- William Stark
Leepike Ridge by N. D. Wilson: Tom Sawyer meets The Odyssey
Updated: Jan 6
Overall rating: 9.5/10
Quality of writing: 9.5/10
Concerning content (language, violence, etc.): some
Age level: 10 and up
This 224-page novel by author N. D. Wilson chronicles the adventures of 11-year-old Thomas Hammond in a style that borrows themes and imagery from classics such as the Odyssey, yet remains as exciting and readable as the best modern fiction. Although the action is quite fast-paced in places, the storyline is engaging and easy to follow.
The plot develops quickly in general (the book is only 224 pages long), however, a few sections (such as the one-and-a-half chapters Tom spends underground before he meets Reg) may leave the reader wondering where all the action went. Despite this, these sections don’t really detract from the plot overall, and are fairly infrequent. The plot is also quite well-written, barring a few holes and unexplained details (such as the staircase connecting the Hammonds’ house and the ancient tomb). On the whole, the plot is quite good despite a few imperfections, and deserves an 8.5/10 rating.
The characters in this novel are exceptionally well-developed, especially considering the age level and length of the book. The most obvious character development is that of Tom’s “coming-of-age” over the course of the story, through his Christ-like descent into and return from the caves beneath Leepike Ridge (which are described as “some sort of tomb”). Throughout his underground journey, Tom learns about the nature of good and evil through Reg’s stories, and emerges ready to combat evil as personified by the treasure hunters. Reg is also developed extremely well as a character, demonstrating extreme selflessness in multiple scenes, including offering to sacrifice himself so that Tom might have a chance to leave the caves. Finally, the third major character, Mrs. Hammond, has a particularly interesting character development as she struggles to choose what is best for Tom, even if it means she could be harmed or even killed by the treasure hunters. Overall, the characters in this story are very well-developed and merit a 10/10 rating.
One of the most impressive attributes of Leepike Ridge is that it remains readable while incorporating elements from complex epic poetry such as The Odyssey. Wilson’s style includes a lot of descriptive language and is also characterized by its use of seemingly unimportant details, which later become important to the plot. With this in mind, some readers (especially younger children) may find this book to be a somewhat challenging read; however, most will quickly learn to understand and enjoy Wilson’s unique style. Overall, Leepike Ridge is 4.5/10 in terms of difficulty.
Quality of writing
The quality of the writing in this book is excellent, and only misses a 10/10 rating because some of Wilson’s other books are slightly better-written. Throughout the story, Wilson demonstrates his mastery of many literary techniques including a frame story and distinct character viewpoints. Wilson’s characters are also well-developed, each with his or her own unique quirks, personality, and diction. The plot is full of engaging twists and turns, but still avoids being confusing or hurried. Overall, the quality of Leepike Ridge leaves very little to be desired and merits a 9/10 rating.
Unlike so much other modern fiction for young readers, Leepike Ridge does an excellent job of avoiding age-inappropriate material, while still remaining convincing and engaging. That said, there are a few scenes that do get a bit violent (two people die and there are some bullet wounds and broken bones), so readers with vivid imaginations may want to consider avoiding this book. As a side note, Wilson has clearly gone to some effort to use scenes that could be considered “violent” only when absolutely necessary to show the reader that the villains are really, truly, “bad.” What a refreshing change from books where authors haphazardly add violent scenes, seemingly just to shock their readers. Finally, Leepike Ridge is pretty much squeaky-clean when it comes to language: there is one scene where a character calls the villains “bastards,” but that’s it. Overall, Leepike Ridge gets a 5 out of 10 on mature content.
Although this book is geared towards younger readers, its fast-paced plot and quirky characters are engaging enough for readers of any age. Wilson’s technique of putting a contemporary twist on classics such as Tom Sawyer and The Odyssey also means that there are whole new levels of meaning to discover each time you read the book. This book is best suited for readers from age 10 and up.