Finalist, 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards: Travel and Regional Non-Fiction categories.
The journey continues in Part 2 of Into the Carpathians: an engaging chronicle of a hiking and wildlife research expedition along the Carpathian and Sudety Mountains, from Romania to Germany, some 800 miles as the crow flies. Still on the trail of wolves, we now explore the enchanting mountain landscapes of Slovakia, Poland, and the Czech Republic, where encounters with wolves, bears, and lynx; lumberjacks, shepherds, and outlaws; poets, tyrants, and saints; nomads, nobles, and knights; sprites, spirits, and witches—and such ancient peoples as Neanderthals, Celts, and Quadi; and such imposing historical figures as Marcus Aurelius of the Roman Empire, Svatopluk I of Great Moravia, Stephen I of the Kingdom of Hungary, Bolesław the Brave of the Kingdom of Poland, and Jan Sobieski of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth—provide broad insight into the natural, historical, and mythological forces that have shaped, and continue to shape, the nations, cultures, and psyches along the way. 72 illustrative color photographs also emblaze this memorable trek (this is the Deluxe Color Edition; we also offer an edition with the photos in black & white at a lower price; see ISBN 978-0578754475).
There are times when the historical sections ramble or interrupt the travelogue's momentum, especially when a plethora of names and dates are packed in a relatively short space. But readers will appreciate the thoroughness of Sparks’s research, and the way he tells the story of the trip will keep them turning the pages.
The lasting political instability in the region is emphasized in the chapter on Slovakia, when a local interpreter mocks the police after Sparks's car is broken into. He introduces the history of the Lemko people by way of their museum dedicated to Andy Warhol, an ethnic Lemko. The illustrations are a boon: colorful pictures of meticulously crafted wooden churches and the massive Spiš castle bring Sparks's stories to life. The photo of the Skull Chapel of Czermna is a particularly interesting, if gruesome, highlight. Sparks honors his journey and teammates with a thoughtful and historically dense, but still lighthearted, account of their time together, blazing a new trail.
Takeaway: Travelogue fans will appreciate Sparks' deep dive into both a visitor’s view of local cultures and historical research.
Great for fans of: Francis Tapon's The Hidden Europe, James Roberts' The Mountains of Romania: A Guide to Walking in the Carpathian Mountains.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B-