Jennifer Bell, Wonderscape, Walker Books Ltd., June 2020, 352 pp., RRP $14.99 (pbk), ISBN 9781406391725
When Arthur, Ren and Cecily investigate a mysterious explosion, they find themselves trapped in the year 2473. Lost in the Wonderscape, an epic in-reality adventure game, they must call on the help of some unlikely historical heroes to play their way home before time runs out.
The premise of Wonderscape is a fascinating concept – a massively multiplayer galaxy-spanning real-life game, played in the late 25th century by adventurers young and old, through worlds inhabited by lifelike automatons. It’s a fresh and original story that has been well-conceived and brilliantly executed, and is jam-packed with excitement and adventure from start to finish.
Bell wastes no time sending the three main characters hurtling into the action and danger pretty much from the very first page – you know you’re in for a wild ride when there are explosions before you’ve even hit page two! Bell’s writing is exciting and engaging, and she keeps the reader avidly turning those pages. The story is well paced and never lags for a moment.
Arthur, Ren and Cecily start out as virtual strangers, forced to work together out of necessity, however their shared peril shows them that as a team, using their individual strengths in concert, they can overcome the greatest adversity. Bell has done a great job drawing together three very different protagonists from diverse backgrounds, each with their own foibles and distinct personality traits. The real craft is in the way she gives them all real development within the space of a single novel, which is something that takes genuine skill to accomplish. The book is written in the third person so that the narrative isn’t centred on just one character’s perspective, but is shared amongst the three.
Wonderscape is a stand-alone story (but there’s totally room for a sequel! Hint hint Jennifer Bell if you’re reading this!) that will appeal to readers aged nine and over. It’s fun, intriguing, exciting and innovative, and I dearly hope that there’s more where it came from.
Reviewed by Christian Price