Stormchaser (novel)

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Stormchaser
Author Paul Stewart
Illustrator Chris Riddell
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Children's, Fantasy
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date
November 1999
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 224 pp (first edition, hardback)
ISBN 0-385-60004-6 (first edition, hardback)
OCLC 41621307
Preceded by Beyond the Deepwoods
Followed by Midnight Over Sanctaphrax

Stormchaser is a children's fantasy novel by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, first published in 1999. It is the second volume of The Edge Chronicles and of the Twig Saga trilogy; within the stories' own chronology it is the fifth novel, following the Quint Saga trilogy that was published later.

Plot summary[edit]

Set two years after Beyond the Deepwoods, the protagonist, Twig, is a full member of his father, Cloud Wolf's, sky ship the Stormchaser. When a disastrous encounter (made worse by Twig) with a league ship forces the crew to dispose of their precious cargo of logs, Cloud Wolf has no option but to return to Undertown and arrange a way to repay his debts to Mother Horsefeather, the greedy, selfish shryke proprieter of the Bloodoak Tavern, who has been bankrolling Cloud Wolf since the Stormchaser became riddled with wood-bugs.

Meanwhile, in the floating city of Sanctaphrax, the regime of Vilnix Pompolius is under threat as stormphrax and phraxdust supplies are running low, threatening to leave the floating city able to break free of its chains and fly into open sky. In the old times of Sanctaphrax, stability was achieved by securing stormphrax from the Twilight Woods in the storm-chasing voyages by Knights Academic to weigh the city down, but no such voyage had succeeded for 10 years. As a young man, Cloud Wolf aspired to undertake a storm-chasing voyage, but on the eve of his knighting, Vilnix wrested power by suggesting a new method of saving the city; building more chains to tether Sanctaphrax down, and using phraxdust, a substance he had created by accident from stolen stormphrax, to purify the polluted waters of Undertown with the backing of the Leagues. However, no one has been able to replicate the creation of phraxdust, despite Vilnix discreetly looting the treasury supply of stormphrax and flooding the blackmarket with it. In a bid to end the monopoly, Mother Horsefeather and the Professor of Light (Cloud Wolf's former mentor in the prestigious Knights Academy) promise to erase Cloud Wolf's debts if he successfully chases the predicted Great Storm and retrieve new stormphrax, before smuggling it back to Sanctaphrax undetected, as Vilnix and the Leagues know their power will crumble without a need for new chains and phraxdust.

Though Cloud Wolf forbids Twig to set sail with the rest of the crew on this dangerous voyage, he is willingly smuggled on board the Stormchaser by the mutinous quartermaster Slyvo Spleethe and his accomplice Mugbutt, who have secretly entered the employ of the Leagues to seize the stormphrax. On approaching the Great Storm, Spleethe and Mugbutt are killed by the result of their failed mutiny, but their attack causes chaos, and the Stormchaser becomes badly damaged. The crew abandon ship into the Twilight Woods below, except for the injured Cloud Wolf, who refuses to leave his ship. On landing, Twig reunites the crew and decides to lead them back to Undertown.

Although Twig tries to maintain his crew's sanity in the mystical Twilight Woods, Tem Barkwater and Stope Boltjaw are overcome by the disorientating golden mists and are lost to its madness. Twig and the remaining crew make it to the Mire, where they are lured in by the treacherous guide Screed Toe-taker. The most powerful member of the crew, the albino banderbear Hubble, dies of internal injuries from his fall as soon as he crosses into the Mire. With the biggest threat gone, Screed has the pirates make for an old storm-chasing ship, before camouflaging himself and murdering Spiker. Preoccupied with the badly injured Professor of Light, Twig only learns of his mistake as Screed attacks the Stone Pilot. Twig rushes to rescue his last crew member, dueling and killing Screed. They discover a chest of fine grained stormphrax, and Twig realises the truth; Screed was an ancient Knight Academic driven mad by desperation to achieve his quest after being shipwrecked, and gathered the stormphrax from the toenails of his many victims after they had trekked through the Twilight Woods. The Professor of Light's injuries also prove fatal, but not before he realises and passes on the secret of safe production of phraxdust; it can only ever be created from a crushing blow in twilight. Twig discovers that the Stone Pilot is an unturned Termagent Trog named Maugin (a race he had encountered in the Deepwoods), who helps Twig to rebuild Screed's old ship, the "Windcutter."

They successfully fly the ship back to Undertown, and with the help of the Professor of Darkness deposit the stormphrax in the treasury, saving the city. Though Vilnix attempts to assert his authority with force, the academics quickly turn against him, and he flees to the hanging-baskets leading to Undertown, only to fall to his death when his basket is sabotaged on orders of the leagues, in revenge for stopping their supply of phraxdust. The story concludes with Twig getting a ship of his own, the "Edgedancer" and a new crew, financed by Mother Horsefeather in exchange for the secret of phraxdust production. However, as Twig sets off, he enacts a scheme arranged with the Professor of Darkness; the crew throw envelopes containing stormphrax shards and instructions of phraxdust production overboard, ensuring the secret is known by all. The Caterbird suddenly appears, revealing that Captain Cloud Wolf never escaped the storm and is now trapped in Open Sky. The novel ends as the Caterbird leads the Edgedancer over the Edge to save Cloud Wolf, going where no sky-ship has ever gone before.

Characters[edit]

Sources[edit]

  • Stewart, Paul (1999) Stormchaser

See also[edit]