Review: Lost in Averell

Lost in Averell by Tara Grayce is a portal fantasy where no one dies or takes over anyone else's body for a change. The book was recommended to me, and I figured out why when I realized that Tara Grayce was one of the authors who participated in the Villain's Ever After series. Lost in Averell is the first book in a new series called Princess by Night about a girl who travels between the real world and a fantasy land where she's a princess. I've read similar series in the past such as Avalon: Web of Magic and The Tail of Emily Windsnap, and this one has the same level of magic and charm. I love these books because they encourage us to imagine that the magical worlds we love to fantasize about may be just within our reach.

Lost in Averell by Tara Grayce

Half the time, Amy is an ordinary girl from Michigan. The other half, she's a princess of a fairy tale kingdom called Averell. Amy's story differs from many other portal fantasies about regular teenagers traveling to enchanted worlds because she grew up in both places and feels comfortable with both of her identities. Her mother is from Earth, and her father is from Averell, giving her the capacity to thrive in both worlds. Amy's time is split equally between the two realms by a portal hidden in the basement of her modest Michigan farmhouse. Her only job is to keep the two realms a secret from each other in order to maintain the balance between the worlds, something she fails to do when her high school crush, Brett, wanders into the portal by accident after visiting her house to work on a science project together.

Typically, this type of story would take place from Brett's perspective as he discovers the new world and its dangers while Amy would be a side character who guides him along the way. In that respect, Lost in Averell diverges from books with similar plots. Instead of the wide-eyed dreamer discovering the new world, Lost in Averell focuses entirely on Amy's quest to find Brett and bring him home before his body breaks down due to its incompatibilities with Averell's atmosphere. Fortunately, she already knows how to keep people from Earth alive in Averell thanks to her earthling mother. However, knowledge alone is not enough to help her when Brett is taken captive by one of an enemy of Amy's kingdom. The gender reversal trope of the brave princess rescuing her love is similar to the plot of Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, except that in this case, Brett is more of a crush than true love, and he is not the only one Amy needs to save.

This book is short and to the point. It gives readers an opportunity to understand the rules and magical inhabitants of Averell without launching into too many boring explanations. The most interesting thing about Amy is her humility when it comes to her identity as a princess due to her other life as a simple high school student. She is very relatable to introverted girls who want to spread cheer and goodwill but have trouble asserting themselves. Brett, on the other hand, comes off as rather one-dimensional. I found myself wishing the book gave more of Brett's perspective by demonstrating his reaction to being stuck in a fairy tale world. Not only is this trope less common for men, but Brett had the added danger of dying if he couldn't return to Earth's atmosphere quickly enough. I think a few extra chapters told from his point of view could have added a lot to the story. As it stood, he suffered from the same "damsel in distress" trope that many people once complained about female characters having.

Overall, Lost in Averell feels nostalgic and new at the same time. I appreciate that it's a safe book for younger readers that can be finished pretty quickly. What makes it stand apart from similar series like Avalon: Web of Magic or The Tail of Emily Windsnap is that the main character is not discovering the magical realm for the first time. She already has a unicorn best friend and knows the rules for getting water, what areas have more magic than others, and what that means. It's an interesting story from a biracial perspective as well since the protagonist speaks two different languages and knows two different sets of etiquette. The only thing that could have made it better is if some of it had been told from Brett's perspective about his initial reaction to Averell. I think this could make for an interesting series since there is a lot of potential for more of Amy's adventures between both worlds.

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