The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes Book Poster Image
Creative take on quest tale marred by hurried storytelling.

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Kids say

age 10+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Readers can think about this particular brand of magic and how it fits in with other magical worlds. Also, are there other worlds you can think of where dragons talk and offer transport? Or magic has won out over technology?

Positive Messages

Resourcefulness, teamwork, and bravery save the day. Have compassion and mercy, even for your enemies.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Girls with brown skin don't usually get to head up quests in adventure-fantasies such as these, but Anne does. She's resourceful, brave, and stands up for her friends. Her friend Penelope (who's white) is the brawn behind the outfit, throwing herself into dangerous situations to help her friends. Hiro is the nerdy boy sidekick who is happy for a chance to prove himself.

Violence

Two characters fall to their possible deaths, although they turn to smoke on the way so it's hard to tell if they were really alive. The main character is stabbed with a sword then healed by a dragon and her arm is almost cut off. Large iron knights, a pack of wolves, a swarm of mechanical dragonflies, and zombie sharks give chase. A big explosion causes only minor injuries, a fall from a drawbridge into a moat leaves a girl unconscious, and, as the title implies, the team of explorers is captured, imprisoned, and then escapes.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes is a humorous adventure-fantasy with a minority girl character (described as having dark brown skin) -- an orphan named Anne -- who heads up a quest to find her roots and claim a kingdom. The violence is relatively low with two characters falling to their possible deaths (though they turn to smoke on the way down so they may not have been alive to begin with). The main character is stabbed with a sword then healed and her arm is almost cut off. Large iron knights, a pack of wolves, a swarm of mechanical dragonflies, and zombie sharks give chase. A big explosion causes only minor injuries, a fall from a drawbridge into a moat leaves a girl unconscious, and, as the title implies, the team of explorers is captured, imprisoned, and then escapes. They use a mix of bravery, teamwork, and resourcefulness to stay ahead of the bad guys.

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What's the story?

In THE ADVENTURER'S GUIDE TO SUCCESSFUL ESCAPES, Anne can't wait to leave St. Lupin's Institute for Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children on her 13th birthday. All she needs is a ticket for the yearly ferry and she's free. But when the Matron's iron knight hands out the tickets to all 13-year-olds, Anne is left out. She knows she must find a way to escape, and, with a little help from a magic book she "borrowed" from the orphanage's boarded-up library, she finds a way. A woman appears in a fireball as she runs from St. Lupins and offers her a gauntlet and a place at her quest academy. Once she's had years of careful training at the academy, she and her best friend Penelope from the orphanage can travel the world, taking on dangerous quests just as she's always wanted. But there's one major problem: in the Matron's office Anne's magical gauntlet attracted an equally magical medallion triggering a quest to begin immediately. No training, no nothing, and four days to solve a riddle and finish the quest or she's locked away in prison forever.

Is it any good?

This adventure-fantasy offers plenty of wit and lots of creative world-building, but is marred by hurried storytelling. There's lots to love in a world with magical books, dragons that carry people via fireballs, and orphans finally getting a chance at real adventure, but wow does freshman author Wade Albert White hurry through all of it. Yes, the characters are in a hurry to complete the quest in four days or else, but it doesn't mean the storytelling has to rush-rush-rush. White barely introduces characters -- especially Hiro, the third member of the quest -- barely explains how the magic or the magical council governing everything works, and barely describes the various tiered worlds the kids rush off to in order to finish the quest.

He also barely explores the inner worlds of his characters -- a big disappointment since we have such a great hero in Anne. Minority characters rarely get to head up quests in kids adventure-fantasies, so it would have been wonderful to give her thoughts a much bigger presence. Perhaps if a sequel is in order, readers who stick with Anne and friends will get to learn more about everything missing in this book.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the magical book in The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes. What hints does it give Anne, Penelope, and Hiro about how to complete their quest?

  • Before each chapter the author includes excerpts from books, student evaluation forms, etc. Besides providing lots of humor, how do these add to your sense of this magical world?

  • Would you go on another quest with Ann and friends? Why or why not?

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