Wonderscape by Jennifer Bell

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Published by Walker Books, 2020.

Wonderscape is an exciting new middle grade novel – part science fiction, part fantasy. The Wonderscape is the largest in-reality adventure game (I-RAG) ever created. 13-year-olds Arthur, Cecily and Ren unwittingly find themselves there after a garden gnome explosion on the street where they live.

After walking through a strange doorway in a house on Peacepoint Estate, they not only step into another world but into another time – 400 years in the future, in fact. Gaming has really advanced in the 25th century. The Wonderscape is divided into different realms on different planets (some outside the Milky Way), players are called wanderers and travel from realm to realm via wonderways. These gateways between realms are opened with realm keys which the wanderers have to collect by solving riddles and completing challenges. As well as the realm keys, wanderers can earn money and gain wonderskills. Arthur, Cecily and Ren join in with the challenges, only the stakes are much higher for them; they have just 53 hours to make it home or their bodies will turn into protoplasm!

The Wonderscape has been designed and built by Hxperion, a company founded by three siblings: Milo Hertz, Valeria Mal’fey and Tiburon Nox. The Wonderscape is staffed by M-class, V-class and T-class mimics – androids built in the image of each of the three siblings. Early on in the story we learn that Milo is missing and pretty soon we see Valeria and Tiburon for the power-crazed, ruthless people that they are. Just wait until you see the V-class mimics in action – truly terrifying in a very inspired way!

I liked the variety of the differently themed realms, each has its own distinct landscape and is themed around a different hero from human history, including Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison, Wangari Maathai and Tomoe Gozen. I enjoyed this diversity and finding out more about the lesser-known historical figures.

Jennifer Bell has created a vividly imagined world full of wonder – amazing inventions, mind-blowing technology, and fantastic detail. I loved the description of dragon odour as “a mix of burned toast and black treacle”. There are puzzles and riddles to solve, and the trio face peril at almost every turn: swinging boulders, hurtling avalanches, rocket launchers, and vertiginous race tracks – to name a few. Arthur, Cecily and Ren learn the power of working as a team, and Bell’s portrayal of an unlikely friendship between three mis-matched teens is excellent. 

Wonderscape is an inventive time travel adventure that will fire children’s imaginations.

Rating: 💙💙💙💙

Suitable for children aged 8+

Thank you to Walker Books for providing me with an electronic version of this book via NetGalley.

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