Review: To The Other Side (Terra #1) by S.J. Frost

Standard

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

To the Other Side coverBiologist and environmentalist Garrett Evergard is hiking through the woods in the Pacific Northwest trying the find the means to save the woods from being clear cut by a developer.  All Garrett needs is to find one species of plant or animal rare enough that calls these woods on the edge of the Olympic National Forest home to get them  designated as a protected habitat.  Little did Garrett know that he was about to stumble into the most amazing find of his life. When Garrett spies a rare spirit or Kermode bear, a white colored black bear that resides only in a specific habitat.  Focused only on the spirit bear, a missed step finds Garrett falling into the ravine, an accident that will forever change his life.

Bryson Summers is a Native American, one of a long line of witches and Gatekeepers.  Bryson lives a life of two worlds, one on each side of a door in his cottage that straddles the border between them.  One is Earth, and on the other side, a magical place called Terra.  Here unicorns, dragons of all sizes, and magical beings like brownies and elves live with humans that live and work as they did long ago.  The spirit bear calls to Bryson when Garrett falls.  Garrett’s injuries are severe and Bryson takes him home to heal and recover.

As Garrett recuperates, the men find their mutual attraction deepens until Bryson finds himself dreading Garrett’s departure, something that Garrett is also not looking forward to.  But the forest and his job awaits.  And Bryson’s attention is needed to a growing danger from a power mad duke capable of great evil.  When Bryson disappears, Garrett will do anything he can to save him but what can a mere human do against such great magic?  Garrett is about to find out.

In this first novel in her new series Terra, S.J. Frost takes the idea of parallel worlds and makes it fresh with her own twists and ideas.  From the moment we enter the story and watch Garrett confronted with two tiny dragons zipping from flower to flower in a manner akin to hummingbirds, the reader knows they are in for a delightful time in a realm that sparkles with the strangely beautiful and abounds with fantasy creatures we will never get enough of.  The Floras or flower dragons are tiny jewels and just one of the many dragon species that spill over the pages and into our hearts.  I say one of many because  waiting for us inside Bryson’s cabin is Wynn, a small sized white dragon with an affinity for bodice ripper romances and Oreo cookies.  And more equally wondrous creations quickly follow on the heels of his appearance (although Wynnie is a heart grabber for sure).  Bryson the Gatekeeper is able to talk to them all because of his deep connection to the Earth and all its animals, no matter what side they dwell on.   Terra is constructed along the lines of Medieval times.  It lacks any form of technology and its societal structure is along those of royalty/peasant/serf strata. In fact, all those elements and species Earth lacks can now be found on the other side.  Magic, faeries, dragons, elves, brownies and more to come I expect as more stories unfold and the series expands our knowledge of Terra and its kingdoms.

In addition to the wonderful job S.J. Frost does in building her series universe, we are given an endearing and quixotical core group of characters to connect and empathize with. To The Other Side deals primarily with the meeting and romance of Garrett, the biologist and  Bryson, the Gatekeeper but Frost also introduces a host of companions whose stories are sure to follow this one.  There is Torren, a Dragon Speaker, who can talk to every type of dragons and mourns the fact that dragon slayers are allowed to prowl the kingdom killing dragons without cause or the slightest hesitation.  Zain, the Black Fox, an assassin for hire and known thief.  Zain has already found his love, Larkin, but there’s a problem there and its a deep one.   Larkin, a bard, is a small, beautiful man with a gift of conversing with the dead, a problem when the man you love is a stone cold killer.  And theirs is not the only untenable or hopeless love that Frost reveals in this first story.  Another that will appear is an elf Aleric, who sad past and quest is surely deserving of his  own story and HEA.  And Boggy the brownie who loves to clean and grump about them all.  Land’s End, Bryson’s home, serves as their informal headquarters and way house when they are all in the area.  Each character is beautifully defined, with the depth and breadth of personality needed to bring them to life and make us care for them all.

Frost has a flask full of complications for Garrett and Bryson to overcome in their own quest for love and a future.  Bryson is tied down to his Gate and is long lived due to his connection to the Gate and Earth/Terra.  He is also a powerful witch whose gifts are needed in the nearby villages.  Garrett too has an important job to finish, that of saving the forest where the Gate is located.  He needs to find a rare species to save those woods from a developer and in finding it, it may have found true love as well.  There are magical hurdles to overcome as well as realistic mundane ones and watching these two men surmount each and every one is a true joy.

S,J. Frost tells her story with a well developed sense to humor to go along with the pathos.  The pace is a little slow in the beginning as Frost is laying the foundation for the story and the series, but once in place the story takes flight. And we and the characters are in for a marvelous ride.

Next up is Torren’s story and that of Sir Karrick Brenton a Knight of the Crown who enters into the story at the very end of To The Other Side.  I can’t wait.  Already this series has grabbed my attention and my heart.  I can’t wait to see where the author takes us with this group of characters on their journeys to romance and true love.

Cover Art by Jared Rackler.  A little dark but the outline of the unicorn behind that gorgeous cover model is perfect to set the tone and intrigue the reader.

Book Details:

ebook, 250 pages
Published May 31st 2013 by MLR Press (first published May 30th 2013)
ISBN 1608208680 (ISBN13: 9781608208685)
edition languageEnglish
url http://www.mlrbooks.com/ShowBook.php?book=SJF_OTHR
seriesTerra #1
characters: Garrett Evergard, Bryson Summers

Books in the Terra series to date in the order they should be written and read:

To The Other Side (Terra #1)
Knight of Fire (Terra #2)