A review by kevinscorner
In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan


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.