The Land Beyond the Portal

 

bookshelves: to-read-2014speculative-fictioncoming-of-agefantasyfavoritesfringescience-fiction 

Recommended to Dustin by: Tanya Frueh
Recommended for: Anyone
Read from March 18 to 25, 2014 — I own a copy, read count: 1

 

“A charming brick house sat in the mountains like a mother bird in her nest. It usually looked cozy and welcoming to motorists who happened to pass through, admiring the beauty of the Appalachians. However, the house had become almost invisible from the powerful snowstorm that was dumping inch after inch of icy precipitation on the range. Entire trees leaned to the side, their limbs drooping under the weight of the snow. The lane leading to the house was completely buried. A howling wind ripped through the air and sculpted the snow into mighty drifts.”

Thus begins J.S. Bailey’s debut novel, The Land Beyond the Portal and an impressive one at that. But I digress..

Having previously read her latest work, Rage’s Echo, in the fall of 2013, I went into Portal blind, never knowing what to expect. And in ways that only she can convincingly pull off, Bailey has written a mesmerizing tale of redemption, loss, the puissance of forgiveness, and amongst other things, the beauty of God’s infinite love. She writes seamlessly, almost like she’s trying to make her job appear easy. Anyone that can do that is a rock star, in my book!

Thematics aside, Portal is ultimately the story of our protagonist, Laura, and her unique journey. More than anything, it’s her journey that sold me, astounded, fascinated, and kept me flipping the pages.

I felt an almost equal fondness for Eliza’s character. Throughout the text, Bailey plays with concepts of sanity, and subtly poses profound questions, like: are we all just a little unstable, insane perhaps? Are individuals like Eliza truly insane, or are most of us just better at hiding mental illness than others? Is she simply her own person, or is she certifiably crazy? Personally, I think we’re all a little off our rockers at times, and the picture of stability at others. It just depends on our moods, circumstances, and a myriad of various factors. 
I don’t believe in normalcy. Bailey seems to be asking why we should we be treated like the common criminal just because we’re different. Why should the mere mention of a name or our appearance repulse the masses? I say, embrace your inner beauty. Be yourself, the majestic person that God created us all to be!

Surprisingly, the antagonist, Litchfield, an individual shrouded in mystery up until the end, captivated me like none other. (view spoiler)
A nice touch on Bailey’s part, she implements and fully utilizes a series of journal entries, personally penned by Litchfield. By reading his words, the reader is treated to a glimpse of our future world (though it takes place in his past.) He describes some of the tribulations that said world endured, and what he was willing to do in order to save it, and himself. His means may not be just, but I can see it from his side, too. I sympathize. 

Last but not least, I’d like to discuss the portals themselves. Presently, there isn’t a whole lot known about them (hint hint, J.S.:) ) However, what is known fascinates me very much, and I want to know more. If I’ve piqued your interest in any way, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this dazzling, magical adventure today!

Overall, I’m impressed. The writing’s good, and the magical overtones make it all the more captivating and exciting. Bailey did have a tendency to be pretty verbose at times, and her grammatical prowess isn’t what it could have been, IMO, but all that is probably largely due to her young age and lack of novel writing experience. Having said that, the characters are very likable and– Laura especially– matured exponentially. But it’s more than that: these characters are lovingly developed in a subtle fashion, in ways I can’t quite process. I grew to adore and deeply respect every one of them… even Litchfield!

In comparison to Rage’s Echo, I enjoyed the two equally. Story-wise, her debut took me away to that other world. I could have never anticipated that. The quality of writing displayed in the latter is far superior. 

J.S., you have grown SOOO much!!!

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