otherworldly coverRating: 4 stars
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Length: Novel


Ellery grew up on their parents’ farm, but after five years of unrelenting winter, their parents were struggling financially, so Ellery moved to the city to work. They now live with their cousin, Charley, and her girlfriend, Zada, and work as a dishwasher at a local diner, sending money back home. Ellery is frustrated that their parents still believe in the supernatural, still pray to the gods and goddesses for an end to this strange period of winter, instead of finding practical solutions to their problems. Ellery is sure that if there actually are supernatural beings looking out for them, they wouldn’t let people starve and lose their homes by locking their local region in endless winter.

Knox is a familiar who works for the queen of the Otherworld, a space between the living world and the life beyond. Knox gets called in when people negotiate deals for their souls and need the assistance of his magic. Knox’s has been on his latest assignment for five years and, in all that time, he has not heard from his queen and she has not responded to any of his many letters. He can’t understand why she is ignoring him, or ignoring the people of the region by not changing the seasons. When his assignment ends, Knox is due to be brought back to the Otherworld, but he is not ready and still confused about what is going on with his queen, and so he runs instead.

Knox finds himself heading right for Ellery’s diner, and Ellery comes to Knox’s rescue before he can be taken back home. With Knox having nowhere safe to go, Ellery, Charley, and Zada invite him to stay with them while he gets sorted out. However, Knox knows he will not be safe from the shades who seek to bring him back to the Otherworld unless he has another bargain with a human to tether him to this world. And as Knox and Ellery get to know one another and grow closer, Knox begins to hope that Ellery might be able to help. But as Knox learns more about what is causing the mysterious winter, he also realizes that his dream of staying in the human world might be impossible. Knox and Ellery have fallen for each other, but finding a way they can have a future together is going to take bravery and sacrifice from both of them.

Otherworldly is a clever and sweet young adult fantasy from author F.T. Lukens. The story opens as we see a human making a bargain for her soul at the crossroads between realms, and Knox being assigned to help as her familiar. It brings us right into the action and gives a sense of the world building from the start. The set up with the mysterious five-year winter adds a really interesting dynamic, causing this conflict for Ellery between their parents’ belief in the supernatural and Ellery’s own doubts. They are frustrated with their parents’ blind faith and the fact they are wasting money on offerings to the gods and wishful thinking, rather than finding more practical ways to deal with the situation. And then, of course, Ellery meets Knox and learns that the supernatural is real and suddenly must realign their thinking. It is a nice set up and I enjoyed some of the paranormal elements as the group encounters not only Knox, but a siren, shades, various minor gods and goddesses, and other supernatural beings.

I did find the first portion of the story a little on the slow end, however. A lot of the time is Knox and Ellery getting to know one another and sort of day-to-day activities. Some of it is because Knox is eager for everyday experiences, but this is a long book and things dragged a little bit for me in the first half. After that, the action picks up as we learn more about the cause of the endless winter and Ellery and Knox both must face some significant trials. The story definitely has some nice exciting moments throughout (including some situations that may be intense for the youngest readers) and I found it a fun adventure.

I enjoyed the developing relationship between Knox and Ellery. There is a grumpy/sunshine vibe between them, plus a fun dynamic in that Knox is not human and is just getting a chance to explore the human world free of the bonds he normally has as a familiar. The romantic side is kept to the sweet (versus sexy) side of things and the book is pretty G-rated, with a few passionate kisses, but no more. The pair are cute as they are both crushing on each other, and there are heroic moments for both Knox and Ellery as they make sacrifices for the other. I also really enjoyed the dynamic with Charley and Zada, who are sort of the big sisters to Knox and Ellery. It is such a lovely relationship among the four of them and the older girls are a big source of love and support for the two teens.

Overall, I found this one an engaging YA fantasy. I really enjoy Lukens writing and think this is another great story.

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