In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
Published by: Big Mouth House
Pub Date: August 15, 2017
Format: hardcover | Source: purchased
Genres: young adult, fantasy
“What’s your name?”
“Serena?” Elliot asked.
“Serene,” said Serene. “My full name is Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle.”
Elliot’s mouth fell open. “That is badass.”
The Borderlands aren’t like anywhere else. Don’t try to smuggle a phone or any other piece of technology over the wall that marks the Border—unless you enjoy a fireworks display in your backpack. (Ballpoint pens are okay.) There are elves, harpies, and—best of all as far as Elliot is concerned—mermaids.
Elliot? Who’s Elliot? Elliot is thirteen years old. He’s smart and just a tiny bit obnoxious. Sometimes more than a tiny bit. When his class goes on a field trip and he can see a wall that no one else can see, he is given the chance to go to school in the Borderlands.
It turns out that on the other side of the wall, classes involve a lot more weaponry and fitness training and fewer mermaids than he expected. On the other hand, there’s Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle, an elven warrior who is more beautiful than anyone Elliot has ever seen, and then there’s her human friend Luke: sunny, blond, and annoyingly likeable. There are lots of interesting books. There’s even the chance Elliot might be able to change the world.
I absolutely loved SRB’s Lynburn Legacy trilogy but didn’t care for Tell The Wind And Fire, so I was unsure what to expect with In Other Lands. That is, until I saw 5 star reviews rolling in from very trusted friends screaming about BANTER and SHIPS and SMOL SON CHARACTERS and SHINY COVERS.
The most refreshing part of In Other Lands is that it manages to be highly original by being completely self-aware and subversive with fantasy tropes. This is a book *for* fantasy fans, newcomers and lifelong fans alike. It was also hilarious, I was honestly laughing on the first page. Elliot was the best with his snarky humor, even if he was almost too prickly at times. But I adored him and his fascination with mermaids and how deeply he cared about his friends despite trying not to. I absolutely loved the characters and how real the relationships felt (platonic and romantic). Elliot, Luke, and Serene might be my new favorite trio ❤ They are all extremely different but fit together like a puzzle.
All of the drama with the students and the classes and teachers felt like high school, in a good way. Lots of kissing and feeeelings and social hierarchies in between all of the battles and treaties and summer vacations. Even the lesser characters felt real in this exaggerated world and it helped the whole book have depth. Yes there are harpies and trolls and exploding electronics, but there is also struggling with loneliness, fitting in, having feelings for your friends. There’s a weight to this world but it makes the humor and heart sharper. And god my ship took wayyyyy too long to sail but it was very worth it in the end (although there are a few ships to choose from!). IT WAS SO CUTE.
I loved the frank talk about sexuality and gender roles- there is on page bisexual rep and gay rep in particular and the elves and Sunborn families are matriarchal to the extreme. The Borderlands was incredibly diverse and for the most part nonjudgmental, aside from specific characters’ prejudices. But they are almost always discussed and refuted on the page. You must read this if you love humorous fantasy and romance, this book is so much FUN. I want more adventures with Elliott and Co!!!
Do you like reading quirky YA fantasy? What did you think of In Other Lands? Let me know!