Book details

The Cautious Traveller's Guide to the Wastelands

A Novel

Author: Sarah Brooks

The Cautious Traveller's Guide to the Wastelands

The Cautious Traveller's Guide to the Wastelands

About This Book


For fans of Piranesi and The Midnight Library, a stunning historical fantasy novel set on a grand express train, about a...

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Book Details


For fans of Piranesi and The Midnight Library, a stunning historical fantasy novel set on a grand express train, about a group of passengers on a dangerous journey across a magical landscape

“Breathtaking…Abounding with mysteries and marvels.” —Samantha Shannon, New York Times bestselling author of The Priory of the Orange Tree

It is said there is a price that every passenger must pay. A price beyond the cost of a ticket.

There is only one way to travel across the Wastelands: on the Trans-Siberian Express, a train as famous for its luxury as for its danger. The train is never short of passengers, eager to catch sight of Wastelands creatures more miraculous and terrifying than anything they could imagine. But on the train's last journey, something went horribly wrong, though no one seems to remember what exactly happened. Not even Zhang Weiwei, who has spent her life onboard and thought she knew all of the train’s secrets.

Now, the train is about to embark again, with a new set of passengers. Among them are Marya Petrovna, a grieving woman with a borrowed name; Henry Grey, a disgraced naturalist looking for redemption; and Elena, a beguiling stowaway with a powerful connection to the Wastelands itself. Weiwei knows she should report Elena, but she can’t help but be drawn to her. As the girls begin a forbidden friendship, there are warning signs that the rules of the Wastelands are changing and the train might once again be imperiled. Can the passengers trust each other, as the wildness outside threatens to consume them all?

Imprint Publisher

Flatiron Books



In The News

Instant International Bestseller!

A Most Anticipated Book (Publishers Weekly, CrimeReads, The Nerd Daily, FanFiAddict, Historical Novel Society, SheReads, The Bookish Mom, GeekDad’s Stack Overflow, Modern Mrs. Darcy)

“This transporting blend of historical fiction and fantasy is going to have you gripped…You’ll be mesmerized by the cast of characters…as well as the surreal magic of the setting and of course, the train itself…If you haven’t got it at the top of your pile yet, we suggest you move it on up. You’ll be thinking about this one long after you’ve put it down.”

“This book is steampunk perfection!…Brooks brings a Mieville-esque mentality to her novel, with some terrifying creepy-crawlies and an even more terrifying capitalist conglomerate.”

“Can you imagine a crossover between Murder on the Orient Express, Game of Thrones and Paradise Lost? If so, you might be some way towards understanding Sarah Brooks’s exciting, intelligent debut novel, The Cautious Traveller’s Guide to the Wastelands… Brooks’s descriptions of the landscape are sensuous and enigmatic…Brooks brings together serious ideas, a convincing world and a fast-paced plot. It’s a recipe for commercial and literary success.”
The Times (UK)

“Despite the familiarity of the train motif and its furniture, Brooks takes it in an unfamiliar direction. What starts off as a linear trip, slowly builds to one that leaves the comfort of the rails. She also taps into one of the layers of story a train offers: This journey makes a great extended metaphor for life itself…A fun ride.”
Locus Magazine

“This mesmerizing historical fantasy with a dash of steampunk will delight seasoned SFF fans and serve as a gateway for readers newer to the genre…Mysterious and captivating: I couldn’t wait to learn what would happen next. For fans of Emma Seckel’s The Wild Hunt and Susannah Clarke’s Piranesi.”
—Modern Mrs. Darcy

“If a luxury train raced through Jeff VanderMeer’s Area X, filled with the cast of Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree, it would be something like the Trans-Siberian Express of this story…Ultimately, this journey through the unknown provides ample opportunity for musings about the power of travel to change people, while examining humans’ relationships to the environment, to capitalism, and to each other…A nerve-wracking but empathetic first-class read for lovers of the strange and uncanny.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“Secrets abound…Brooks’ novel presents the reader with a late nineteenth-century Asia and Europe both familiar and bizarre…The true terrors are human greed, fear, and desire for power. This is ultimately a story about connection, friendship, and the importance of being unafraid of change. Highly recommended for its many mysteries, fascinating cast of characters, and beautifully strange Wastelands. An immersive fantasy with a complex and driven heroine.”

“A journey both unnerving and powerful, which thunders along at breathtaking speed, abounding with mysteries and marvels. Be warned – once you step into The Cautious Traveller’s Guide to the Wastelands, you’ll never want to disembark.”
—Samantha Shannon, New York Times bestselling author of The Priory of the Orange Tree

"I was completely transported by this book, lost in its world and mysteries, astounded by its beauty, and full of admiration for its humanity. I loved every second I spent with it, and urge everybody to pick up a copy. It’s an astonishing journey."
—Stuart Turton, bestselling author of The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

“Richly imaginative, profoundly allegorical, and utterly propulsive, I loved The Cautious Traveller’s Guide to the Wastelands. With impeccable pacing and elegant storytelling, this novel is pure delight. Though all on the same train, each character takes a different journey and it is most marvellous to join in as they travel the Wastelands to reach their final destinations. Bravo! All aboard for a captivating and transformative adventure!”
—Melissa Fu, author of Peach Blossom Spring

“This is a wild and wonderful journey; gloriously imaginative and completely captivating. Rich in allure, intrigue and suspense, it's a ride that readers will never want to end.”
—Jennifer Saint, bestselling author of Ariadne, Elektra, and Atalanta

“Vividly imagined and deftly paced, The Cautious Traveller's Guide to the Wastelands asks us to reconsider our place within the natural world amid a backdrop of capitalism and empire. Brooks has penned an elegant novel that is at once thrilling and transcendent. Also, there is a really cool train.”
—Rita Chang-Eppig, author of Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea

“A spellbindingly original and totally engrossing book. I so much want to ride that train!”
—Sharon Bolton, author of The Pact

Railsea meets Annihilation but with so much more swagger: The Cautious Traveller’s Guide to the Wasteland is mysterious and clever and brilliant.”
—Natasha Pulley, bestselling author of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street

About the Creators

The Cautious Traveller's Guide to the Wastelands

The Cautious Traveller's Guide to the Wastelands