Okay, so it looks like I didn’t actually say I might do reviews but I like praising things through reviews because it’s more honest.
Actually that’s a lie because I don’t really review things. BUT I am reviewing this so there you go.
Aaaanyway, this is a review for the children’s novel The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi, the first book in a planned trilogy.
The book follows Eva Nine, a twelve-year-old girl living in an underground facility with her caretaker, Muthr. When a creature invades the underground facility, however, Eva is forced into the outside world and with the help of her new alien friend, Rovender Kitt, and Muthr, she explores the world in search of other humans, all the while avoiding Besteel (the aforementioned creature), a hunter dead-set on capturing Eva Nine.
One of my favorite things about the book is how it blends story and world exposition. Unlike much adult fantasy, every meticulous detail of the world is not explained (furthermore, I doubt Tony DiTerlizzi even completed the world as a whole). This creates a refreshing change of pace, where we have a vibrant and rich world that still feels mysterious. As a side effect, the plot feels very important, despite its seemingly wandering nature–the plot feels like it needs the world, and the world feels like it needs the plot. It’s really just great.
One common criticism I’ve heard for the book is that it has a slow pace, and at a good five hundred odd pages (I don’t have easy access to my copy so I can’t check the precise amount) it certainly takes a while to conclude. Personally, however, I was enraptured by the world from the start; like I said before, there’s minimal exposition on the world itself and so there’s a constant sense of mystery and wonder as Eva Nine goes on her journey.
If there’s one complaint I have with the book, it’s that the last part (again, I don’t have easy access to the book so I can’t find the exact spots) feels all but unedited. It’s grammatically sound, of course, but there’s a lack of severity to the prose in important scenes, certain plot points seem forgotten, and as Eva Nine and her companions travel through a supposedly dangerous region there’s very little… danger. It’s as if there just wasn’t enough time to finish editing, which is a real shame.
Now that I’ve written a “free” section, I want to review each part of the book; characters, plot, world, and prose/speech.
The characters are very well done; minor characters have a sense of caricature to them, but in a mostly believable way. The main characters are well-developed, from Eva Nine’s appropriate naïvety to Rovender Kitt’s reluctant following, to Muthr’s concern for what might as well be her child. There’s minimal character development outside of Eva Nine (and even then it’s slight), but considering this is the first book in a trilogy it doesn’t feel like a flaw.
The plot is slightly lacking. While personally I loved just about every aspect of the book, the plot does have a lack of… well, muchness to it. Despite the book’s long length, it felt as if not much happened and that more should have. What plot there is, though, is quite well done, and the ending feels suitably climactic, if not for the aforementioned lack of severity to the prose.
I already mostly explained what I think of the world, but in summary: it’s awesome. I don’t want to say too much and spoil things, but it feels suitably fleshed out without having to explain every detail… and that’s all I really have to say.
The prose and speech are great, again with the exception of the end prose-wise. The prose mostly just does its job, without anything particularly exceptional to it, but it does have an air of mystery, with an almost fairy-tale-like quality. Similarly, the speech is exceptional; characters have their own sound to them, and speak in a natural and personalized way. It’s fantastic, really.
Now, before I end the review, there is one thing I have to remark on: the book’s illustrations. Every part of the book opens with a full, two-page illustration, there are numerous illustrations directly in the pages, and every chapter begins with a two-page picture with text in a bubble. The sheer number of illustrations are already staggering, but what’s even more exceptional is the quality (and the fact that all were done by Tony DiTerlizzi himself). The style doesn’t feel particularly stylized or different, but the color scheme is; rather than full color or black and white, each image is in shades of blue and green, and to beautiful effect. I don’t think it’s legal to post pictures of them, but trust me: they’re nothing short of beautiful.
Welp! I do believe my review is finished, and I suppose I need to give the book a score.
The book is pretty much perfect, but the roughness of the last part is too jarring and severe for the book to get five stars. Hopefully the sequel can do better!