It turns out that I already owned a copy of The Quest Begins, which I mentioned the other day. There was a shelf-break between the two books, which is why I didn't notice it immediately. Thankfully, I noticed before the second one could be shipped.
Anyway, I've been reading TQB the last couple of days, and I've been deeply disappointed. And maybe that's why I didn't remember owning it; I read it years ago and didn't like it all that much. At least, that's my guess.
It almost feels like it was written by different people (probably because of the 15-year gap between the writing of the two volumes). Too much of it feels like, "I've got some awkward dialog [from the comic], and I need to explain why that happened". I didn't mind the original dialog, and the explanations feel... forced, I guess. It makes the story feel a little choppy, I think.
It certainly got me thinking about a couple of things I'd never really considered before. One, saving that squirrel was really stupid. Two, the whole quest is borderline insane, given the lack, not only of GPS, but even of roads. I was thinking, after Cutter and Skywise had gone north and a long ways west, their only way to get back would really have been to go over the exact way they'd come. There was really no way to try to take a short-cut, going back directly south-east. Their odds of missing anything they'd recognize, doing that, would have been incredibly high.
The book isn't bad (I do love the story itself), but the magic is definitely missing. Very disappointing (and explains the lack of further volumes, I guess).