Quirk's Quest: Into the Outlands marks the first visit to Robert Christie and Deborah Lang's Crutonia in book form. According to the author/illustrator bios, Christie and Lang met under a table in school while taking refuge from a food fight and began building the world of Crutonia shortly thereafter. They have been setting stories in this world for more than three decades now! Considering this, my first visit to this intriguing land was one I hope to repeat again and again.
Quirk's Quest, which is named for Captain Quenterindy Quirk, an explorer charged by King Hoonkl with charting the lesser known corners of the kingdom of Crutonia, might not be the best person for the job, or he could just be a soul who chooses to think the best of everyone. Either way, it doesn't serve him or the crew of the HMS Gwaniimander well at all when they are approached by giant, four-eyed creatures who try to eat their ship and then eat them.
Quirk, Smok, a kitchen assistant who save the captain's life, and an handful of other crew members are the only ones to survive the wreckage. Nersel Bukuby, the cartographer royal, Burtrym and Waldemar, the ecologists, Lanitee the botanist and her assistant Cleus, a centaur, along with scouts Gimil and Zaifer, as well as the Sxervian Frog Brigade, find themselves seeking shelter from the giants in dark, dank caves. There they meet Hukka, a sorceress and hermit who allows them three days to organize, tend to the injured and move out.
Nersel wanders off on his own and encounters the Yoons, unrelentingly cheerful creatures who are immune to Hukka's magical zaps and poisonous to the giants and therefore free to roam the land. They help Nersel and eventually the rest of the crew in the caves, but not before Hukka kidnaps an injured crew member and a battle ensues. Lang and Christie end this first in what should be a long series with the crew of the HMS Gwaniimander headed off into the unknown, fortified by their time with the Yoon and feeling confident after studying the flora and fauna of the land and making a map, despite their injured crew members. I can't say I feel entirely hopeful for their safety, but I HAVE to find out where they end up next!
The illustration style and characters of Quirk's Quest: Into the Outlands remind me of a delightful mix of Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock and Greek mythology. There is comic relief in the goofy, cheerful Yoon and, even though they are terribly destructive, the four-eyed giants look a bit like they wandered off of Sesame Street, making this the perfect fantasy adventure for readers who might be a bit sensitive.
There are a few fantastic maps included in the book as well as a couple of pages at the end of the novel that detail characters of note, including the various brigades of the Sxervian battalion. All in all, Lang and Christie have created a world that I want to spend more time in!
Source: Review Copy