I was provided with an advanced reader copy by NetGalley for an honest review. Thank you to Capstone Young Readers for the opportunity.
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Nell Perkins is no ordinary girl and everyone in town knows it. So when mothers start disappearing, she knows it to be no ordinary deed either. Suddenly, Nell has no other choice but to embark on a dangerous journey to the Wicked Places in order to keep her family together, and find out just how fearless she can be when faced with the worst Nightmares of all.
The Fearless Travelers’ Guide to Wicked Places is a wonderful story about a dauntless 12-year-old girl’s journey to save her mother and the entire world along with her.
When I first read the synopsis, I felt for sure this would be a nice children’s story but probably unable to blow anyone’s mind. There had to be at least a thousand other similar plots out there, with equally pretty covers to draw the readers in.
How wrong I was.
Begler’s imagination is close to outstanding. I can safely say that it borders on the insane, at times, but not in a forced way. Think Alice in Wonderland. Then His Dark Materials. Those, I think, were probably some of his inspirations, or at least I saw a lot of them in this book. Of course, it is based on the premise of dreams and nightmares being real and we all know how crazy those get.
The world building was truly fantastic and I was able to picture the Dreamlands perfectly in my head, even without the aid of a map (which will be added before the release). The author describes everything in perfect detail without being exhaustive and leaving the necessary amount to the reader’s imagination.
Begler comes from a TV/movies background and it really shows in his writing. A great asset, in my opinion, to make the story sound as organic as possible, which I believe he achieved almost flawlessly.
One thing I loved (and hated at the same time) was the fact that literally nothing in this story is ever easy. Just when things seem to be falling into place, and you’re ready to shout “victory!”, everything just goes completely wrong again and hopes and dreams are thrown out the window. I could feel the characters’ despair and frustration, and truly fear for their lives. No one was really safe and Nell, especially, just goes through so much my heart continuously bled out for her and her family.
They weren’t perfect, at all. Each character had their quirks and flaws, and what’s really cool is that those same flaws/personalities contribute to several mishaps taking place. They just mess up so much. But that’s what made me connect with them and care for them as if they were real.
The writing wasn’t perfect but then again, I read an uncorrected proof so it’s bound to go through a lot of changes. Overall, I think it conveyed exactly what it was meant to convey and took the reader forward very effortlessly. That is to say, the pacing was great and never for a moment did I feel bored or unwilling to pick it up again. The story definitely felt long but in an enriching kind of way. It took every moment available to tell the reader something meaningful and important, and not simply extend the narrative with beautiful, empty words.
The only real issue I had with the writing were the noun repetitions and the POV changes. Sometimes I was reading the story through Nell’s eyes and suddenly I was experiencing some other character’s feelings and thoughts. This was confusing and could definitely be improved.
Also, as mentioned previously, the story did feel long so be sure to have that in mind.
From the very first page The Fearless Travelers’ Guide to Wicked Places seized my attention and refused to let go. It was definitely darker than I imagined it would be, to the point of chilling me to the bones at times. So I had to wonder just how middle school appropriate it could really be. In the end, I think early teens and adults alike will enjoy this tale of profound courage and endless imagination, and feel inspired to become Fearless Travelers themselves.
I highly, highly recommend this book. It’s magical, full of surprises and a true homage to a mother and daughter’s unyielding love. It will definitely make you want to go hug your parents/parental figures tight and tell them you love them, just in case there are any witches out there.
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