I’d been told that Hollywood was where you went if you wanted to sell your soul to make movies. I went, but I never sold my soul. No one would buy it. I just got tired of carrying it around.
As a fantasy writer myself, I resent the way an interloper, like thriller writer Andrew Klavan, can just waltz in and write a compelling fantasy without (apparently) breaking a sweat or learning the secret handshake.
I comfort myself by finding a few nitpicks in my generally enthusiastic reception.
The hero of Another Kingdom is Austin Lively, a lowly Hollywood “story analyst.” A story analyst reads unsolicited scripts, and novels under consideration for script development, for Hollywood studios. Austin wrote a very good script once, but it died in development purgatory. Now he just gets by, a Hollywood drone, the despair of his high-achieving family.
But one day he has an impulse to re-read a book he “analyzed” a while back. The author withdrew it from consideration, but it stuck in his mind. He can’t find it on Amazon, and no bookseller seems to have it. On his way to check out another possibility, he walks through a doorway…
And finds himself in a tall castle window, teetering over the edge. He has a bloody dagger in his hand, and a beautiful woman lies dead, stabbed to death, on the floor behind him. Armed men break in and arrest him, dragging him off to a dungeon. There he nearly loses his mind with fear, until the guards come to take him away for torture. As he passes through the door again, he is transported back to Los Angeles…
Where he soon finds himself being hunted by a sexually ambiguous hit man, who works for a billionaire – who just happens to be the man who employs his father, his mother, and his brother. Who also owns the studio where Austin works.
Somebody will be killed, and Austin will be blamed. And all the while, at uncontrollable intervals, when he least expects it, Austin will be dropped back into the world of Another Kingdom, where he is now part of the resistance to a tyrannical government, fighting to bring back the rightful queen.
Each time he passes into Another Kingdom, he learns something – something that helps him survive in the “real world” of Los Angeles. And gradually he matures, becoming the man he always wanted to be, but never believed he could be.
Because this is Klavan, I assume Another Kingdom is Christian fantasy. But it’s not like your ordinary Christian fantasy (not even mine). There’s foul language, and sex scenes without any reference to Christian morality. I’m expecting the lessons to be deeper, and to become apparent later in the trilogy.
I had a few quibbles, as I mentioned. The medieval fantasy world of Another Kingdom seems to me pretty much pro forma, a city boy’s imagination. It lacked verisimilitude, for me. I don’t expect a medieval manor house to have glass doors (too expensive and fragile). A horse is lent to the hero, and all he does with it is ride it – he doesn’t feed it or unsaddle it or rub it down or check its feet. It’s just there for his use, like a car.
But the trademark Klavan storytelling delights are all here – the action never lets up, and one deadly peril follows the other in breathtaking style. This book will not bore you, not for one moment. I recommend it (with cautions for adult stuff) and look forward to the rest of the trilogy.