Wizards, dragons, castles and pet tuataras! Denika Mead
A J Ponder
Phantom Feather Press
Quest is a young adult fantasy adventure written by Wellington author A J Ponder and was published in 2018 by Phantom Feather Press. Ponder is most well-known for her first published book, Wizard’s Guide to Wellington.
Quest is the first book in the Sylvalla Chronicles. It tells the story of a teenage princess, in fictional Avondale, who goes on a quest with no plan, but tunnel vision and the dream of becoming a hero. With Princess Sylvalla gone, her father, the King, offers a reward for finding her.
Unfortunately, Dothie and Arrant see this as an opportunity to earn some money and go on a hunt to find her. Along the way, Sylvalla picks up many people to help on her quest, including Frances, Dirk, Jonathan and Mr. Goodfellow Senior; however, they all come with their own challenges and desires.
The book pokes fun at the classical princess. Ponder makes Sylvalla almost the opposite of the story book princess. She doesn’t wait around in a tower to be rescued, and she would most likely be furious if anyone attempted to. Sylvalla also detests the idea of marrying anybody, unlike the stereotypical princess whose main aim is finding true love.
Chapters are told from different perspectives and we get the insight of hearing from each of the characters, including the dragon! I really enjoyed this changing perspective, as you gained an in-depth understanding of each of the characters.
It is a very humorous book. Ponder’s characters are witty and inventive: “Dothie nodded sagely. At least he hoped it was sagely.” I also loved the way that, every so often, the author narrates parts of the chapter: “So let us return to the real action with all due haste.”
Ponder’s characters are amazing and unique. Dothie is an evil character with an awesome sense of humor and a pet tuatara named Toots: “Dothie sighed. ‘Look, moron, magic is difficult. It isn’t just; wham, bam, hey presto, big nasty fighter is now a gnat.’” The main character, Sylvalla, is headstrong, brave, and stubborn. She is an incredible, strong character who doesn’t sit around waiting to be rescued: “I wish to be a hero, and if that means facing my fears and selflessly helping others, then I’ll do it.”
The writing is so expressive with unique imagery: “Feeling a little like a startled rabbit that’s been painted bright orange, and set free without a bolt-hole in sight, he kept going.”
When a new character is introduced, the chapter begins by describing a profile of them with their name, class, familiar (their animal companion), specialty, resume and past: “Specialty: Living. 150 years of it.” I really liked hearing this background to the character before we hear from them.
The ending was surprising and it has me hooked for the next one. Quest is for everyone who loves fantasy, adventure, humour, and something slightly different. It is a wonderful book, unlike any I have read before. I thoroughly recommend it. However, be careful: if you go out looking for adventure and it finds you, you’d better be prepared.
Denika Mead is 14 and from Wellington.