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[personal profile] renay posting in [community profile] ladybusiness
Portal fantasies feel like a staple of childhood. I missed most of the literary ones. I loved In Other Lands, but as much as it is a portal fantasy it's also a critique of them, a loving celebration and deconstruction of their tropes and politics, and I probably missed 95% of everything this book does. Does it do what it set out to do well? Yes, says the portal fantasy newbie, whose experience with portal fantasy as a Youngster comes in the form of the following:

  • Through the Ice by Piers Anthony and Robert Kornwise
  • Labyrinth, starring David Bowie
  • The Neverending Story; too bad about those racial politics
  • Cool World starring Brad Pitt, which I watched when too young
  • Space Jam, the best sports movie after Cool Runnings

I understand if people, looking at this list, take my opinions about In Other Lands with a grain of salt. Because I missed Narnia until my 20s and quit after two books, only cared about Alice in Wonderland because of the weird poems until my 30s (I still have poem about The Jabberwocky memorized) and only watched my favorite portal fantasy ever, Spirited Away, after I came to college.

In Other Lands drew me in because I recognized so much of myself in the main character, Elliot. He's rude, cruel, and casually degrading to everyone around him except one of his best friends, Serene. His other "best friend" is Luke Sunborn, who is what passes as a popular kid in the Borderlands. They clash over and over, but because Serene and Luke are close, Elliot has to put up with Luke, too. Elliot is so emotionally maladapted due to parental neglect and societal bullying that his main mode of operation is to strike first in every situation with the most cutting words possible. In Other Lands is his journey as he slowly begins to acquire some emotional intelligence. It felt so close to my own journey that I started to wonder if Brennan secretly visited my former classmates and did interviews about their experiences that she later turned into dialogue for Elliot.

There's burgeoning war, politics, identity crises, romances of youth, a brutal look at the price of parental apathy, and yes, mermaids. If you love portal fantasy, I rec it cautiously as a portal fantasy novice. If you love sarcastic asshole main characters who slowly learn to be good, I enthusiastically rec it. And if you've been wanting some bisexual rep in your portal fantasy, here's an excellent place to start.

I give it ten golden harpy feathers.
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