Portals, Passages & Pathways:
In the Land of Magnanthia
By B.R. Maul
11 December 2013
When I was first introduced to this young adult novel, it was as In the Land of Magnanthia, but I have since seen it referred to as Portals, Passages, & Pathways, so for the purposes of this review the names are interchangeable. (Technically speaking, In the Land of Magnanthia is the first book in a new series called Portals, Passages, & Pathways.)
The novel’s hero, Simon, gets sucked into another world and is given the Ring of Affinity, told that it chose him and no one knows why. Of course a magical ring just happens to choose a teenage boy from another world to act as Magnanthia’s new guardian. Kinda makes me feel bad for all the noble guardian-potentials who already live in Magnanthia, you know? Anyway, I digress. As Simon learns the tricks of his new trade, he discovers that the king of Magnanthia, Elderten, has ordered the guardians’ deaths because he (the king) believes that they’re responsible for the death of his wife, the queen.
Meanwhile, another boy, Jak, is also pulled into the new world through a portal and given a choice: do or die. As he acclimates to his surroundings, the overlord under whom Jak must serve decides to use the young man (along with all of the overlord’s undead army) to overthrow the great King Elderten and rule Magnanthia for himself.
I both liked and disliked In the Land of Magnanthia. Simon and Jak are interesting characters, and the story is told alternating between their respective perspectives. Giving the villain as much “screen time” (so to speak) as the hero is downright extravagant these days, and I like it. In fact, I may like Jak’s story more than Simon’s because it seemed like he (Jak) had to make more difficult decisions with less help. Literally, his first choice is do or die. Honestly, what would you choose? (I sure as hell know what I’d choose.)
However, the novel had a couple weak spots, too: one fixable and one glaring. First, the secondary characters aren’t well fleshed out; I wanted to learn more about Sonica, Thianna, and others, and none of that character-building ever really happens. (I do realize, though, that this flaw can be rectified in future books in the series, but I wanted to point it out because I think that well-thought-out characters are just as important as good setting and plot.) Second, and more important to me: it felt like everyone was an annoying white guy. I mean, the cover has a girl on it, but the two main characters and their counterparts (the king and the overlord) are all guys. You know, doing guy things. Just like every other story ever written by a person of European descent. Including the novels to which this novel has been compared: the Harry Potter series, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and The Chronicles of Narnia. Ugh. The story is a good one, I think, but it lacks bravery.
DISCLAIMER: I received In the Land of Magnanthia free from JKS Communications for this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.