Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis is the author's début novel. It first drew my attention because of some blogs I follow, then I happened to read some of author's short stories and knew I had to read her novel too.
Amara is never alone. Not when she's protecting the cursed princess she unwillingly serves. Not when they're fleeing across dunes and islands and seas to stay alive. Not when she's punished, ordered around, or neglected.

She can't be alone, because a boy from another world experiences all that alongside her, looking through her eyes.

Nolan longs for a life uninterrupted. Every time he blinks, he's yanked from his Arizona town into Amara's mind, a world away, which makes even simple things like hobbies and homework impossible. He's spent years as a powerless observer of Amara's life. Amara has no idea . . . until he learns to control her, and they communicate for the first time. Amara is terrified. Then, she's furious.

All Amara and Nolan want is to be free of each other. But Nolan's breakthrough has dangerous consequences. Now, they'll have to work together to survive--and discover the truth about their connection.
I loved Otherbound. It's meticulously thought through and beautifully written. Nolan is not a normal teenage boy and isn't sure how to be. He spends a large chunk of his life involuntarily living someone else's life. It's distracting to the point where he can't concentrate on school, ride a bike safely or do anything else normal teenagers do. He tries to keep his life together, but it's a constant struggle he rarely wins. But he's not doing anything stupid or irrational, which makes him more likeable than a lot of YA main characters. His doctors, who think he has a rare form of epilepsy with hallucinations, put him on some new meds which allow him to interact with the world he sees when he closes his eyes. And so the real story begins.

Meanwhile Amara lives in a well-drawn and fully developed fantasy world. Her life is complex, living on the run with a princess who's the only survivor of a palace coup, their protector and another servant. Amara's job is simple: make sure the princess never gets hurt, because if she bleeds her curse will kill her. And when the princess does get hurt, Amara gets to step in and suffer in her place because she's "lucky" enough to have healing magic. There is nothing happy about Amara's life but it's stable until Nolan realises he can take control of her body.

I really loved this book. I particularly appreciated Duyvis's attention to detail. Often, when I'm reading a book I'm having feelings over I'll explain the premise and characters to my husband (without spoilers for books I want him to read) and he always manages to find the plot-/worldbuilding-holes just from my summary. Not this time! Every detailed was accounted for even when some of those details were misdirection.

It was also well written on a sentence level. When my eyes excitedly jumped down the page because I wanted to know what happened next, I always went back to read the half-paragraph or whatever that I skipped.

I highly recommend Otherbound to all YA and adult fantasy fans. I would be remiss if I didn't also recommend it to readers looking for diversity. Nolan is hispanic and Nahuatl and has a prosthetic leg. The magic stuff also has many parallels with chronic illness (although isn't because magic). Amara had her tongue cut out at a young age (because she's a servant) and has to sign with her hands to communicate. But whether you care about diversity or not, Otherbound is excellent. Do yourself a favour and read it. I will definitely be keeping a keen eye on Duyvis's future work.

5 / 5 stars

First published: June 2014, Amulet Books
Series: No (shockingly)
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased from the iBooks store

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