Review Level: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Kerry Schafer’s BETWEEN offers a new and exciting take on fantasy fiction, with an intricate plot and rapid pacing that keeps the pages turning from start to finish. From the moment a teenager shows up in a small-town E.R. with dragon-inflicted burns to the exciting (and literally world-shattering) final scenes, BETWEEN combines humor, action, and an unusual take on fantasy themes.
One issue I’ve had with a lot of modern fantasy is the tendency to re-work traditional themes in expected ways. Kerry Schafer breaks that mold, which makes BETWEEN both unusual and a compelling read. Her characters are complex and three-dimensional, and the romantic elements balance well with the action (A note: I prefer a read that’s heavy on action and lighter-handed with romance).
My favorite character has to be Poe, the protagonist’s penguin totem/sidekick. He’s a real penguin (no talking animals here) and, for me, he stole the show. Dragons and penguins? What’s not to love!
The book also offers a welcome touch of ironic humor. By way of example, one of my absolute favorite lines: “She was going to die in the Between, naked, carrying a penguin.”
It’s hard for me to find a fantasy novel I’m willing to give even four stars, let alone 5, but this one belongs in that category. I highly recommend it for anyone who likes fantasy, dragons, or penguins.
BETWEEN is currently available for pre-order and releases on January 29, 2013 (Ace Books).
*A disclaimer: Kerry Schafer is a friend of mine. I met her as a result of her writing (via the Debutante Ball) but we became friends before her novel was published. (Note that this book is shelved in “Books By Friends”.) I read BETWEEN before publication, via an ARC I received from the publisher. That said, I will be buying several copies of this book to give to friends, and my personal friendship with Kerry did not impact this review. I’d be giving exactly the same review to this book if I didn’t know her.