Reading this fantasy novel is like being locked in a room with a puzzle fiend.
This book is filled with puzzles: a crossword and a maze and Mad Libs–style fill-in-the-blank sections. Like many lovers of puzzles, the authors love wordplay. The characters include Baron Terrain and Prince S., who carries a sword called the S. Word. Both nobles appear white in the illustrations. Most other characters are animals or fanciful creatures, but one is a dark-skinned winged centaur in Western garb. And because this is an interactive novel, written in the second person, the main character is “you.” The jokes make the book feel endlessly clever at first but then endlessly exhausting. It’s mildly amusing when the authors use the word “flabbergastation,” (“the state of being flabbergasted (astonished, dumbfounded)”), but they spend several long sentences in the footnote that defines it ruminating about a “flabby ghast station” and what sort of ghost a ghast might be. The plot is just as busy. When it seems to have reached a climax, a new set of antagonists suddenly appears. The story is surprisingly accessible for the second book in a series, but it ends with more dangling plot threads than necessary. Andrews’ drawings, however, are enchanting, combining broadly cartoonish figures with delicate shading. Several blank pages invite readers to contribute their own.
The invention never stops—but that’s not necessarily a good thing. (Fantasy/novelty. 8-12)