THE FEARLESS TRAVELER’S GUIDE TO WICKED PLACES by Pete Begler

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Nell Perkins’ world has never been perfectly normal.  After all, “normal” people don’t tend to see those around them with animal heads lurking beneath their outer facade of humanity.  Everyone seems to think Nell is crazy, except her mother, Rose.  Rose treats Nell and her brothers like the most important and special people in the world and helps Nell keep a grip on reality.  But when her mother is swallowed up by a giant skull shaped cloud and taken prisoner by the Dark Daughters, Nell knows for sure that she is not crazy.  This is reality.  And since she seems to be the only one who can see it, it will be up to her, her brothers, and the eccentric old man down the street to travel through the Dreamlands and rescue Rose from a world of nightmares.

This novel was enjoyable, but heavy on explication and light on character development.  The subject matter of this book is reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s work, but lacks the grounding in traditional folklore that makes the latter so compelling.  I would recommend it to middle grade fantasy readers who like their stories a little dark, but aren’t too worried about thematic depth.

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