’s books including the award-winning Pirate Diary. He is also the political cartoonist for the Guardian and Observer newspapers.

Talking to Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell about the Edge Chronicles

Q. What was your inspiration for The Edge Chronicles?
The Edge Chronicles started off with the map. Chris drew it and gave it to me saying, 'here is the world, tell me what happens there.'
Chris: I drew a map that looked like the edge of a map because I’ve always been fascinated by the edges of maps - the place where the known world ends.
Paul: My main inspiration for the Deepwoods was perhaps the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, though other books–Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Gormenghast, Gulliver's Travels– also played their part.
Q: What was your favorite character(s) to create?
My favorite character is the spindlebug. It was easy for Paul to write that it was see-through, like glass, but a challenge for an illustrator to draw. The creatures live an immense amount of time–up to four centuries –which means that they witness a lot more history of the Edge than other characters.
Paul: My favorite characters are the banderbears. Chris drew them first as fierce, pyramid-like bear creatures. Because they looked so ferocious, I made their character more timid. We have enjoyed developing the creatures as the series has progressed, learning about their natural habits and habitat and creating a language all of their own.
Q: Where did you come up with the names for your characters? The various personalities and life stories?
Both of us hate the clichéd fantasy names and tried to make the names in the Edge world a little different. Woodtrolls have woody names, like Snatchwood, Gruffbark, Snetterbark. Slaughterers have 'meaty' names like Gristle, Sinew, Tendon and Brisket. The academics have Latin/Basque names with lots of ius's and x's. Cowlquape, who goes through lots of changes, has a name taken from the German for tadpole - Kaulquappe. While Twig, of course, is just a tiny bit of the forest.
As the series has progressed, with prequels and sequels, the life histories of the various characters have become more deeply described. So Twig's mother, Maris, is only mentioned in Beyond the Deepwoods. In book 4, the Curse of the Gloamglozer, we meet her as a girl. And in the book we have just completed, Book 7 - Freeglader - we learn all about what happened to her after she abandoned her baby in the Deepwoods. The continuity revealed as the story unfolds is deeply satisfying.
Q: What was your favorite book as a child?
Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
Paul: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Q: Since you both work as a team from conception to finish, what is the creative process like?  How exactly does the collaboration work?
The pictures and words take shape simultaneously, each affecting the development of the other. Sometimes characters and creatures start with a picture, sometimes with a textual description. In addition, the plot is worked on constantly by both of us and, when they are around, our children! Similarly, the text is passed back and forth, being rewritten continuously, until both of us are happy with it.
Q: What has been the most challenging part of writing the series?
The whole process is challenging. More importantly, though, it is also rewarding. Both of us have immense fun playing with the Edge world. Beyond the Deepwoods was the simplest book, an episodic rite of passage novel where we, as well as the main protagonist, began to explore this new world. As we have gone deeper into it, the world has become richer and richer, and the storylines similarly, more involved. We are fascinated by the way the world is still developing as we learn more and more about its history and explore all areas of the political and natural world in increasing depth.
Q: When did you first begin writing/drawing?
At five years old in the back pew of my father's church. My mother gave me paper and pens to keep me quiet during Dad's (very interesting) sermons.
Paul: From the moment I could write, I have been writing down stories. At seven, I was working on a series of stories about a snail called Oliver. At ten, I attempted to write a follow-up to The Phantom Tollbooth with ideas that took shape over the next 20 years and finally became a book entitled The Thought Domain.
Q: In Midnight Over Sanctaphrax, Twig deals with the loss of two father figures. How is this important for his development?
Twig has to grow up and assume responsibility for his father's crew and, when he learns of Tuntum's death, he realizes how he has grown and matured since he left the Woodtroll village. He hopes that Tuntum would be proud of him, and what he has achieved.
Q: What scene did you have the most fun creating?
Both of us enjoyed the wig-wig arena scene a lot. The whole Shryke slave market, with its platforms and walkways all hanging from the Deepwoods trees, was great fun to create as a home for the flightless Shrykes. The escape from it on Prowlgrinback was also great fun both to write and draw. 
Paul: Midnight over Sanctaphrax was the third in the series, and the book where we were beginning to reap the rewards both of close collaboration and of getting to know the world more deeply. The Prowlgrins (which I had originally described as being like hyena/leopard-like creatures, but which Chris had drawn as a curious cross between a whale and a toad) looked to me as if they were brilliantly designed for leaping from branch to branch. Therefore the pictures in Book 1 directly influenced the plot in Book 3. Similarly, in book 1, I had wanted a pirate-like punishment similar to keelhauling, and had come up with sky-firing. In Midnight over Sanctaphrax, this throwaway idea becomes pivotal to the plot– but we won't give it away just in case you haven't read the book yet!
Q: The Edge Chronicles seems perfectly suited for film, with its fast-paced action, loveable creatures, and incredible comic-timing. Were you thinking along these lines during its inception?
We did not deliberately set out to produce fiction which could be turned into a film. That said, both of us work in a very visual way, so a lot of the plotting, characterization and scene development is quite cinematic. It would be a great thrill to see The Edge Chronicles realized on the big screen!

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