Questland by Carrie Vaughn. Boston : Mariner Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2021.
Questland is an ode to the love of all things geeky, from Lord of the Rings and Renaissance Faires to Dungeons & Dragons and Monty Python, placed in an adventure story reminiscent of Jurassic Park and the latest Jumanji movies. I’m not sure I’m enough of a geek to get all of the references in this book, but I really enjoyed reading it!
Dr. Addie Cox is an English professor who teaches classes like Pop Culture as Literature. She carries a lucky D20 die with her, and looks at life through the lens of a RPGer (role playing gamer). Her real-life game begins when Harris Lang, founder of Lang Analytics, recruits her for an unusual task. Lang has created an immersive theme park on an island, a world full of biotech creatures and actors that will allow visitors to solve puzzles and take on heroic quests. He populated the world with Worgs, unicorns, giant spiders, and dragons that are part machine, part biological material, making them look and feel real.
The employees are immersed in their characters, so much that one of them has led a mutiny and put up a shield around the island. A Coast Guard ship crashes into the barrier and everyone on board is killed, leading Lang to hire a mercenary group to infiltrate the island, make it to Tor Camylot, and reset the island, giving control back to Lang. Addie is to join this group to help the military group navigate the quests, challenges, and traps that both Lang Analytics and the mutineers have programmed into the theme park. And Addie has one more skill Lang needs – she is the ex-girlfriend of Dominic, head designer, and most likely the leader of the mutiny. But she also has a major deficit in this “game” – she is a survivor from a school shooting many years ago, and has PTSD from her experience. Her two best friends died, and the gunman could have killed her, too, but didn’t.
The mercenaries make it to the island, but then nothing goes as planned. Addie is amazed at the intricate and amazing world that Lang and his employees have created, but the challenges and employees/characters are all too real and deadly. Addie’s loyalties are questioned and threatened as she goes further into this world where she’d love to visit, maybe even stay. Are the characters they meet friends or foes? What will Dominic do when he finds her on “his” island? Can they make it to Camylot and reset the island’s controls, or should they allow the inhabitants of Insula Mirabilis to keep control of their world?
Anyone who is a proud geek and/or gamer will love this book and all of its references to fantasy worlds and characters.
Mary Beth Adams is the Community Engagement Librarian for Alamance County Public Libraries. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.