Which Way to Anywhere, the magical new series from Cressida Cowell, has had a long incubation

Words: Rachel Hogg

Cressida Cowell needs no introduction to her legions of fans, but the latest out-of-this-world adventure by the author and former Waterstones Children’s Laureate is big news. After all, Cowell has sold over 11 million books worldwide and is known to her readers for the magical characters and settings of How to Train Your Dragon and Wizards of Once. Of course, the former went on to become a blockbuster film and television franchise, introducing Cowell’s characters to millions more fans around the world.

Which Way to Anywhere has been described by the author herself as her most ambitious work yet and it’s richly detailed thanks to her delightful hand-drawn illustrations – an element her readers know well. While the book is hot off the presses, she wrote the first lines long before she became famous as an author. As she puts it: “I’m a big believer that stories have a life of their own”.

Cressida Cowell introduces a magical new series
Mabel, one of the central characters in a magical new series that was some 25 years in the making

Cowell says she originally had the idea for Which Way to Anywhere when she was pregnant with her first child, but it just needed time to develop. This turned into 25 years. Originally titled The Alternative Atlas, the manuscript lay gathering dust in her shed. But then everything changed. She says: “I started writing this story when my beloved hero of a father had recently died, and we all entered a pandemic. We were suddenly in our little family unit, facing something larger than all of us”. Cowell describes how the story found its shape and “came to life flying towards me on a sort of rescue mission”.

The themes are perennial, but with extra piquancy because of this context. “It felt like the right time to be writing a book about some children searching for their lost father and the entire family trying to rebuild itself,” she says. “And the great challenges facing the whole of humanity – and celebrating the power of human creativity in facing those challenges.”

Cressida Debra Hurford Brown
Cressida Cowell in her studio. Photo: Debra Hurford Brown

Which Way to Anywhere tells the story of an imperfect modern family, composed of four very different characters thrown together by their parents’ marriage. This dynamic is complicated by the addition of secret magical abilities and multiple additional worlds. However different they may be, the children become united in their mission to rescue their kidnapped baby sister. Cressida Cowell says: “It’s a story written out of love, and I hope it asks question and answers some”. With magic, action and a new cast of characters to get to know and love, there seems little doubt this epic tale will only swell her loyal army of fans.

Which Way To Anywhere Jacket Final
Which Way to Anywhere is published by Hachette

Which Way to Anywhere by Cressida Cowell is published by Hachette Children’s Group, £12.99. cressidacowell.co.uk

Further reading: Author Sally Gardner on her journey as an author and her struggle with dyslexia