The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth

Information

Goodreads: The Light Between Worlds
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: Oct. 2018

Summary

Five years ago, Evelyn Hapwell, her brother Jamie, and her sister Phillipa found themselves transported to the magical world of the Woodlands while hiding during an air raid. Then, after fighting a war there over the course of five years, they were sent back to London at the very moment they had departed.  Evelyn would do anything to return to the tree spirits and the mighty elk Cervus.  But Philippa, concerned with nylons and boys, is convinced they must make a life where they are.  When Evelyn goes missing, however, Philippa must confront her past.

Star Divider

Review

“My story hasn’t ended yet.”

The Light Between Worlds is, depending on how one interprets it, either a highly derivative work or a thoughtful reimagining of what it might have been like to return from Narnia.  Full of obvious parallels to C. S. Lewis’s popular children’s series, the book follows two sisters: one who longs to return to the magical world they left and one determined to make the best of the life they now lead.  It is a provocative premise, but one that might have been better served by more original plot elements and less overwrought prose.

Though kind readers will likely accept The Light Between Worlds as a continuation of Narnia rather than as a pale imitator, the question remains: Is it necessary to copy Narnia in order to explore some of the questions the books leave open?  Catherynne M. Valente, after all, explores a similar theme in her highly original Fairyland series–the question of what happens when mortals returned from Faerie would do anything to return.  Instead of creating her own rich world, however, Laura E. Weymouth chooses to write one-to-one correspondences, giving readers a story in which Evelyn/Lucy, along with Jamie/Peter and Phillipa/Susan, ally themselves with Cervus/Aslan to fight a villain who combines elements of the White Witch, the Telmarines, and Carlomen.  Parallels run rampant as the trio are called by a bugle sound from WWII-era London to the Woodlands where they dwell in a castle by the sea and fight a war for five years, before returning to the exact moment they left.  Is this a homage or a rip-off?  Perhaps, sadly, it does not matter as readers will be too distracted by finding parallels (and deciding whether they should be offended or not) to truly enjoy the story.

If readers can get past the obvious parallels, however, the story has a lot to offer as it largely avoids becoming the standard YA fare full of love triangles, out-of-the-blue betrayals, and enemies-to-lovers tropes.  In particular, the story sets itself apart by trying to capture that elusive element of Faerie, that feeling of awe that occurs when boundaries between worlds blend in the woods.  It furthermore focuses on two sisters, each very different, each viewing the story through her own distorted perspective.  Evelyn captures sympathy with her desire to gain what she has lost while Philippa inspires as a kind of redeemed Susan, one who wears lipstick as a weapon to conquer the world.  If the story could have only avoided the dreaded insta-love (two times!), there would have been much to celebrate.

Unfortunately, however, many of the book’s good qualities are obscured, not only by the Narnia parallels, but also by the overwrought prose.  It desperately yearns to be “lyrical,” but stringing fancy words together does not necessarily make a sentence flow.  Nor does writing a string of vague sentences guarantee an air of mystery.  Half the time the prose makes no sense and the other half of the time it simply sounds ridiculous.  But it all becomes exceedingly hilarious when Evelyn intersperses her overly dramatic narration with interludes about needing socks.  Or when she speaks for the first time and says things like, “Thanks, Dad.  You’re a brick.”  Who is this girl who narrates her life as Evelyn, beloved of Cervus, walker between the worlds, who writes in first-person fancy prose, but who speaks to others using ordinary slang?  It is all incredibly jarring.

The Light Between the Worlds is an engaging book with richly drawn protagonists.  However, the resemblance to C. S. Lewis’s beloved children’s books, as well as the desperate prose, will likely lose the story some fans.

3 Stars

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28 thoughts on “The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth

  1. What's She Reading? says:

    Interesting…I just checked this book out to a patron tonight so when I saw your review, my interest was piqued. I’m disappointed that it’s not great because the cover really did catch my eye. Another great example of a mortal returning from a magical world is the end of Neverwhere–I thought it was very well done and Gaiman is, of course, a masterful writer. On another note, I found your review to be thoughtful and beautifully written as well.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      The concept is definitely interesting (and the cover IS unique and beautiful). I think I just would have liked the book more if I hadn’t felt like we were playing spot the parallels. I’m glad you enjoyed the review!

      Like

        • Krysta says:

          I particularly enjoyed “Susan”‘s character arc and how she uses her appearance to project confidence and make a place for herself in her world. She’s facing a lot of guilt for bringing her sister back to England with her and it’s very poignant seeing how she grapples with her own displacement, her sense of failure, and her sense that she must be broken, always split between two worlds. I thought that was really well done.

          Like

  2. Eustacia | Eustea Reads says:

    After your review, I kind of want to read it (Narnia-inspired! No love triangles) and not want to read it at the same time (Narnia-copy! Insta-love!).

    I guess I’m sufficiently intrigued that if the library has it, I might take a look.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think the Narnia parallels are purposeful. But I did find them very distracting. You can’t just redo Narnia, especially when it’s all in flashbacks and there’s not much time to really do worldbuildng there. It just comes out as a series of “Can you spot the allusion?” But I liked the concept otherwise.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, I think it’s purposeful, but it ended up being far too distracting for me. I think Lucy and Susan could have been evoked without the author awkwardly rewriting Narnia.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Jenna @ Falling Letters says:

    I was just wondering the other day if this book would end up on your radar, because I was reading an article where the author talked about the origin of this book. Apparently she came up with the story because some publisher was specifically looking for a book about Susan after Narnia. I wasn’t really interested in such a story to begin with and after reading your comments on the prose, I’ll give this one a pass.

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I think a book about Susan after Narnia is an interesting concept. But I would have just made a Susan-like figure who returned from a magical world, not written a thinly-veiled repeat of Narnia because it’s far too distracting.

      I also think it’s debatable how Susan-like any such character could be. C. S. Lewis was obviously using “nylons and lipstick” to indicate that Susan had turned from spiritual to earthly concerns, but most people seem to take the phrase literally and think Lewis had a problem with women wearing nylons or looking nice. So, if your character is just someone who likes to look pretty, and not someone grappling with faith, are they really an exploration of Susan?

      Like

  4. Stephanie says:

    Huh, I honestly wouldn’t have expected any of that by just looking at the cover. I’ve seen this book around a bit but I’m glad I’m not really missing out on much.

    Like

  5. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    First of all love your picture for this! Secondly thanks for this review! I’ve been so on the fence about this book- cos so many people seem to have mixed feelings but recommend it at the same time (which is a little confusing). It’s good to know about the overwrought prose- I’ve seen some reviews that hinted at that, but didn’t outright say it (maybe they think they’ll seem stupid if they say it?). Anyway, I’m grateful to know what the actual problem people are having with this book is now. I think I’d also struggle with the parallels before (I’ve come across this in other books and it’s not necessarily something I like). Fantastic review!

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      Aw, thanks!

      Yeah, I’ve seen conflicted reviews, too. I think the initial problem is where you’re wondering if the parallels are a purposeful commentary or if they’re just, I don’t know, bordering on being totally unoriginal. I think they are purposeful commentary. But it just isn’t working for me. I’d have loved the book if it hadn’t tried to repeat Narnia with different names. I wanted to shout, “Yes, we get it! She’s Susan! He’s Aslan!” But you can make a Susan-like character without all the parallels.

      Liked by 1 person

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