Fantasy author Kyla knows dreams don’t come true. Isolated and grappling with debilitating depression, she copes by writing about the realm of Solera. Fearless heroes, feisty shapeshifters, and mighty dragons come alive on her pages. She adores her characters, but she doesn’t believe in happy endings. And if she can’t have one, why should they?
Kyla’s on the verge of giving up on everything when she wakes one morning, magically trapped in her fictional world. Now she’s with her most cherished characters: the friends she’s always yearned for, the family she’s never known. There’s even someone who might be Prince Charming (if Kyla could get her act together and manage some honest communication). She’d surrender to the halcyon fantasy, except she knows a nightmarish ending awaits. Solera is at war, and its defenders are losing against the insidious villain spawned in the depths of Kyla’s mind. He feeds on the energy of dreams, seeks the destruction of all who oppose him-and Kyla’s become his number one target.
Kyla must trade her pen for a sword and fight to change her story’s ending, but this isn’t a fantasy anymore. No happily-ever-after is guaranteed. And mental illness has robbed her of everything she needs to succeed: love, fighting spirit, hope. If Kyla can’t overcome the darkness inside her, she’ll die with her darlings.
Inkheart Meets Inception?
This teaser offered above the actual synopsis made me quite interested in this book. I’ve never read Inkheart but loved its premise. I’ve seen Inception multiple times and adored its confusion and plot twists. And without much of an introduction, L. E. Harper (I will hereafter always refer to her by her name) surely served us with this tense and promising combination. We meet her protagonist, an unnamed author (although the synopsis reads otherwise; she will be names “the author” or “the protagonist” hereafter), believing to be only dreaming but ultimately stuck in that quite realistic dreams. She gets to explore her self-created world and all her darlings within, even confines in them who she is instead of their friend Kyla whose body she possesses. She also has to face the fact and admit it that she knows every detail about her darlings’ deadly endings – because she wrote them.
And why did it happen?
There’s always a why in fiction. That’s the difference between fiction and reality: fiction has to make sense. Suffering serves a purpose in stories, advancing the character or the plot. On Earth, suffering is meaningless. There is no point, no greater goal. Life grinds you down until you’re a paltry Echo of who you used to be.
L. E. Harper did an amazing job inviting us into this fantasy world and making the author experience everything for the first time although she knows it by heart. None of her descriptions seemed to be pure information drops but were always connection to sentiments of this unique adventure. And the adventure did only begin. With her beloved characters, the protagonist will try to defeat her book’s antagonist. She will aim to save this world that is worth more to her than the reality outside Solera. Without ever really stepping a foot into our universe, we acknowledge step by step how the life there must have been for our protagonist.
CONTENT WARNINGS: Depictions of mental illness including depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, and self-harm.
L. E. Harper’s preface already prepares us for the implications of this story that are not always easy digestible. From the very first chapter on, we experience the protagonist’s desperation and hopelessness, although it is countered by the love and excitement for her creations. The book is not only dark and getting us readers down all the time, but the author’s depression constantly resonates in her behavior and thinking. I’ve adored this portrayal of “darkness” in one’s sole but also the character development and her continuing strengthening and the recalibration of her perspective. While reading, I noted down tons of quotes that will keep motivating me the next months and years.
This book caught my attention from the very first page. Harper smoothly introduced us to the unnamed author’s created world that she gets to explore and her own, contrasting them through the protagonist’s memories. We fall in love with her designed characters and discover the mystery and sense behind this adventure. With fantastical elements, humor, and much heart, Harper draws an authentic, moving image of one’s personal abysses and depression, but also evokes hope and reasons for keeping up the fight.