The Winter Knights
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|Author||Paul Stewart, Chris Riddell|
|Series||The Edge Chronicles|
|September 1, 2005|
|Preceded by||The Curse of the Gloamglozer|
|Followed by||Clash of the Sky Galleons|
The Winter Knights is a children's fantasy novel by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, first published in 2005. It is the eighth volume of The Edge Chronicles and the second of the Quint Saga trilogy; within the stories' own chronology it is the second novel, preceding the Twig Saga and Rook Saga trilogies that were published earlier.
Shortly after the events of The Curse of the Gloamglozer Quint enrols in the Knight's Academy, one of Sanctaphrax's many prestigious schools that, unlike the others which all specialise in the study of a certain kind of weather, trains its pupils to become Knights-Academic. Brave and intrepid individuals, Knights-Academic pilot specially designed 'stormchaser' sky-ships into the heart of Great Storms to retrieve the solidified lightning, stormphrax, they produce. This occupation is extremely hazardous but also vital, as stormphrax becomes dramatically heavier in darkness and is used to weigh down the floating rock upon which Sanctaphrax is built.
Quint has a miniature portrait of himself painted to be affixed to the hilt of his sword as is traditional for those entering the Knight's Academy, but as the portrait is completed funeral bells toll through the city, signifying the death of Linius Pallitax from injuries he sustained in the fire that destroyed the Palace of Shadows. Quint is left without a future as Linius was to sponsor him through the Academy. After Linius's funeral the twin Professors of Light and Darkness are pronounced the new Most High Academes of Sanctaphrax, and the Professor of Light becomes Quint's new sponsor while the Professor of Darkness sponsors an Undertown knife-grinder, Vil Spatweed, who repaired and returned a telescope of his and has taken on the academic name Vilnix Pompolnius. Quint and Vilnix begin their studies at the Knight's Academy and Quint befriends fellow apprentice Belphinius 'Phin' Mendellix and lowly grey-goblin forge-servant Stope. As a freezing winter descends upon Sanctaphrax and Undertown Quint progresses through the 'Lower Halls' of the academy, creating a model skyship, learning the make-up of a Knight-Academic's armour from aged Hall Master Philius Embertine and being paired with a prowlgrin in the Hall of Grey Cloud. He develops an enmity with Vilnix, who is arrogant and cruel, which he attempts to repair by helping Vilnix care for his mistreated prowlgrin but ultimately concretes when he accidentally incriminates Vilnix in the prowlgrin's abuse, leading to Vilnix being struck with a crop. Quint and Phin befriend Upper-Halls squire Raffix 'Raff' Emilius and Quint also keeps up letter correspondence with Maris, who was orphaned after her father's death and is now in the care of miserly and cruel relatives Heft and Dacia Vespius in Undertown.
As the freezing winter worsens Sanctaphrax is imperilled as the buoyant rocks of the Edge become more so when chilled. Hax Vostilix, the master of the Knight's Academy, declares the approach of a Great Storm on doubtful findings and sends Knight-Academic-In-Waiting Screedius Tollinix to pursue it. He instigates an anti-earth-studies purge, dismissing all the other Hall Masters for various offences. Meanwhile Daxiel Xaxis, head of the Academy's Gatekeeper guards, builds up a private army of thugs supplied by Heft Vespius and takes control of the attempts to warm the Sanctaphrax rock, mistreating the prowlgrins and giant fromps used to haul log-burners. The crisis steadily worsens as Hax sends more and more Knights-Academic to their death chasing every random weather flurry and his mental health deteriorates, while Maris remains miserable and a virtual prisoner in Undertown and Raff gets closer and closer to being sent on his own doomed stormchasing voyage. Quint's class graduate from the Lower Halls, with only Quint and Vilnix being elevated to the Upper Halls while others including Phin become Knights-Academic-at-Arms. Quint is proud to become an apprentice Knight-Academic, but Vilnix, who toadied up to Hax in order to secure an apprentice High Professor-hood, is shocked and betrayed to receive the same apprenticeship as Quint, which he regards as a death sentence.
The crisis reaches its climax when Phin saves Philius Embertine from an accidental fire and learns that Philius has discovered a way to end the winter by purifying Open Sky with stormphrax as the first Knights-Academic did once before, but that senile and disgraced no-one bar Screedius Tollinix believed him, and Screedius is gone. Stope designs ingenious fire-floats to keep a flight-rock warm and stable in the freezing air and he, Phin, Raff and Quint plan to commandeer the practice sky-vessel Cloudslayer and take it into Open Sky with stolen stormphrax they discovered in Philius's rooms. Maris, whose communication with Quint has been maliciously intercepted by Vilnix, goes to trapped meeting on the Loftus Observatory gantry and Quint is delayed from joining his friends to attend the same meeting. Maris confronts Quint over the hurtful letters he has no knowledge of but then the gantry, sabotaged by Vilnix, collapses. The pair almost fall but are saved by Phin, Raff and Stope who catch them on the Cloudslayer. Quint clears up the misunderstanding with Maris and learns that he has more to pay Vilnix back for. Meanwhile Vilnix murders Hax as revenge for reneging on his promised apprenticeship by disguising woodwasp eggs as sweets, which hatch inside Hax's stomach and sting him to death from the inside out. Daxiel Xaxis uses the murder as an excuse to attack the Knights-Academic-at-Arms in a bid to take control of the Academy, and a bloody battle takes place which only ends when the captain of the Treasury Guard, Sigbord, and one of the exiled Hall Masters arrive with reinforcements. Sigbord kills Daxiel, who tortured him into giving the false confession that incriminated Philius Embertine, but the floating rock is now in serious danger of breaking free. Up in Open Sky Quint, Phin, Stope, Raff and Maris discover he cause of the winter, as vast sky-creature that is breathing cold air over the Edge, and heal it of its freezing sickness with the stormphrax, ending the winter and saving the city. When they return to the Academy Philius Embertine dies peacefully after learning that the crisis is over, Heft Vespius is arrested for forging the papers that allowed him to adopt Maris, and Vilnix is expelled from the Academy, vowing revenge. Wind Jackal suddenly arrives with a mission for Quint, and he and Maris board the Galerider, vowing never again to be separated.
- Quintinius Verginix, also known as Quint
- Vilnix Pomplnius, also known as Vil Spatweed
- Maris Pallitax
- Phin, Raff and Stope, Quint's friends
- Hax Vostillix, the Hall Master of High Cloud
- Phillius Embertine, Fenviel Vendix and Arboretum Sicklebough, the other Hall Masters
- The Professors of Light and Darkness
- Stewart, Paul (2005) The Winter Knights
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