Drawn in by the massive d20 on the cover and the gorgeous dragon and unicorn, I then saw the author and knew I had to read Questland. There is so much going on in the cover and the synopsis just grabbed my attention even more. I was not disappionted 😀
This book was provided for free by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity!
Gun violence, school shooting, PTSD, trauma, emotional abuse, manipulation.
I am not at all ashamed to say that it was the cover that caught my attention on NetGalley and then I saw the author; Carrie Vaughn. I’m a huge fan of Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series and honestly, I would have applied to read anything by her. Again, not ashamed to admit that. She’s on my list of “authors I’ll read anything by”. Then I read the book synopsis and hit apply as quickly as I could because holy wowzers… this book sounds AMAZING!!! It’s a total geek book written by a geek! I’m not a tabletop roleplayer myself (I come from a text based roleplay background and the idea of rolling a dice for something when I could just write it seems odd to me) but I’m well versed in the culture as my fiance and most of my friends do play TTRPGs. Everything about this book comes up as a win to me and with Carrie Vaughn as the writer I think we’re all in for an epic treat.
This book was absolutely everything I expected it to be and more. There’s always that worry when someone’s writing a geeky book that it is going to be horribly cringe-worthy, and I was pretty sure that this was in good hands, but having read the book and then Carrie Vaughn’s acknowledgement’s I can confirm that we’re good folks – she’s one of ours. Vaughn is a self-acclaimed geek (it’s blazed across her website header proudly) and she’s certainly screaming it from the rooftops with every single moment in Questland. From the premise of an island where fantasy has come alive and has been designed and brought to life by teams of designers and engineers who are all geeks themselves, to the quotes and random pop culture moments thrown in at perfectly timed intervals.
Then there’s the protagonist Addie Cox. Addie is a literature professor teaching a pop culture course (aka any book geeks dream) and is essentially the wizard of her party because this isn’t a military operation, it’s very much a quest to find out what’s happening and Addie is the only one who speaks the arcane language of fantasy, geeks and gamers. But like all geeks, Addie isn’t super confident, and that’s not because she’s an introvert stereotype who doesn’t go out at all. No, as a geek Vaughn is very aware of the stereotypes and Addie has a complicated backstory that is all too believable in modern-day America. The tragedy and trauma that Addie went through led her to tabletop RPGs and the concise rules of gaming ruled by the throw of a dice helped her get through the darkest times of her life.
It means she speaks a language that none of the soldiers in her party speaks, and as Addie remarks to herself throughout their time together, they may have high stats in strength and constitution like a barbarian but she has the high stats in intellect. Addie sees the world as a roleplayer, thinking of things in terms of dice rolls for perception and at one point she even tells the Captain to make sure he does a perception check. By this point, she’s proved her value to the team and he doesn’t look at her twice, he just takes it under advisement and checks for traps.
My only issue with Questland is how heavily it draws from Tolkien because as regular readers of my blog know, I’m not a fan (an admirer of his skill, but not a fan) and this book is filled with hero worship. Many of the elements of this book and the character themselves are Tolkien hero worshippers and many people forget that Tolkien didn’t actually create elves or dwarves. He just borrowed them from mythology and folklore, and while there is a moment where things are correctly credited to the legends Tolkien admired so much, it is a fleeting moment. It’s understandable; Vaughn is a huge fan herself, and it is her book, I just wish that a book about geeks and filled with geek characters didn’t essentially fall into the stereotype of “all fantasy fans are obsessed with Lord of the Rings”.
Despite my one misgiving about Questland what Vaughn has achieved in one novel is to be commended. There are so many random genuine snippets of conversation that would be at home in any group of geek friends or work colleagues. References to video games, film and book quotes and other pop culture moments are not awkward added to make it look real. It is real. These are like conversations I have on a daily basis with my fiance. Just a couple of geeks being geeks. These dialogue moments compliment Addie’s inner dialogue as a geek seeing fantasy and magic brought to life by technology which is on point at every turn. Vaughn’s rich narrative describing the wonders of the island makes you feel as if you are right there with Addie, uncovering this magical place one step at a time.
Welcome to Questland; are you ready for your quest? 😉
Books by Carrie Vaughn
Interested in more books by Carrie Vaughn? Check out a selection of titles in my store.
Questland: Author of the Philip K. Dick Award-winning Bannerless£9.99
Kitty and the Midnight Hour (Kitty Norville Book 1)£3.99
Amaryllis and Other Stories£3.89
The Ghosts of Sherwood£2.46
Straying from the Path£2.46
The Immortal Conquistador£11.60
Over to you
I review a lot of books for this blog but none are as perfectly suited for my audience as this one. Questland is a book for geeks and it is so much fun. I really can’t recommend it enough and it’s the perfect gift for a roleplayer too!
Questland is out tomorrow!
For more great books, including books by Carrie Vaugh, check out Scribd the world’s original online reading subscription service. You can sign up using my referral code and get 2 months of free reading right now!
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