Reviews

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

kevinscorner's review against another edition

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5.0

In Other Lands is a hilarious YA magic school/postal fantasy that initially started out as a free online “short” story series. Elliot is just an ordinary annoying thirteen year old (who can see the magical world) when he is invited to study to become part of the Border Guard, a human force that upholds the peace between magical creatures in the Otherland. There, he meets the beautiful and competent elf maiden warrior Serene and the sunshiny classic hero material Luke. What follows is their next five years in the school as Elliot discovers true friendship, falls in love (and lust a few times), and makes it his mission to bring peace to the magical world through beaurocracy (because war is stupid).

I loved everything about this book, and I have no idea why I had never heard of it until recently. This was just the perfect deconstruction of the classic fantasy genre with its biting commentary, hilarious takes, snarky tone, sex positivity, and queerness (in so much as a YA book can). It takes classic fantasy elements like the chosen one protagonist, the sword wielding hero, and the ethereal elves and turns it on its head while at the same time delivering a charming and heartfelt coming-of-age story.

Our main protagonist Elliot is a nobody who doesn’t fight, has no athletic prowess, is sexually adventurous (and bisexual), and wields his mind and his pen as his weapon in bureaucracy and diplomacy. He is smart, strange, and intentionally and unintentionally off-putting with difficulty making friends. I absolutely loved his wit, snark and sarcasm, and he capably carries the story solely on his shoulders and sets the hilarious but biting tone of the book.

Our classical perfect hero Luke is a shy, war-focused, and gay. He is the sunshine to Elliot’s grump and is a glutton for punishment as he tolerates and accepts Elliot’s sharp and insensitive brand of friendship while dealing with his own insecurities. Our elven maiden Serene comes from a mirror-image matriarchal society where women are the warriors and men are the delicate flowers in need of protecting. She unintentionally delivers the societal commentary with humor as she flips the traditional gender norms in hilarious fashion. Together, these three teen misfits form their own inexplicable found family while dismantling societal expectations and achieving peace (at least for a little while).

In Other Lands is officially one of my all time favorite YA fantasies.

annie_bordeaux's review against another edition

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adventurous funny medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

absolutely hilarious but also oddly sad at some points ?

korevah's review against another edition

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adventurous funny lighthearted medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

adown's review against another edition

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adventurous emotional funny hopeful lighthearted slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.5

sinmars's review against another edition

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adventurous emotional funny lighthearted slow-paced

3.5

itslucyamber's review against another edition

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5.0

18-hour audiobook and I cried actual real tears because I didn't want it to end.

chronikle's review against another edition

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4.0

Mixed feelings on this one. In Other Lands came recommended as a queer alternative young fantasy fiction to Harry Potter, and I was intrigued by its selling point--a bisexual MC travels to the Borderlands, a world in which war is prioritised over diplomacy, and tries to fix things for everyone. It delivers on that! I think the characters are enjoyable, especially Elliott, who is often irritating to people around him and wears that like armour to get his way through words and actions rather than violence. It was very delightful to see someone like that in fiction.

That said, I think the book struggles with pacing, and it has too much material condensed into one story, which leaves it feeling rush and unfulfilling in places. As with aforementioned Harry Potter and also the Percy Jackson series, the book follows its main character across four school years at a training camp in a magical otherworld, except it tells all of those four years in one book. It's also not helped that Elliott is sole POV character, and as a character who abhors war and is on the 'council' track, he's occasionally made to stay at camp while Serene and Luke take part in the actual action, and while there's a point being made with that, it also means we're treated to Elliott fretting and being unpleasant to everyone else around him because of it.

I also found the way that Elliott ran through relationships to be frustrating, and not just his romantic and sexual ones. His fear of abandoment/issues around abandoment are a strong throughline of the book, and drive a lot of his motivation, and I think it makes him a fully-realised character who can be empathised with. However, I had issues with (spoiler)
Spoilerthe plotline with realising one of the medics is his mother, who wants nothing to do with him, because it was suddenly brought up and then just kind of passed on, and I'd really enjoyed their relationship when they weren't related, and then when they were, it coloured my perception of her
, and also with Elliott and Luke's relationship, because a lot of their conversations were mired by miscommunication and yet it also felt really evident to me from the start that Luke liked Elliott. And Elliott was just being rude to him/trying to push him away.

I don't know! It's not a bad book at all and I enjoyed reading it, but I had frustrations with it and that stops it from being what could have otherwise been a great book!

jeburrito's review against another edition

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adventurous emotional funny hopeful lighthearted reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

50shekels's review

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adventurous emotional funny hopeful inspiring lighthearted fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

I LOVED this!!! It’s so unique, I’ve never read any young adult books like it before. I wasn’t expecting it to focus so wholly on Elliot’s emotional journey, while also having the journey of all the other characters clearly happening in the background. Everything is so expertly and intricately woven and (as someone who has tried to write character driven stories before) I really have no idea how Sarah Rees Brennan managed to pull everything together so neatly and satisfyingly. Loved the commentary about education/knowledge, war, gender stereotypes, and sexuality. This book really has it all!! Would highly recommend

indexoutofbounds's review against another edition

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adventurous emotional funny medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

Very well paced, cute and funny coming of age and found family story.