The Lost Barkscrolls by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell is fantastic. Period. I would have said awesome, but that word is used a lot, so the magnitude wouldn’t really be conveyed by using it. There are four separate stories in it, one on each barkscroll. They are as follows:
The Stone Pilot
The Slaughterer’s Quest
The Blooding of Rufus Filatine
Cloud Wolf, the first barkscroll, concerns the time Quint Verginix (a.k.a. Cloud Wolf) had his first sky battle and was (at the end) given his Sky Pirate Name, which he will only share when he becomes a captain, of course. A Sky Pirate Armada is formed by Ice Fox, so that they can destroy a huge sky ship called the Great Sky Whale. Of course, the ship is humongous (it has four gigantic flight rocks after all), but the crew on it isn’t a willing one. They are no better than slaves, and there’s fierce hammer head guards on board (of course, it’s hammer head goblins, not hammer head sharks), as well as thirty league ships to guard it. Usually, but an opportunity has arisen to destroy the ship, free the slaves, and take some valuable black diamonds from a league master (he’s hated by the sky pirates, of course, they hate all league masters, but this one is hated even more). The ratbirds are sent out to scout out how far away the ship is and to report back. Unfortunately, on the way they encounter fog, which they cannot get out of. It heats the flight rock of the Galerider (Quint’s father’s ship) and they start sinking, then they fall into a pocket of air and it abruptly cools, and they rocket upwards, thankfully, they went straight back into the fog, saving them from hurtling (something every Sky Pirate dreads). Anyway, it was a trap, luckily though, Quint was able to hide in one of the fake treasure chests and keep quiet until one hammer head opened a treasure chest. Then he slipped out and freed Steg Jambles, who then knocked out both hammer heads. Almost immediately afterwards, Wind Jackal (Quint’s dad) busted into the room. They disguised themselves with the hammer head’s gear and freed the slaves, then broke free of the ship and got onto the Galerider. And (mwahahahahah!) the Great Sky Whale HURTLED! Up up up up up into the sky, never to be seen again (huzzah!).
The Stone Pilot, the second barkscroll, concerns the time when Maugin (the stone pilot as she is known throughout the Twig Chronicles) missed the blood ritual (which meant she’d never turn termagant) and was caught by a slaver. It relates the story of her life before that in the great Termagant Trog Colony, her mother Loess giving her a prowlgrin pup (which she named Blink), then letting him go, chasing him…… and getting caught by a slaver. As I mentioned above. Then her experiences in the Slave Wagon, when she met a Gabtroll who told her not to tell anyone she was a termagant trog who hadn’t turned termagant. She was put on the bidding hook, then bought by some guy who might have been a league master or something. He started burning her cheek with a sumpwood burner, then, she was saved by a much younger Quint (HOORAY!). She was taken aboard Wind Jackal’s ship and they lifted off. Maris started comforting her, etc. etc. Of course, Ilmus Pentaphraxis (the guy who had “purchased” Maugin (please note that I have a disgusted look on my face)) gave chase in his ship, the Scourge of the Weak. What a fitting title. Anyway, the stone pilot (the one Wind Jackal had had at the time) was killed, and Maugin instinctively stepped up and saved them from hurtling. Yay for Maugin! She found her calling, and even though she was sad about not turning termagant, she still found something she loved to do. Now she resides at Riverrise, waiting for Captain Twig, the last captain she had aboard a ship, to come back (thankfully, I think that the Caterbird he witnessed the hatching of will be bringing him back there).
The Slaughterer’s Quest, the third barkscroll, concerns Keris, the daughter of Twig and a Slaughterer. Keris lives with the Slaughterers, and does not remember Twig too well. When some web-footed goblins arrive at the Slaughterer’s village, they take her back to talk with the great blue clam of their great lakes (the clam resides in the lake called Mirror of the Sky). The only really gigantic thing that happened during their journey to the great lakes was their encounter with the white goblins, almost completely blind creatures that use tentacles on their heads to “see”. They arrived with very little harm at the great lakes, and Keris found that the great clam wanted to see her. Amazing isn’t it? After that, she had to go to the Free Glades. We also find Tweezel cultivating the early version of the Gardens of Light, and discovering the varnish that would allow flight to be possible again, but not with sky ships. Keris arrived, ill, and Tweezel took care of her until she recovered. Then she was taken one of the lakes, she dove in and the sparkling silt that had remained on her since her meeting with the great clam washed off. And Tweezel informed her that she had seeded the lake with life, and that there might be giant clams in the bottom of the Free Glades lake in time! Tweezel (a spindlebug, if I didn’t mention that before) took her to a bar and found some wood elves, who took her to Lullabee Island to meet her grandmother, Maris. And there, Maris told Keris she would meet her father, Twig.
The Blooding of Rufus Filatine, the fourth (and final) barkscroll, concerns the son of Xanth Filatine. If you’ve read the Rook Trilogy, then you would recognize Xanth’s name. Anyway, Rufus is part of the Freeglade Lancers, and has a prowlgrin of his own. Anyway, there is this strange creature, called a Nameless One, from beyond Riverrise, that comes to the Freeglades. Lots of shocking stuff happens and….. oh no wait, this is terrible! I’ve given away WAY too many things, I’m going to give you the whole story and you won’t want to read it yourself! D: I’ll cut the post here so that there are still SOME surprises. ^_^ I hope this post was able to convince you that it is absolutely necessary to read this book (because it is).