Thanks to NetGalley and John Joseph Adams/Mariner Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: July 22nd, 2021
Synopsis: YOU FIND YOURSELF IN A MAZE FULL OF TWISTY PASSAGES…
Literature professor Dr. Addie Cox is living a happy, if sheltered life, in her ivory tower when Harris Lang, the famously eccentric billionaire tech genius, offers her an unusual job. He wants her to guide a military strike team sent to infiltrate his island retreat off the northwest coast of the United States. Addie is puzzled by her role on the mission until she understands what Lang has built: Insula Mirabilis, an isolated resort where tourists will pay big bucks for a high-tech-powered, fantasy-world experience, complete with dragons, unicorns, and yes, magic.
Unfortunately, one of the island’s employees has gone rogue and activated an invisible force shield that has cut off all outside communications. A Coast Guard cutter attempting to pass through the shield has been destroyed. Suspicion falls on Dominic Brand, the project’s head designer—and Addie Cox’s ex-boyfriend. Lang has tasked Addie and the mercenary team with taking back control of the island at any cost.
But Addie is wrestling with demons of her own—and not the fantastical kind. Now she must navigate the deadly traps of Insula Mirabilis as well as her own past trauma. And no d20, however lucky, can help Addie make this saving throw. (Goodreads)
Questland is one of those books that’s a little off-the-wall, and imperfect, but is an entertaining escape from the real world. I’m not into Literary Role Playing Games or LitRPGs as they’re known, but I do LOVE fantasy, especially Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, and Harry Potter, and Carrie Vaughn includes plenty of references to those. Plus, this has dragons AND unicorns in it! Need I say more?
There are a couple of things that prevent this from being a perfect read. In my opinion, the majority of characters are not well written and come across as stereotypical and in some cases, not very believable. The only two to deviate from this one-dimensional mold are a secondary character named Rucker who I disliked in the beginning, before he sneakily changed my mind, and the protagonist of the story, literature professor, Dr. Addie Cox, who fifteen years previously survived a school shooting, but helplessly watched two of her friends die. I absolutely loved her, both for her strength and vulnerability, and also for her humorous reactions to what she sees on the island. Throughout much of the book, she gets herself into situations where she has to be saved, but given that she’s suffering from PTSD, I was willing to cut her some slack. And during the second half of the book, she starts gaining more confidence in herself which was nice to watch. The story itself with its magic-mimicking technology is fascinating, and I found myself wistfully wishing to be able to go visit Insula Mirabilis. Thanks to the fast pace that leads to an ending which wraps everything up nice and neatly, I finished this in one sitting.
I’ll be honest and say that I don’t think Questland is one of Vaughn’s best books, but it’s fun nonetheless and I’m happy I read it. I think my fellow fantasy geeks would enjoy this as well. As for me, now I really, REALLY want a dragon!