Brandon is investigating an arson when he comes across the strangest sight: snakes bursting into flame. Panicked, he calls for his boyfriend Aran, and together they manage to get away. But Aran knows the snakes from his grandmother’s stories, knows they are called pyresnakes, and begins to wonder if all those tales he thought were just stories were, in fact, true. When Branon and Aran get separated during a hike, Aran goes missing. And Brandon does the only thing he can. He calls Aran’s grandmother, Ruth. She knows exactly what’s happened, and comes to help find Aran.
Together, Brandon and Ruth step into another world. The Side-by-Side world, as Ruth calls it, exists next to this one, but only some people can see the paths that lead to the other world. She can, and so can Aran. Ruth knows he’s followed one of those paths, and takes Brandon with her so they can find Aran. Find him and remind him of all the things in this world he loves, including Brandon, because if they can’t, they’ll lose Aran forever.
The whole idea of taking one step and finding yourself in a whole other world is one that has always intrigued me, so I couldn’t wait to read this story. Add into that a man searching for the love of his life, and who is willing to do whatever he must in order for him to be happy, and I was sold. Ellis has crafted an interesting and engaging world, with some great characters, that sucked me in.
The other side is fascinating, and it’s easy to see why Aran is captivated by the place. He’s long been called by nature and is happiest when he’s outside. When he crossed over, he’s in his element. The people he meets are wonderful and kind, caring for him and assisting him. It’s everything he’s ever wanted deep in his soul, so of course he wants to stay, even if he can’t exactly remember what he’s left behind.
Brandon is rooted in this side of the world and he can’t cross on his own. But his love for Aran shines through his every action. He goes to the other side to find Aran, yes. But it’s to make sure Aran is okay and to make sure Aran has all the facts so that he can make the decision that will make him happiest. I adored Brandon and the way he loved Aran.
The world building here was creative, and not something we see very often. But things were a little sparse. That lent itself well to the tale in that Aran didn’t know what was going on and he needed to learn for himself. As a reader though, I would have liked some more explanation to be more fully grounded in the story. Something more than “things just work this way” would have been appreciated.
All in all, it was a lovely tale. The fairytale-esque nature of it gave the whole thing a lyrical quality I really enjoyed. And of course, love wins in the end. If you’re looking for something a little bit different, then this might just be the story for you.
A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.