I like it when an author can surprise me. The other day, I was poking about the genre fiction section of my local Borders store and saw handful of paperbacks by an author I hadn’t read before. After perusing the title pages to make sure I got only the first book in a series, I selected On the Edge.
The big surprise to this lovely tale is her approach. My first reaction was that this is urban fantasy. But then again, it has some elements of high fantasy with very well-developed characters and grand designs in the background. There was also a graphic depiction of desperation and poverty that reminded me of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath”.
We’ve all read countless tales of the mundane human world and a nearby, magical fae world. In some of them, magical gates will teleport the characters from one to the other. In other tales, they are one and the same and most humans just can’t detect the magical beings around them.
In this novel, Ilona Andrews shows us a totally different way of looking at this separation. Imagine an alternate corner of the multiverse where the two worlds overlap and yet there is a border area where a few rare beings can cross. The border is an irregular line that divides the United State diagonally. Like most things in the universe, there is no pure black and white. Instead there is a narrow area where the two dimensions mingle. This is called The Edge. Since only minor magics work there and many technical items don’t, it is considered the slums of both worlds and only the very poor or very desperate choose to live there.
I’ve lived in a border town before. And her writing refreshed many images of poverty and making the best of a bad situation. This can be difficult to do while remaining upbeat and hopeful. The author does it well.
Another reviewer coined the term “Rustic Fantasy” for this story, but I think it is much more than that. It is a marvelous story of overcoming incredible odds and finding love in the midst of desperation. I’m eagerly looking forward to the rest of this series.
You can read the first chapter for free on Ilona’s website.