Midrealm by Garrett Robinson and Z.C. Bolger

Midrealm by Garrett Robinson and Z.C. BolgerWhile this fantasy part-work is clearly written for a young adult audience, Robinson and Bolger have not fallen into the trap of focusing solely on the unfairness of being young.

Collecting the first six episodes and season finale in the Realmkeepers series, this collection tells the story of six disparate teens from a small US town who discover they are transported to a fantasy realm every time they sleep. From the moment they arrive in Midrealm they are feted as saviours and chastised for not being the heroes the world needs.

The authors move back and forth between Midrealm and the “real” world with great skill, quickly establishing both parallels and contrasts between the two worlds. This both adds depth and makes the transfer of skills and knowledges common to protagonist-in-a-new-world narratives more plausible than many examples.

However, it is in the subtle comparison of the real world’s treatment of teenagers with the heroic myth cycle that this collection truly lifts itself up. The reader easily sympathises with the protagonists’ feelings of injustice when they are told they are the chosen saviours so should give up their normal lives to devote themselves to the battle against darkness. But then has their feet cut from under them by the parallels with the many things it seems reasonable that teenagers should do in this world just because society has supported them.

Refusing to be trapped by easy answers, the authors give each of the six protagonists a different perspective on the question: if you didn’t ask for powers/your parents to give up their dreams for you/&c. do you owe anyone for them?

While this question could easily be a strong story on its own, Midrealm is also a fast-paced fantasy romp. Filled with magic both powerful and plausibly constrained, mighty warriors, and great evils with a mysterious past, the collection risks taking the reader into Midrealm in their sleep too.

With the protagonists’ personal reactions to events in both worlds a large part of the tension, it is hard to describe the characterisation without revealing sections of plot. Conversely, to say that a protagonist is a good girl, a swot, a wallflower, or a bully is to hide the nuances of the work behind the common tropes of young adult world-hops.

The only potential issue this collection presents is its young adult slant. While the challenges and responses are well crafted, with six young viewpoints on the same issues, some readers who have reached their own accommodation with life might find the focus frustrating.

I enjoyed this book. I would recommend it to readers seeking enjoyable high fantasy who do not require inconceivably complex philosophies in their epics.

I received a free copy from one of the authors with no obligation.

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