An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Portal fantasy seems to be making a comeback, which is fine by me; I'm not sure why it fell out of fashion in the first place. This one, as you would hope from a new book, does something fresh with it, primarily by splitting the point of view between several different women: a teenage white Australian who goes through the portal more or less by accident, a middle-aged black British woman who's been "world-walking" for a while and is already familiar with the other world, and a couple of even younger teenagers from the other world itself. All of them suffer and struggle, and all of them are deeply impacted by the traumatic events that occur, much more so (and more realistically so) than one usually sees in fantasy.
It was refreshing and enjoyable to see diverse characters; societies in which women had a lot of agency; and perspectives of older as well as younger characters in what was, in many other ways, a classic portal fantasy.
If I had a reservation about the book, it was that so many of the plot turns, especially early on, occurred by coincidence. One could adopt the perspective of the inhabitants of the other world and credit the gods with manipulating events (though there's no clear indication that the gods are real and can do this), and there is also a sect of mystics who do deliberately manipulate events (but can't be credited with most of the coincidences). I found it hard, though, to avoid the feeling that the author was just forcing the plot. Now, it's done subtly; the characters are not handed easy answers, which is how inexperienced authors often commit this mistake. On the contrary, the characters end up a lot more battered, physically and emotionally, than the average fantasy cast. Nevertheless, there is a high degree of coincidence required to get everyone together and moving in the right direction.
This either stopped after a while, or I stopped noticing it, though. I was caught up in the story's flow, even though I was reading an ARC which contained a few not-very-insightful comments from an editor and a good many typos (which I'm sure will not appear in the published version). The language, and the craft, are competent in general, and I cared about the characters, their struggles, and their often-at-risk wellbeing. I'll be watching for further books in what looks set to be an enjoyable series.
I received an advance copy via Netgalley for review.
View all my reviews