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Lake Region's Student Newspaper

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LR Post

Review: In Other Lands

Staff Pick!

In Other Lands, by Sarah Rees Brennan, is a witty and delightful twist on the teen portal fantasy genre, portal fantasy meaning the plot includes the of removing a teenager from “normal” life and entering a magical world connected to our own. The twists start immediately when the main protagonist, Elliot Schafer, encounters the hidden magical world and declares: “We’re thirteen. I don’t need you to explain to me the concept of a magical land filled with fantastic creatures that only certain special children can enter. I am acquainted with the last several centuries of popular culture.” 


The story is told from Elliot’s snarky and witty perspective, so unlike in almost every other fantasy novel there is not a single paragraph describing the landscape or world building- a style choice that leaves the world feeling sparse in the beginning, but increasingly vivid and emotionally complex as Elliot grows. In line with the magic school trope, each section of the book follows a year in the school. Outside of the magic school trope, Elliot fights no one, does not become powerful, and uncovers no hidden prophecies or evil villains. Instead, he writes treaties to end conflicts and annoys people with derisive comments.   


Brennan’s writing is delightful and the novel is both hilarious and poignant, often at the same time. The brilliance of her writing shines through with her playing of gender expectations, especially in her depiction of elven society. In this world, elves have rigid gender roles, reversed. Elven men are expected to stay inside doing embroidery to protect their delicate feelings, while women are the warriors. This satirical look at a reversed patriarchy leads to surprisingly deep insights on our own world.  


In Other Lands continues its pattern of genre and gender subversion in the characters’ love lives… but I will leave that to you to discover on your own. 

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About the Contributor
Johanna Pastel, Teacher Editor
Johanna Pastel co-runs the LR Post with Evan Gentler. Johanna restarted the LR Post in 2020 as an effort to provide connection and community as the world isolated during COVID. Johanna teaches World History and AP Human Geography at Lake Region Union High School and dabbles in movie production, sheep farming, and child rearing.