Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Publication Date: August 15, 2017
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In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan is probably my favorite book I’ve read this year. So if you plan on reading just one of the books I’ve recommended this year, read this.
First I have to give a disclaimer. I was not intrigued by the plot summary. A boy discovers that he can see the Borderlands, a place where humans and mythical creatures live side by side. Yawn. Read it before. However here is what I didn’t factor in to the book, that I wouldn’t give a shit about the plot. That’s right. Sarah Rees Brennan has created a book where the characters are so amazing, hilarious, and wonderful that the plot could literally be about a sparkly vampire named Tedward Mullen for all I care.
Okay, where to start. Well, first there is Elliot, the main character. Unlike many novels, the main character is the best character. He is a freaking hilarious idiot genius with an IQ of about 180 and an EQ (Emotional intelligence) of about 60. Optimistically. He doesn’t play mind games, or use tactful diplomacy to get what he wants (until he learns to properly flirt with the elves), he just says what he thinks, and that’s that. So why is everyone mad at him all the time?
Elliot breaks stereotypes, and he breaks them with a bang. In a world where children are taken to the borderlands to valiantly defend the border against ruffians, Elliot wants nothing to do with fighting and swords, and instead chooses to try and become a diplomat in a land where everyone thinks battles are much more useful than treaties. Did I mention that Elliot has no social grace whatsoever? Yeah, it’s great.
Secondly, his sexuality. Without spoiling anything, Elliot’s approach to the people he likes is the best, and reminds me of a friend I have from college. The novel spans several years, and as everyone else is struggling with identity, and love, Elliot is all “Guys? What’s the problem? If they’re hot, what’s the issue?” This is not to say he doesn’t have relationship drama of his own. Which leads me to another point, the nerdy, pacifist, abrasive, socially stunted kid is a floozy, and proud of it. Like I said, this book basically runs on breaking stereotypes. In fact, the summary of the book should be, “In a mystical land where battles and brawn are prized above all, one tiny nerdy asshole arrives to destroy every stereotype with vigor and sass.”
And speaking of stereotypes, Sarah Rees Brennan appears have taken all her hatred of tropes and thrust them into this book with vigor and aplomb. The elves see women as fierce warriors who see blood every month, and are hardened for battle, and the men are gentle virtuous flowers. And, hilariously, some of their reasoning makes sense, although they sure are sexist jerks about it. Some of the golden haired champions of the land live in an open marriage including inter-species cavorting. Really, this idyllic, predictable fairytale land isn’t very predictable after all. Also, while this book and deep, and emotional, and gratifying, it is also unbelievably hilarious. Like that moment Elliot, because he’s a floozy, gets everyone attacked by a unicorn (they only like virgins) and everyone has to hide in a tree and reflect on their sluttiness until they track down the one person in the troupe who is still a virgin. All the while Elliot is lecturing the unicorn on disgusting, outdated concepts of purity and everyone is trying to get him to just stay in the tree and shut up because the unicorn is super scary.
In case you couldn’t tell I can’t recommend this book highly enough. In fact, when I went back to the book, a week after I finished it, to find inspiration for this review, I found myself reading the entire thing again. A week after I finished the book. It’s that good. So give In Other Lands a shot. I promise you, you won’t regret it.