The Fearless Travelers’ Guide to Wicked Places
by Pete Begler
Published March 1st 2017
by Capstone Young Readers
Nell and her brothers, George and Speedy are in for the adventure of their lives when their mother is turned into a bird and they must fearlessly travel into the Dreamlands to change her back. Accompanied by experienced travelers, Badger and Pinch, they must make their way between nightmares and dreamers to reach the wicked places before the Dark Daughters unleash a plague upon the world.
I was really shredded reading the first half and feeling bored by what is an incredibly inventive tale with dense plotting and imaginative ideas. I could go on and on listing all the details that I just loved. They aren’t very developed so some may claim this is a shallow story with shallow characters. I don’t think so, but the world takes some pages setting up and instead of just rushing around telling us what’s what the author shows us. It makes for a slow beginning because while we are drawn in by Nell the rest of the characters are left to develop later on in the story. George and Speedy definitely come out shooting in the dialogue and while it was clumsily inserted at times I loved everything these two boys contributed!
All of this contributed to the first half of the book being a slow read. If you can wade through to the last 40% the second half of the book is explosively good. This is because around this point is when Nell gets separated from her brothers and mentors. Finally we are invested! Up to this point Nell was being led around with what amounts to a parent or guide who is totally in the know. They faced difficulties yes, but I never once doubted she would make it. When she’s suddenly in this situation that goes from what we expect to the totally unexpected we suddenly realize she really might not make it. Chapter 23 really saved the day!!
I actually absolutely adored Max! I wish that he played a larger role in the book… Nell and Max together was magic, much how George and Speedy together without their sister worked really well. If relationships are working then bank on them! So much imagination was utilized creating the world that the EQ or emotional intelligence within the story was a touch lacking. The better the book the more glaring the errors unfortunately.
The e-copy I received was in a form that did not allow me to quote the book otherwise I would have pulled my most favorite idea (the Fearless Traveler’s guide!) and the absolutely spot-on descriptions of George and Speedy. A child will still enjoy the build up as there really are a plethora of enchanting ideas. I feel like I’d give it away to list any of them as part of the power of the book is the wonder as these details are revealed and explained. Really there is so much to love about this book and I highly suggest it! I loved the theme that empowers children to overcome their problems and use their brains and not their brawn to get out of difficulties.
I hope another adventure is in the works, as the world building is already done, we can simply slip into the new plot and revisit the characters we came to love…
BOTTOM LINE: A powerful world (with not quite enough conflict) worth the journey!!
As adults reading what is a child’s book, we need the storycraft to be spot on, especially when it comes to having necessary conflict. If the outcome is already certain then we become bored quickly even by cool details. (For example, much was made that her mother would forget the children as a bird but all indicted that she never forgot. This was never a danger to us… Rose was supposed to be a huge conflict for us and never was one. It was a contrivance to me that caused us to take the journey and that’s it! When this is developed properly there is no boring drag…as evidenced later when proper conflict is established!)
Thanks to NetGalley and Capstone Young Readers for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
“NetGalley delivers digital galleys, often called advance reading copies, or ARCs, to professional readers and helps promote new and upcoming titles. Professional readers–reviewers, media, journalists, bloggers, librarians, booksellers and educators–can join and use NetGalley at no cost.” Netgalley is a special section of my book discussions where I post reviews of the digital books I read through this service. It’s quite amazing the gems you can find. I’ve yet to regret reading a book, even if I don’t like it…