Book Review: Questland by Carrie Vaughn
Questland by Carrie Vaughn
Published: June 22nd 2021
Page Count: 304
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 mercenary 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 one day pay big bucks for a convincing, 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 communication. A Coast Guard cutter attempting to pass through the shield has been destroyed. Suspicion rests 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 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.
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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!

Trigger Warnings

violence, school shooting, PTSD, trauma, emotional abuse, manipulation.

First Impressions

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.

Book Review: Questland by Carrie Vaughn

The Review

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”.

Book Review: Questland by Carrie Vaughn - My book review for Carrie Vaughn's brand new release Questland, a fantasy thriller about an island where magic has been brought to life with technology.


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? 😉

Carrie Vaughn
Meet the Author

Carrie Vaughn

Carrie Vaughn is the author more than twenty novels and over a hundred short stories. She’s best known for her New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty who hosts a talk radio advice show for the supernaturally disadvantaged. In 2018, she won the Philip K. Dick Award for Bannerless, a post-apocalyptic murder mystery. Next up for her: two collections connected to the Kitty series – The Immortal Conquistador and Kitty’s Mix Tape – and a pair of novellas about Robin Hood: The Ghosts of Sherwood and The Heirs of Locksley. She’s a contributor to the Wild Cards series of shared world superhero books edited by George R. R. Martin and a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop.

An Air Force brat, she survived her nomadic childhood and managed to put down roots in Boulder, Colorado.

You can find out more about her work over at her website. You can browse her books on Goodreads.

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!

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