Which Way to Anywhere by Cressida Cowell From Hachette Children #BookReview #Fantasy #MiddleGrade
Which Way to Anywhere by Cressida Cowell,
Hachette Children, pb, £7.99
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
K2, Izzabird O’Hero and Theo and Mabel Smith are step-siblings, but they are not happy with this. The Smiths think the O’Heros are weird, and the O’Heros think the Smiths are boring. But when their mutual little sister Annipeck is kidnapped by a strange Geography teacher, the two sets of siblings must work together to survive the foreign and unearthly worlds the Geography teacher has taken Annipeck to.
Which Way to Anywhere is a step away from the norm for Cressida Cowell (I know this as my children have read all her books multiple times) as there is a science fiction element that I’ve seen before in her works. There is magic; the O’Heros have magical powers, as do some other characters, but there are also robots and explanations of wormholes and other dimensions, and some characters are a mixture of both. I enjoyed this additional element as I felt it brought something new to the story.
This is definitely a scene-setting book of a new series. There are lots of explanations for the types of magic people have, and the magic people can use is different from what you might expect. K2 has the Atlas Gift, the ability to draw maps of places he has never seen and create doorways to them. Annipeck has the Magic-That-Works-on-Plastic and can make plastic things come alive, like hairdryers and toothbrushes. This is not a standard magic caste system, but there didn’t appear to be any consequences on the user once they had used their gift. Maybe I am expecting too much; this is for a younger audience, after all.
I found the book suffered from too many characters. There are five children and a robot companion. There is a mother and her two sisters. A stepfather. A divorced husband, missing, presumed dead. A storyteller following the action. Two bounty hunters. The Abhorraghast. That is a lot for a middle-grade book and something I have always struggled with in Cowell’s book. In The Wizards of Once, Xar was surrounded by sprites and animals and companions, and it became too chaotic. Which Way to Anywhere suffers from the same issue, and most of the adult characters are captured early on, meaning they are names the reader is aware of, but we don’t know anything about them. I suspect this will change in the next book as the adults are warned to teach their children how to use magic for everyone’s safety.
On the whole, Which Way to Anywhere was a whimsical read filled with imaginative landscapes and the main character, K2 is relatable in that he doesn’t feel good enough or comfortable in his own abilities. At times, it suffers from the chaos of too many characters all acting at the same time and a lack of background, but this may even out as the series continues.