In Other Lands by Sara Rees Brennan

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Madelyn Hutchison

Hello everyone, welcome back from spring break. Today I am going to review one of my favorite books called In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan. As per usual with my reviews I will be giving you a quick rundown on the author, the plot of the book, and finally my personal opinion of the book.

About the author: According to her website, Sarah Rees Brennan has been publishing books since 2009, but has been writing since the age of five years old. She grew up in Ireland, but moved to New York after getting her Master’s Degree from Kingston University in London. She currently lives in Dublin. Rees Brennan also is a cancer survivor, in 2017 she was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Now onto her work, she mostly writes young adult fiction and some of her most notable works include: The Demon’s Lexicon trilogy, Lynburn Legacy, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and her help with the Shadow Hunter Universe by Cassandra Clare. Rees Brennan has received a plethora of rewards due to these books and many many others.

In all honesty, she’s an incredibly strong human being and I, as well as many others, find her story truly inspiring.

The plot: In order to understand In Other Lands you’re going to need to imagine Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, and Chandler from the show Friends meshed together to form one big universe. Need a little help? No worries, I got you.

It’s like Harry Potter because it’s got all sorts of creatures such as but not limited to: Eleves, harpies, mermaids, dwarves, trolls, and unicorns. It also starts off much like the typical ‘Chosen One’ plot goes. The main character can see where our world melts into the magical world and they’re taken away to a magical world where they go to school and then come back to our world in the summer.

The book is like Percy Jackson because this “school” is more like a camp and instead of learning magic, the characters are split into two groups: the council group who are the more nerdy type who draw up treaties between the different creatures and update maps for the ever growing world of the magical land and the more athletic group of children who learned how to fight and strategize.

So where does Chandler from Friends come in? Well enter Elliot Schafer, the main character who clearly uses sarcasm to deal with his childhood trauma.

Throughout the four years that Elliot is at school, he and his two friends named Serene (who’s an elven warrior) and Luke go through all sorts of hilarious misadventures and grow together as people.

My personal opinion: I loved this book. I loved the sarcasm. It was absolutely refreshing to read a book that approaches multiple “taboo” topics such as queerness and feminism in such a fun way and not making it the entire plot.

For example, the elven culture is a flipped version of ours. The men stay home and care for their kids, they also are the ones that need to keep their “virtue” and not show any skin. Serene, a girl from an elven tribe who chooses to go to school with mostly human kids, has a bit of a culture shock. Most of the time it ends up with her saying some things that are ultimately funny, but she also goes through some tough scenes too because of the shift in culture. All in all, I think it’s a remarkable way to have the script flipped on our society to show us just how ridiculous we are to believe that one sex is better and stronger than the other.

As for the queerness and the acceptence of LGBTQ+ people in this book and how it’s represented, I believe that it was done beautifully. When two characters come out in the middle of class, no one bats an eye. When Elliot realizes he doesn’t just like girls, he doesn’t rush to put a label on it and while he’s in a relationship with a guy he realizes the own internalized issues that some people in the queer community have with not labeling one’s self.

All in all, I really enjoyed this book, and I hope that when you’re done reading this, you’ll give it a shot too.

(Picture done by Madelyn Hutchison)