Foreword Reviews

The Fearless Travelers’ Guide to Wicked Places

Something strange is happening in the coastal town of Mist Falls. A purple, skull-shaped cloud appeared overhead a week ago, and now several mothers have disappeared, including twelve-year-old Nell Perkins’s mother, Rose. Nell and her little brothers, George and Speedy, turn to Duke Badger, a shopkeeper/steampunk hero with a leather trench coat and weaponized umbrella, for help. Freyja Skoll and her coven of Dark Daughters have turned Rose into a bird and trapped her in a cage. With Badger as their chaperone, the Perkins children must undertake a dangerous journey to the Wicked Places, a land of nightmares, to find a Dreamer who can change their mother back. But will Rose remember her children after a transformation that wipes her memory?

The Fearless Travelers’ Guide to Wicked Places, the first novel from movie and television writer Pete Begler, is a triumph of world building that combines familiar fantasy elements in surprising ways. It has magic spells and talking animals—including a sea-turtle boatman and a haughty cat that was once a queen—but also evil clowns and animate skeletons. Begler doesn’t shy away from some pretty dark, scary territory, as when Nell sees a bloody shoe falls out of the sky. He successfully balances the cozy anthropomorphism of a Narnia-type land with the borderline horror of Neil Gaiman or Stephen King. The vividness of this imaginary world would undoubtedly lend itself well to a big-screen adaptation.

At its heart, this is the story of a gutsy family outfoxing everything that’s thrown at it. Yet it’s also about finding the hero inside each one of us. Nell develops into a fearless traveler over the course of her adventures; while readers might not encounter witches and octopus-wolf hybrids, they’ll emulate her courage as they face the everyday perils of growing up.

Reviewed by Rebecca Foster

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the author for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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