[Please note: I received an Advanced Reading Copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange only for an honest and thorough review. This is (to the best of my ability) a spoiler-free review.]
Everything about Reggie’s average life changes when she brings a frog back to life in biology class. She soon learns, in quick succession, that her life is in danger; the Real isn’t the only world to exist; and she may hold the power to save the entire world of the Other. When a beautiful, ethereal boy with a protective streak a mile wide whisks her away to this new, magical world, Reggie will be faced with danger, betrayal, and power beyond her wildest dreams.
Rebecca Jaycox’s fantasy debut, The Other Inheritance, features a diverse set of motifs and tropes that will delight and entertain any and all fans of the fantasy and science fiction genres: There are elves, shapeshifters, giants, and more; portals; intense and involved dream sequences; hidden talents and even more hidden heroes; aether ships and ley lines; racial tensions and culling; earth magic; rebel encampments a la Star Wars; and evil to end all evil. Violence, romance, and resistance abound, promising something for every reader. Our world — the Real — is devoid of magic, but the Other abounds with powerful sources and individuals. Reggie and her companions’ allegiances and moral compasses are constantly tested, making it a minefield for even readers to decide who to trust and not trust, what to believe and not believe.
Reggie promises to be an interesting character. She is constructed, by both the plot and the resistance in the Other, as a female savior figure. Her unique magical power stuns and overwhelms not only herself but also others, and requires great concentration and practice to use. A refreshing aspect of her previously unrealized magic power is that Reggie is still working on understanding and controlling the extent of it at the very end of the book rather than being instantly capable and potent upon discovering her ability. On the other hand, Reggie is somewhat caustic and overly impulsive: She starts fights and hurls insults like an uncontrollable cannon. Whereas many characters, even female characters such as Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, of a similar nature are either inadvertently or constructively caustic, Reggie’s acerbic tendencies are detrimental to her own and others’ survival; her impulsiveness is explosive and suggests a reliance on conflict-driven rather than character-driven plot. Reggie has a promising premise and journey ahead of her, though fall-back on a hot-headed hero trope threatens to bring her mission to a swift halt.
In a similar vein, a constant drive for conflict keeps the plot of The Other Inheritance on a bumpy road. Many of the narrative and interpersonal clashes escalate quickly, suddenly, and often without warning and then digress as if brief arguments or battles were mere impediments. Others disproportionately linger, though they carry less import than another. The narrative, likewise, relies on telling rather than showing as well as randomly shifting point of views. Though the latter offers details we wouldn’t otherwise know, the sudden changes to time, place, and narrator constrict these details’ conflict and resolution to a single chapter. These moments of suddenly raised and then burnt-out conflict and intensity left me questioning everyone in the book, even Reggie, and eggs on the plot by stops and starts.
While the world of the Other is a treasure trove of fantasy elements and motifs, its immersive fantasy tendencies often overshadow the portal fantasy frame of the narrative overall. The plot initially follows the basic points outlined by Farah Mendlesohn’s in Rhetorics of Fantasy, starting with Reggie in our known world, having her pass through a threshold/border that rejects all those without magical blood and subsequently traversing a world not originally her own. Portal fantasies tend, as Mendlesohn outlines, to leave the protagonist(s) feeling alienated, unsure; the point of the journey is to bring him and/or her into touch with the unknown fantasy world while the reader also completes this familiarization. In The Other Inheritance, however, Reggie acts as if she has lived in the Other most of her life: little surprises or unnerves her and, anything that does, is easily explained away by her guide, Asher. (The sole exception is Reggie’s utter revulsion at the Other’s practice of slavery and persecution of mixed-race — e.g.: magic/non-magic — individuals.) Instead, the Other functions as an immersive fantasy, one in which narrative rhetoric situates only the reader(s) as foreign to the unknown world. This begs the question: Why is the main character from a world other than the Other? The only obvious answer I can think of so far is that Reggie’s magical power and awareness needed to be numbed, and passage into the Other is the only way to awaken them. But what if Reggie had instead been from the Other already and needed an initiation moment instead of an immediate passage from a separate world into another? This would have maintained the main plot, but cut down on some of the constant conflict mentioned above.
Overall, Jaycox’s young adult debut The Other Inheritance offers something for every reader, whether they come some heated kissing, intense magic scenes, or diverse travels across a new world. Join Reggie as she comes to terms with her magic and struggles to master it — as do some of the most dangerous people in the Other. With the weight of the Other on her shoulders, can she traverse this world’s battles over power, purity, and magic and save those she loves in the process?
Readers should be aware that the book does feature some mature, potentially triggering themes such as depression, alcoholism, suggestive sexual threats, and racial violence that may be unsuitable for affected or younger readers.
Rebecca Jaycox’s The Other Inheritance will be released February 1, 2017, with Aelurus Publishing.
The featured image is artwork, entitled “Airship,” by and copyrighted to Wang Chunayng.