Five years ago during air strikes in London, Evelyn and Philippa Hapwell were transported to the Woodlands–a magical forest kingdom in another realm filled with creatures out of myth and legend and a temporary refuge, as well as its own type of strife.
When they finally returned to London, nothing had changed at all—nothing, except themselves.
Now, Ev longs to return to the Woodlands and is desperate to do so, no matter what. Philippa, on the other hand, is determined to find a place in this world, whether it’s near her sister in England or across the ocean in America.
But when Evelyn goes missing, Philippa must confront how deep her sister’s despair runs. As the weeks unfold, Philippa wonders if Ev truly did find a way home, or if the weight of their worlds pulled her under.
Trigger Warning: self-harm & more available here
This was such a poignant read, I’m stunned by Weymouth’s expert skill at manipulating what we perceive as reality and fiction.
Not only was I wholly immersed in this novel–in the rich worlds of the Woodlands and wartime London–I was also invested in the characters’ stories and wanted to see them succeed.
Let me backtrack.
Weymouth definitely blew my expectations away with her debut, and I definitely already had decently high expectations.
Yet, there was so much meaning and subtext within this novel, and all I really want to do is reread and reanalyze the whole thing. I mean, everything is so subtle, and although this looks like a really loud clashing action-y fantasy–or at least, it could be–it’s definitely not that type of story.
If anything, I would classify The Light Between Worlds as a character story, and full of self-rumination and the aftermath of an event. Sure, the sisters’ time in the Woodlands is important, but ultimately the focus of this story would be on the sisters moving on, not them spending time at the Woodlands.
It’s more of a “what now?” sort of book, and I love how this new style of “after” books is emerging, because ultimately, all of us will relate to the after more than the clashing action and heroism.
Evelyn is so natural and definitely has her heart in another world, while Philippa will ground herself wherever she is, which is what I find to be a really great juxtaposition between the sisters that worked. They highlight each others’ flaws, and even their own stories sort of mimic each other in subtle ways.
And I loved reading the flashbacks to the Woodlands–those provided enough magic and intrigue and mystery that I wanted to keep reading, and finding out what devastated Evelyn and made her so un-whole is a big part of why I kept reading. The Woodlands is magical and mysterious and very different from our world, yet so very similar to wartime throughout history, as war is devastating no matter what realm it’s from.
Why 4.5 when I enjoyed it so much? Honestly, I feel like it’s because Philippa’s part felt too short for me. Going into this book, I definitely had my doubts about its one sister, then the other sister format, and I do think some of my fears came true in the way that I related to Evelyn and her story a lot more than Philippa’s.
Although I can devise no other way to change the format without making the Woodlands chapters more awkward, I still wanted something more to link Philippa and Evelyn’s story and the transition between them. Something more that made me equally invested in Philippa’s personal journey.
And my preference for Evelyn’s chapters could have been because I just liked Evelyn more (although, emotionally I think I’m more like Philippa) but some parts of me think I was more invested in Evelyn than Philippa because of how Evelyn introduced the story and struggled a lot more visibly than Philippa did.
There’s so much nuance and subtext in The Light Between Worlds, and it’s really hard to describe the sort of lull it creates while you read this and sort of, soak and simmer in a pot of emotions. But I do have to say that it’s a lull I enjoyed, and this debut fantasy definitely blew me away with its subtle meaning and underlying themes.
Definitely recommend for anyone looking for something a little more low-key and a little less in-your-face action.
Thank you so much to Harper Collins and Edelweiss for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review!