Diversity Spotlight Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Aimal from Bookshelves & Paperbacks. Each week you come up with three book for three different categories: a diverse book you’ve read and enjoyed; a diverse book that’s already been released and is in your TBR; and a diverse book that hasn’t been released yet.
This week’s topic is: Portal Fantasy
Confession: portal fantasy isn’t one of my favourite subgenres. Eighty-percent of the time, I find myself disappointed by it. With many of them, I find the worldbuilding cliched and nowhere near as interesting as high fantasy. But I keep them reading them anyway. It’s probably a leftover desire from childhood to be whisked away from the mundane into somewhere new and magical. So reading these stories is like furiously scratching at an itch that just won’t go away.
These three books, however, put a bit of a spin on portal fantasy. They subvert tropes commonly associated with the subgenre and tackle important personal and social issues that you don’t find in typical Narnia-variants.
In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
With In Other Lands, Brennan takes your stereotypical portal fantasy story, sticks it into a blender alongside themes of feminism, gender roles, sexuality, child soldiers, war, and growing up (just to name a few). The end product is a smart, hilarious, and unexpectedly heartwarming tale about a boy who finds himself in land of beautiful elves and mermaids. Elliot is one of the most entertaining narrators I’ve ever come across–irreverent, anti-social, and sarcastic. Moreover, he’s bisexual and the book actually says the word “bisexual” to describe him, which made me punch the air. It’s a small detail but it’s also a massive one. It’s angering and frustrating to see so much of media just gloss over the word–and all that it entails–like it doesn’t exist. So things like this are not-insignificant victories.
On both sides of the wall were stranger and weirder sights, terrible until you loved them. Our lands were always otherlands, to someone else.
Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children 3) by Seanan McGuire
McGuire’s Wayward Children series not only takes a darker approach to portal fantasy, it’s chock full of diversity of all kinds. Since we have to wait until 2019 for the fourth book, I can safely take my time getting to this one.
The Light Between Worlds by Laura E. Weymouth
Six years ago, sisters Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell were swept away to a strange and beautiful kingdom called the Woodlands, where they lived for years. But ever since they returned to their lives in post-WWII England, they have struggled to adjust.
Ev desperately wants to return to the Woodlands, and Philippa just wants to move on. When Ev goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.
This book isn’t exactly releasing soon, but it’s one of my top five anticipated releases of this fall so I’m going to grab every chance I get to talk about it. Diversity in media is most commonly thought of as LGBTQIAP+, cultural, and gender representation. But I believe mental health issues also belong under the umbrella, and The Light Between Worlds evidently has spades of them. According to the author’s website, the book explores depression, self-harm, PTSD, eating disorders, alongside grief and themes of war. It’s sounds haunting and mixing WW2 and fantasy is just asking me to smash the preorder button.