The Fearless Traveler’s Guide to Wicked Places by Peter Begler
Summary from NetGalley:
Twelve-year-old Nell Perkins knows there is magic at work that she can’t yet understand. Her mother has been taken by witches and turned into a bird. Nell must journey to get her mother back, even if it takes her deep into the Wicked Places — the frightening realm where Nightmares resides. There she must break the spell and stop the witches from turning our world into a living nightmare.
ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
That cover is just begging you to pick this book up and open it, go ahead you know you want to. I truly confess that the cover is the main reason I picked up the book. Having an awesome cover makes recommending a book, to a tween especially, that much easier. The cover does represent the book in it’s creepy, magical manner. Many of the story elements are right there, the creepy witches, the skeletons, the clouds. I could use a few more of the weird dream creatures that the children encounter, but then I guess the cover would be too crowded and busy.
Sorry I couldn’t find a better summary and I’m not very good at writing them. That summary does give just the right amount of the essence of the story to make you want more though, so I guess it will do.
The story starts off a little weird, Nell sees a skull shaped cloud in the sky that she gets a bad feeling from. She then witnesses a shoe falling out of it. Nell starts to tell us about the unexplained disappearances of mothers in her quiet little town. After witnessing her mother’s disappearance, she finds the town recluse, Duke Badger, giving her and her brothers advice and help. He is a fearless traveler, and he is the one that understands what has happened to her mother and how to get her back. I liked Badger, even when he is leading them into trouble, he is always up front about it. And he always manages to get them out again.
I also liked Nell. She is considered rather odd by her classmates at the beginning of the story. Mostly because she can see everyone’s ‘inner animal’. By this I mean that she will be looking at someone and part of their body will suddenly morph into an animal. For example, someone’s head suddenly becomes a bear’s head. To make this ‘sight’ disappear, Nell has to say her full name out loud. This inner animal stuff happens a lot, so she is always stating her full name. But Nell is brave, and she takes her new found status as a fearless traveler well. It is Badger who helps her accept herself and her abilities.
The witches in the story are called the Dark Daughters, and they are super nasty. As are many of the creatures they encounter in the Dream world. Some are kind and helpful though. At times as they were traveling through the Dream World, I had to let me imagination take over and really work hard to keep my rational side in check. There were some mind bending concepts in the Dream World that I really had trouble with.
Altogether this was a good read, that often times read like a movie. In fact it would make a good movie, or TV show. I think that most tweens that like a scary, creepy fantasy will enjoy this one.