Title: The Light Between Worlds
Author: Laura E. Weymouth
Genre: YA, fantasy
Pub. Date: Oct. 23rd, 2018 by Harper Teen
Synopsis: Five years ago, Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell cowered from air strikes in a London bomb shelter. But that night took a turn when the sisters were transported to another realm called the Woodlands. In a forest kingdom populated by creatures out of myth and legend, they found temporary refuge.
When Ev and Phil finally returned to London, nothing had changed at all—nothing, except themselves.
Now, Evelyn spends her days sneaking into the woods outside her boarding school, wishing for the Woodlands. Overcome with longing, she is desperate to return no matter what it takes.
Philippa, on the other hand, is determined to find a place in this world. She shields herself behind a flawless exterior and countless friends, and moves to America to escape the memory of what was.
But when Evelyn goes missing, Philippa must confront the depth of her sister’s despair and the painful truths they’ve been running from. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.
When I picked this book up on a whim, I definitely never expected to find one of my top favorite reads of 2018 and possibly of all time. The Light Between Worlds is one of those books that I felt in my bones, in every facet of my heart as I turned each page. It’s a story of belonging, sisterhood, love, and most of all, home.
I’m going to start my review off with a very important note, however, which I think everybody needs to understand before they pick up this book. Although the cover and marketing led me to believe that Light is high fantasy, I definitely would not put it in that category. You shouldn’t pick this up expecting Game of Thrones-style world-building or Sarah J. Maas-style characters. Light Between Worlds is really a genre-defying novel, which is one of the reasons I loved it so much! While it has elements of fantasy and magical realism, its foundation sits clearly in historical fiction with a focus on character development like a contemporary.
The book is broken into two halves, the first from the perspective of Evelyn, the younger sister whose every thought is consumed by her desire to return to the magical world of the Woodlands. The second half is told from Phillipa’s perspective, the older sister who is forced to deal with the aftermath when Evelyn goes mysteriously missing.
“As for me, I refuse to be pitied. I refuse to be anyone but who I’ve always been: Evelyn Hapwell, teller of truths and walker of worlds, friend of the Woodlands and enemy of tyrants, beloved of Cervus, the Guardian of the Great Wood.”
Initially, I was afraid that I wouldn’t like Phillipa’s half nearly as much as Evelyn’s (or vice versa). But both perspectives were equally as strong and heart-wrenching with distinct personalities. Overall, the narrative is so in-tune with the raw, human emotions of each character, I’ve never read something that felt so deeply personal even though I couldn’t relate to their issues from experience. The way Weymouth writes about life is utterly realistic and unabashedly true.
The world of the Woodlands is fairly simplistic, we see it mostly through flashbacks (which are intricately and seamlessly woven into the present story). The world-building is what I would consider to be extremely minimal and mostly intuitive, it’s very similar to Narnia. Because at the end of the day, this story is not about the fantasy world the characters are caught between, it’s about their journey to discover where they truly belong and how to mentally cope in a harsh reality.
Which brings me to another very important part of my review—content warnings. This book heavily discusses depression and suicide, and there are a few scenes displaying self-harm and disordered eating. If you think this book may not be safe for you to read, I encourage you to visit the author’s website, she has a page that explains more about Light’s sensitive content. Not only do we get to see ownvoices representation for depression, but we also see the very unique perspective of someone who has had to be the main caretaker of a family member with depression. I feel like we get to see the former somewhat often in YA literature, but never the latter. To have them both in one side-by-side narrative was truly breathtaking.
Post-WWII London serves as the perfect backdrop for this melancholy and contemplative story. The oppressive tension and uncertainty in the atmosphere are reflected in Evelyn and Phillipa’s struggles, as well as in minor characters from both our world and the Woodlands. The historical aspects made this feel right at home with classic stories like Narnia, Peter Pan, and even Wuthering Heights or other romantic British literature. Artwork and poetry are also featured very heavily in this book, which I adored! The art history nerd in me came out in full force as I sat googling each work of art mentioned and reading its description.
“This world is asleep, and no matter how many times I’ve wandered and wondered and spoken and sang, I’ve never been able to wake a single thing.”
And of course, the romance. AHHHHHH the freaking romance!! (Or really, romances, I should say). Evelyn and Phillipa both have prospective love interests, Tom and Jack. The romance is completely understated and just a whisper compared to the main focal points of the book, but damn did those two boys manage to capture my heart entirely. They’re both sweet, kind, patient, and deserve no less than the entire world.
Finally, the writing is phenomenal. Weymouth easily deserves to be on the NYT list just for her pure talent, I’m so shocked that this is the first we’ve ever gotten to read from her! I used more than an entire stack of tabs in my book to mark the quotes that I loved.
If you pre-order one fall release this entire year, let it be this book. I promise you will end up just as heartbroken and blown away as I am!