Monday, November 14, 2016

The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes (Wade Albert White)

The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes
(The Adventurer's Guide series, Book 1)
Wade Albert White
Little, Brown Books
Fiction, YA Fantasy
**** (Good)

DESCRIPTION: After a life spent toiling in Saint Lupin's Institute for Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children, orphan Anne is finally on the brink of freedom. Like all orphans who turn thirteen, she's to be sent off on the supply ship after its annual visit, and even though her unknown parentage has kept her out of any of the academies or quests the other kids can look forward to, she'll at least be away from the horrible Matron and the coal mines - plus, she'll have her exuberant best friend Penelope with her. But a series of uncontrollable events lead to her getting a quest gauntlet stuck to her arm... a gauntlet that activates itself with a rare and powerful quest medallion. This has to violate any number of rules with the Wizards Council, but quests have their own rules, and Anne and her friends (plus a magical book of marginal usefulness) are stuck right in the thick of one. On the plus side, maybe she'll finally figure out where she came from before she was dumped at Saint Lupin's. On the minus side, there's a very high chance that she and the rest of the world will be utterly obliterated.

REVIEW: I needed a fun pick-me-up, and this fast-reading middle grade fantasy adventure fit the bill. Anne's world - composed of floating tiers of land around a gravitational nexus of raw magic - is a fantasy homage/send-up along the lines of Diana Wynne Jones's Dark Lord of Derkholm and The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, or the more recent Bad Unicorn by Platte F. Clarke, but with some technological twists along the way, not to mention hilarious asides from various in-world writings on everything from questing to dragons. Anne's a good-hearted heroine who works through problems with some help from Penelope (who becomes the Fighter of her Rightful Heir quest) and Hiro (the designated Wizard, whose spells have catastrophic side-effects), plus a few other allies she encounters along the way. It's also worth noting that Anne is black, which shouldn't be surprising in this day and age but which is still something of a rarity in fantasy. The story moves at a good clip, though now and again it felt rushed and jumbled even for a middle grade title, and several threads are left unresolved at the end as White teases future installments in this series of undetermined length. That was just enough irritation to knock off a half-star this book almost earned with some laugh-out-loud moments that approached Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett in their hilarity. I had fun reading this one, and expect I'll explore future books if and when they appear.

You Might Also Enjoy:
Bad Unicorn (Platte F. Clarke) - My Review
Dark Lord of Derkholm (Diana Wynne Jones) - My Review
Princeless (Jeremy Whitley) - My Review

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