Goodreads: Leepike Ridge
Eleven-year-old Thomas Hammond floats down the stream and over a waterfall one day, then finds himself trapped underneath Leepike Ridge. With only a few sardines and a light, Tom will have to find the courage and the wits to stay alive long enough to find his way out. But up above a gang of treasure hunters is thwarting the search efforts.
N. D. Wilson’s first book for children differs from his later selections in that it features no fantasy magic, and yet it still suggests something of the magical, or at least the wondrous. Tom Hammond, after all, finds an adventure right in his back yard–the kind of adventure that tests one courage and changes one forever. It’s the type of thing any young reader secretly longs for–the chance to prove themselves a hero.
It’s true that a gang of treasure hunters, or perhaps just thugs, ups the stakes a little and makes the adventure just a little more than the type of thing one could reasonably expect if also whisked down the river to an unknown subterranean world. They give an old-timey Western feel to the whole, which almost provides comic relief, even though they’re capable of murder. This weird balance between comical and dangerous almost makes their presence seem extraneous to the story, as if they were not fully thought out. But they certainly relief the tedium of watching a character walk around a dark cave system, which is probably the point.
Tom’s story underground takes up just enough space in the book to keep it interesting, though I admit that descriptions of him climbing about did bore me a little. Still, Wilson adds in his signature philosophy to lighten these scenes–that is, he provides somewhat cryptic but high-sounding phrases and allusions to make it seem like something Big and Important is happening here. Which, it is. Tom is going to find out if he’s a hero. He’s also going to find out if he’s a dead hero or a live one.
Altogether, the book is fast-paced read that is classic Wilson-a boy, an adventure, and a hint of something greater behind it all. Fans of 100 Cupboards and the Ashtown Burials series will find a lot to love here, even if the book is not fantasy.