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In Other Lands

A Junior Library Guild selection. ABC Best Books for Young Readers.

Read: Chapter One

The Borderlands aren’t like anywhere else. Don’t try to smuggle a phone or any other piece of technology over the wall that marks the Border — unless you enjoy a fireworks display in your backpack. (Ballpoint pens are okay.) There are elves, harpies, and — best of all as far as Elliot is concerned — mermaids.

“What’s your name?”
Serene.”
Serena?” Elliot asked.
Serene,” said Serene. “My full name is Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle.”
Elliot’s mouth fell open. “That is badass.”

Elliot? Who’s Elliot? Elliot is thirteen years old. He’s smart and just a tiny bit obnoxious. Sometimes more than a tiny bit. When his class goes on a field trip and he can see a wall that no one else can see, he is given the chance to go to school in the Borderlands.

It turns out that on the other side of the wall, classes involve a lot more weaponry and fitness training and fewer mermaids than he expected. On the other hand, there’s Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle, an elven warrior who is more beautiful than anyone Elliot has ever seen, and then there’s her human friend Luke: sunny, blond, and annoyingly likeable. There are lots of interesting books. There’s even the chance Elliot might be able to change the world.

“The beauty of men is a sweet soft thing that passes all too soon, like a bird across the sky.”

In Other Lands is the exhilarating new book from beloved and bestselling author Sarah Rees Brennan. It’s a novel about surviving four years in the most unusual of schools, about friendship, falling in love, diplomacy, and finding your own place in the world — even if it means giving up your phone.

Cover and chapter illustrations by Carolyn C. Nowak.

Early Reader Reaction

“Four years in the life of an unloved English schoolboy who’s invited to a secret magical school and learns that even in fantasyland, real life is messier than books. . . . But over the course of four years training among child soldiers, Elliot, unsurprisingly, grows up. His slow development into a genuinely kind person is entirely satisfying, as is his awakening to his own bisexuality and to the colonialism, sexism, and racism of Borderlands society. . . . A stellar . . . wholly rewarding journey.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Elliot Schafer is a small-for-his-age 13-year-old who is prone to being bullied—largely due to his personality, which slots somewhere between insufferable know-it-all and sarcastic jackass. When Elliot’s class travels to a ‘random field in Devon, England’ for a supposed scholarship test, he instead winds up in a strange world known as the Borderlands, which are filled with elves, mermaids, and other creatures. So begins Brennan’s hilarious, irreverent, and multilayered coming-of-age fantasy, set over several years. Elliot quickly befriends (and falls for) Serene, a fierce elven warrior, and arranges a reluctant truce with Luke Sunborn, the son of one of the Borderland’s founding families. All three—along with every young person there—are training in war or as councilors, charged with protecting the fragile barrier with the human world. Amid shifting relationships, the threat of war, and substantial growth among the characters, Elliot’s razor-edged wit and general inability to keep his mouth shut make for blissfully entertaining reading. Smart explorations of gender stereotypes, fluid sexuality, and awkward romance only add to the depth and delight of this glittering contemporary fantasy.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“I have rewritten the first paragraph of this review a half-dozen times, trying to find some way to make clear that Sarah Rees Brennan has created a nearly perfect YA fantasy without gushing. I can’t do it. In Other Lands is brilliantly subversive, assuredly smart, and often laugh-out-loud funny. It combines a magic-world school setting with heaps of snark about everything from teen romance to gender roles, educational systems and serious world diplomacy.”
— Colleen Mondor, Locus

“Sarah Rees Brennan’s brand-new novel, In Other Lands, was first published in serial installments on the author’s blog, where the story became so popular she decided to make a book out of it. It’s easy to see why: The young adult fantasy author is known for her delightful characters, and In Other Lands’ hero, Elliott, is a precocious, snarky wunderkind who’s whisked away to wizarding school, where he’s given his choice of becoming a warrior or a diplomat. But Elliott has his two best friends at his side — one a matriarchal elf princess, the other a quiet jock with a secret — and he isn’t about to play by the rules. If you enjoy stories about magical boarding schools, In Other Lands is a treat. It’s full of romance in all directions, plenty of fantasy trope subversions, Brennan’s typical insouciant wit.
Vox (“8 essential pieces of pop culture to catch up on this weekend”)

“This book. Good god, I have never read such a beautiful and hilarious deconstruction of popular fantasy. I honestly don’t know what the best part is. There’s Elliot’s narration, which makes you shake with laughter with his wit and then brings you to tears as he struggles to find love and family, two things he never truly had. There’s Serene’s brutal honesty and her clashes with human culture (and there’s Elvish culture itself, which honestly needs a book of its own). And of course there’s Luke’s struggle between his innate desire to protect his friends and dealing with the fact that his friends are maniacs with a penchant for insane plots. Their chemistry is the focus of the story around which everything revolves, and I honestly wish we had an entire series more of them.”
–Assaf T., 17, likes his books very interesting and very heavy, because exercise isn’t as fun but is still important
B&N: Teen Readers Share the Last Book They Loved: Devil’s Deals, Resourceful Girls, and Cracked Fantasy Lands

