“In Other Lands” by Sarah Rees Brennan captivated me with its characters and the borderlands, the magical world on the other side of the wall. If you are into stories of teenage romance and boarding school antics, you will be swept away by this creation.
The plot of “In Other Lands”
Elliot enters the borderlands at 13 years old and has no idea what he is getting into. The borderlands are the place where mythical creatures like mermaids, giants, elves, dwarves, and such live.
The camp he is learning at is designed for protecting those that live in the borderlands. But he is a pacifist and will not fight anyone. And he is quite the character. In fact, he may be the best thing about “In Other Lands”. But I will get to that more under the themes section.
Though there are not so many mythical creatures in his day to day life, Elliot is intrigued with learning about all that he might encounter outside the camp. Whenever he has an opportunity, he gets himself to the core of conflicts in the borderlands, and there are plenty. He puts himself in the middle of situations that are quite dangerous and connects with other species on a level that is different than the borderlands have ever experienced.
His specialty is resolving situations that would have resulted in war, using his creativity and heart-centered approach. Although it’s not presented in this vocabulary, this is how the story resonated so beautifully with me. I was reading it the weekend after Russia invaded Ukraine and I couldn’t help but think, we really need an Elliot in this situation.
In addition to the pacifist nature that I mentioned above, I also felt the power of love and curiosity resonating through “In Other Lands.” Elliot was a stubborn character. An odd duck that knew he could be irritating. But from the reader’s perspective, we can see that what irritates others about him is that he is unwilling to be inauthentic. He is who he is and he doesn’t try to hide it. He refuses to go around trying to fit in.