Warning: Mild Spoilers Ahead
I love urban fantasy, absolutely love it however one of the down sides to the genre is that it’s rare to come across something that takes a fresh look at the genre, approaching the story as something new rather than rehashing an older story. Between by Kerry Schafer is one of those rare books that gets that fresh look, and it does it well too.
The main character Vivian is an ER doctor living in a small town, trying and mostly succeeding in carving out her own life after raising both herself and her very unbalanced mother since Vivian was a child. Vivian is fighting hard to maintain a normal life and she’s mostly succeeding…until a boy turns up in her ER sporting burns that weren’t given to him by anything that exists in the normal world.
This is the first taste of the Between, a state between our world (Wakeworld) and the dream world where things from each can cross over. It’s also the first we see of dragons. Dragons have been vampired a little in recent fiction efforts, metaphorically getting sparkly and losing some of their menace. Not in Between. This is the first real effort to make dragons frightening I’ve seen in a long time. I loved the fact that the dragons felt like a real threat throughout the book.
In fact one of the big bonuses of Between is the sense of threat the entire dream world presents. There is an absolutely golden scene early on in the book where Vivian flashes back to visiting an absolutely idyllic dream world as a child…idyllic except for the fact that there’s no food and if she hadn’t been rescued she would have starved to death. It was a great scene because it reinforced that even the best dreams have their dangers for the unprepared.
Speaking of which, for all of Vivian’s resourcefulness, she is unprepared for the things being thrown at her. I liked the fact that she made bad choices, and that she ends up getting things wrong. People under stress and thrown into situations completely beyond their experience don’t tend to make the best decisions. It was nice to see a character that felt real enough to screw up. It also made the threats to Vivian’s life that much more palpable, because she’s not all powerful or hyper competent in all situations.
This is especially apparent as it becomes clear that she has abilities in the dream world beyond the norm. I liked seeing a character having to deal with the aftermath of using powers that she was never trained to use and I can see making up for her early blunders being a feature of stories to come.
Vivian’s companions deserve special mention. Poe is…well he’s a penguin, not the traditional choice for badass animal companion but in Between it works. It helps that Poe is very much his own character instead of just being comic relief, even though he gets plenty of jokes. I also very much enjoyed book store owner by day card carrying combat monster by night Zee, I found him to be a balanced and believable character that never the less didn’t take anything away from Vivian’s journey.
The world building is excellent and I loved the way the dream world and the waking world are forced to interact through the Between, it added another dimension to an already interesting set up. I don’t want to go too far into the plot for fear of spoiling things for new readers but you can rest assured that Between dances between being charming, funny, smart and scary without missing a beat.
I have an e copy and a physical copy to give away that Kerry has very kindly offered me. If you’d like a copy of Between to read for yourself then leave a comment here and I’ll pick two winners at random in 24 hours. UPDATE – because I got the timing a bit wrong on this I’m going to keep the competition going until the end of this week (Friday midday EST) – however I’m also going to give away the original e copy now.
So – Jonathon Side you’re our winner of the first e copy, I’ll email you today and get it to you in whichever format you prefer – everyone else you are still in the draw.
UPDATE THE SECOND: Congratulations Tori and Elizabeth Brogan you’ve both won copies of Between. I’ll email you later today to get the mailing addresses for you both.
You can get Between from Amazon right here, or click on the image above.