I read The StrangeWorlds Travel Agency a few months back but either I didn’t write a review at the time or I have left it behind in one of the many worlds of the multiverse. Anyway, with the second book in the series due for release in April it felt like the perfect opportunity to spend an afternoon with L. D. Lapinski’s superb debut read. Here’s what you need to know about The StrangeWorlds Travel Agency…you won’t find it on tripadvisor or booking.com and it definitely does not offer holidays to Disneyland or the Algarve, but what it can offer you is the chance to holiday in the multiverse. And for those lucky enough to stumble into StrangeWorlds, a world of magic and wonderful adventure awaits.
Twelve-year-old Felicity (Flick) Hudson is not thrilled to be moving away from the city to the quiet and peaceful village of Little Wyvern. But then she stumbles upon a rather shabby shop on a quiet street. On first glance there is nothing special about the tiny, squashed shop that is leaning to one side with its cracked windows and peeling paint. But Flick feels strangely drawn to it and it is the shop that uncovers a magical gift from inside her that she never knew she had. Not everyone can see the glitter and sparkles that float in the air but Flick can and that makes her special. So special, that she is invited by the shop’s Head Custodian, Jonathon Mercator, to be the latest member of the StrangeWorlds Society. StrangeWorlds is a multiverse of different worlds that are reached by stepping into various suitcases and at the heart of the multiverse is the City of Five Lights, a city that is in imminent danger. The magic that holds everything together is failing and the city is collapsing in on itself - streets, buildings and even people are disappearing at an alarming rate. And if Jonathon and Flick fail to come up with a plan it could take everything they know and love with it.
I had big expectations before I began reading this and I am thrilled to say that they were not only met, they were exceeded. Lapinski has written a magical fantasy adventure that is out of this world in all senses. I love Ross Mckenzie’s ‘The Nowhere Emporium' and very much like that book, Lapinski’s story is about a magical shop and the wonders that lie within. Her debut is a wonderful mixture of mystery, colourful worlds, suitcases and travel. Given the lack of real-world travel that we have been able to do in recent times, The StrangeWorlds Travel Agency offers the perfect form of escapism where a step into a suitcase leads to adventure and new places to explore. How cool would it be to be able to visit a new world by stepping into a suitcase?
The idea of an ordinary child discovering they have magical powers is certainly nothing new, a certain boy wizard comes to mind. But what Lapinski has created is a far cry from Harry Potter and Hogwarts. You will not find any wand waving here, instead what you will find is something unique and really rather special. Lapinksi’s world building is superb. Each world is richly imagined; from jewel-filled jungles to forests of faes. The two main protagonists are well developed and are both dealing with their own issues. Jonathon Mercator has the weight of several worlds on his young shoulders, hundreds of worlds in fact. Since inheriting the family business after his mother died and his father disappeared his life has been a constant struggle. He is desperate to find out the truth about his father and running a magical business is proving very challenging. Flick is dealing with her own family dramas - feeling unnoticed since the arrival of newborn Freddy and finding herself used for doing jobs and running errands. Her childhood is lacking the adventure that she desires, she longs to place the flags of the countries she has visited on the map that hangs on her bedroom wall but the solitary flag of England is all she has to show for her adventures thus far. Luckily for Flick, and the reader, new worlds and adventure are right on her doorstep.
Lapinski’s debut is in a world, actually several worlds, of its own. It is magical and marvellous and I thoroughly enjoyed my getaway with The StrangeWorlds Travel Agency. The eccentric Jonathon Mercator makes quite the tour guide. I look forward to stepping into another suitcase for another adventure soon.
Recommended for 9+.