“The four sections of the novel each follow a year in Elliot’s life, from when he comes to the Borderlands to when he, Serene, and Luke graduate the training camp. The reader follows conflicts both political and personal, watching Elliot grow into himself and his skills as he turns the politics of the world around him on their head one small maneuver at a time. He isn’t, of course, a savior figure; he also isn’t magically gifted. He’s just dedicated, smart, and willing to risk himself to better the world around him. It’s a delightful look at how personal and how influential politics can be: Brennan isn’t saying that one person can change the world, but she’s showing how one person can push it in the right direction if they try hard enough.”
— Brit Mandelo, Tor.com

“Above all, In Other Lands is a novel about growing up and growing into oneself, a task that is ultimately more difficult than dealing with unicorns or negotiating treaties with harpies.”
—Electra Pritchett, Strange Horizons

“Brennan brilliantly turns the very genre she occupies on its head with this YA fantasy. In her latest, the human who falls into a magic world isn’t a strong, beautiful, charismatic hero. It is Elliot, a hero who might annoy, but who is also the most intensely relatable character to emerge from fantasy lately. For anyone who has ever wondered how they would fare in the fantasy worlds they enjoy reading about, In Other Lands is a novel that might answer that question. Even though Elliot is never painted as a prodigy at any of the new things he encounters, Brennan allows him to be heroic, and in the end, all the happiness he may receive feels earned.”
RT Book Reviews (4 stars)

“Brennan delivers witty, nervy, romantic adventure that fizzes with feeling and giddy imagination.”
— Leigh Bardugo, bestselling author of Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom

“A subversive, sneaky, glorious tale of magic, longing, and growing into your wings.”
— Holly Black, author of The Darkest Part of the Forest

In Other Lands is a stunning example of Sarah Rees Brennan’s style; her characters are hysterically funny with complex and nuanced inner lives that could break a reader’s heart. Elliot, cranky and obnoxious teen that he is, desperately longs to be loved best by someone, but covers with immense sarcasm and general unkindness. Luke and Serene, both exceptionally talented and good-looking, also struggle with feeling displaced. The depiction of misandry in Elf culture is one of the funniest concepts that Rees Brennan has come up, and even that she turns into a deeper lesson for Serene, Elliot, and Luke. In Other Lands can come off as a parody of fantasy, but it delves deep into issues of race, gender, sexuality, and war, and absolutely nails the struggles and triumphs of growing up.”
— Sami Thomason, Square Books

Praise for Sarah Rees Brennan’s books:

“Breathtaking—a compulsive, rocketing read.”
—Tamora Pierce, New York Times bestselling author

“Writing with fine control and wit, Sarah Rees Brennan pits an underworld society against privileged overlords. The young golden-haired heroine sparring with her rich boyfriend and his dark-souled shadow-twin lends wry and sexy human interest to the depiction of political struggle. I suspect that word of this magical thriller will pass through the populace with the energy of wind, of fire.”
— Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Egg and Spoon

“From the pitch-perfect opening paragraph, to the heartbreaking final pages . . . delicious.” —Kirkus (starred review)

“A sparkling fantasy that will make you laugh and break your heart.”
— Cassandra Clare, New York Times bestselling author

“A darkly funny, deliciously thrilling Gothic.”
— Kelley Armstrong, New York Times bestselling author

“Readers will laugh, shiver, and maybe even swoon over this modern Gothic novel.”
— Melissa Marr, New York Times bestselling author

“Brennan takes the genres of young adult, fantasy, and romance, and through her own writerly, alchemical process converts them into something new and strange and lovely.” — Kelly Link, author of Get in Trouble

“A laugh-out-loud delight.” — Publishers Weekly

“. . . a charming protagonist — full of vinegar and spice. Fans of romantic fantasy will devour it.” — VOYA

“Punctuated throughout with keen humor and heartbreaking emotional resonance, it’s a stunner.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)

“This dark-fantasy-meets-romance will have readers hooked.” — The Horn Book

Cover illustrations by Carolyn C. Nowak. Title lettering by Jeffrey Rowland.

Author photo by Mark Griffin Photo.

Sarah Rees Brennan (@sarahreesbrenna) was born and raised in Ireland and now lives in New York City. She is the New York Times bestselling author of Tell the Wind and Fire and the Lynburn Legacy series among others.

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