Publisher: Book Liftoff
Publication Date: May 1, 2019
But with dreams, there can also be nightmares
Lonely and plain-featured, Mona Parker is just another faceless teenager at Spring Hill High School. One day she runs afoul of Lady Anne Golightly, a beautiful and arrogant classmate who turns Mona’s colorless life into a hellish existence. Bullied relentlessly and with nowhere to turn, Mona considers suicide. One night, Thaddeus Finkle, her guardian angel, appears. He offers her a way out—swap lives with another.
The choice seems easy, and Mona takes the angel up on his offer. She awakens on Meredith, a parallel world of Earth where magic has replaced technology. Mona discovers she is Alexandria, a woman of breathtaking beauty, and the daughter of a Duke complete with servants and riches.
Then she discovers the price of her bargain.
Trapped behind the Veil, an impenetrable curtain of magic, the Duchy of Wheel is the last major province still unconquered by Marlinda, the creator of the enchanted barrier. Known as the Dark Queen, Marlinda’s cruelty includes a singular fondness for melding men, women, and children, with animals…and she has special plans for Alexandria.
Tal, the Prince and Heir of the Empire of Meredith, burns with an intense hatred for Marlinda and her minions. The Dark Queen’s raiders regularly cross the Veil to prey upon the helpless citizens living near the magical boundary. Despite an elaborate system of Watch Towers along the enchanted barrier, it is impossible for the Empire to stop all the raids. Desperate to protect his people, Tal takes dangerous risks to prevent these attacks. Banished to a remote garrison for his reckless behavior, while on a routine patrol, Tal leads an elite unit that happens upon a group of raiders—one whose leader possesses the means for opening a way through the Veil.
Thus begins the conquest of the Veil.
Escaping a humdrum life to a world of magic is my favorite sort of fantasy book. Who doesn’t like the idea of leaving behind a place where you merely exist for a place where you can truly thrive and be powerful and super attractive? But where most books fail to address the price you pay for such a switch, The Open Portal lays it all out in the open and reminds you every chance it gets.
Clifton paints a very bleak portrait of a young woman who only has her brother and a few church elders to keep her sane. While other fantasy books might describe pretty tame bullying scenarios, this one has situations that are difficult to get past. If you took the grossest bullying scenes from ‘80s movies and multiplied them by 10, you would understand what Mona goes through in the beginning of this book. And just when you think that she escapes all of that by choosing a new life on the gorgeous planet of Meredith, you realize that she has just traded in her old, terrible life for a George R. R. Martin-type situation.
When I wasn’t cringing at the horrible things that happened to the characters, I was admiring Clifton’s descriptions of each character and the different settings. I feel as though so many books are either plot driven or character driven to the point that you have no idea what anything or anyone looks like. That is certainly not the case with this book. I can say that I was truly transported along with Mona and felt like I really got to meet everyone for the first time like she had.
As much as I adore things like shapeshifters and gritty survival situations, I had difficulty getting through the chapters with Tal and Razor. I promise it wasn’t because of their strange names. I actually wasn’t a fan of many of the character’s names in this book: i.e., Lady Anne Golightly and Rodric Regret. But that’s ok, because they didn’t keep me from being disappointed that the story ended so soon. Thank goodness for the sneak preview of the prologue and chapter 1 for the next book in the series. Those tidbits left me in good spirits and in anticipation for Book 2.