Mythprint Review of MARROWLAND
John Rosegrant’s protagonist, Dan Hillman, might seem to have a lot on his plate for a teenager: Tolkien-fan parents who named him after a marginal but powerful character in the legendarium, a girlfriend with an abusive mother, a psychologist whose credentials seem unlikely to satisfy a state licensing board, shuttling back and forth between our world (“Outland”) and its Faëriean analogue (“Inland”), a quest to find an ancient creature of immense magical power, a changeling process gone horribly wrong, and a cannibalistic river spirit with a fondness for canned tuna. Marrowland , the fourth novel in Rosegrant’s “Gates of Inland” series, deftly untangles some of these complications and develops new ones.
Having read the first three volumes of the YA series ( Gatemoodle , Kintravel, and Rattleman ) with pleasure, I was looking forward to Marrowland — nor was I disappointed: indeed, I read it, the first time, all in one gulp. I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Rosegrant at Mythcon, and hearing excellent papers from him there. My comments, then, are not written from a neutral point of view.
Rosegrant populates Inland with beings from a wide variety of cultural traditions. There are a Cro-Magnon goddess, fairies whose king rides on the Wild Hunt, dwarves, goblins, kobolds, wood-sprites, Mayan Aluxob, Andean muki and auki, talking dragons, and unicorns, in addition to creatures of his own imagining. The protagonist and his friends (on the other hand) are relentlessly creatures of contemporary pop culture, if perhaps denizens of its geekier or more goth corners. Given Dan’s immersion from birth in the world of Tolkien, it’s not surprising that he makes (and the narrator makes from his point of view) frequent references to Middle-earth, but characters also regularly allude to World of Warcraft , Harry Potter, and The Amazing Spider-Man . (I might wonder, in passing, whether this feature will turn out to be something of a liability in the long term, should there come a time in which YA readers will no longer immediately recognize such references.) Fairy-tale customs also play a major role — I’ve already mentioned the idea of the changeling, and the im- portance of groups of three is another example. Characters can move between the worlds through magical gates (though this is becoming more difficult) and, in some instances, can also instantaneously “kintravel” through the Shadowlands to the location of a relative or close friend. In Rosegrant’s well- thought-out vision, Inland and Outland are two sides of the same coin, as are fairies and human beings (nor can the wise discern whether the separation of the peoples led to the split of worlds, or vice versa), and each world nourishes the other, the people of Inland being eager for physical food from Outland (the canned tuna being only one example), and those of Outland seeking (if they are wise) food for the soul in Inland.
Marrowland begins as Dan and his friends, Josh and Alice, arrive through a gate from Outland in the Inland version of Peru (earlier sites in the series include Manhattan’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Stonehenge and Palenque). They are pursuing, and hope to neutralize, a powerful witch known as “Sister”; in the longer term, their goal is to reconnect with Dan’s girlfriend, Maggie, in Fairyland, and to complete Dan’s search for the First Changing Beast — the task for which he was brought into Inland in the first place. Along the way, they meet up two other Outlanders, Sonco and Illary, Quechua who are engaged on a quest of their own — the first people Dan has encountered whose stories are independent of his. Captured, the five escape only with the somewhat short-tempered help of one of the Gatekeepers. Dan makes a gate to return the Quechua to the Out-world, and then kintravels with his friends to Maggie. It turns out, however, that Fairyland is protected against kintravel, so the three only come close to their destination, and the second section of the novel deals with their efforts to reach Fairyland, locate Maggie, and help her find her parents. Accomplishing that requires a confrontation with Sister, and a desperate magical defense; but, having survived that, and with two of the fairy army as escort, Dan and his friends resume the quest for First Changing Beast.
The series in general, and this volume, seem to me well-suited to a YA audience (though, obviously, also attractive to adults). Rosegrant’s style is appealing and accessible, and while there is some talk of the teen-aged characters “hooking up,” there’s nothing so graphic as to be problematic for the intended readers. These are books I have enthusiastically recommended to others, and I look forward to volume five.
Kirkus Review of MARROWLAND:
This fourth installment of a YA fantasy-adventure series transports a resolute hero back to a magical realm.
Picking up where the third book left off, this volume opens with the protagonist, Dan Hillman, just after he arrives in Inland, this time with his friends Josh and Alice (who is new to this fairyland). To save his changeling girlfriend, Maggie, from the sinister sorceress Sister, Dan had interfered with Sister’s gate to Inland, sending her to that world’s version of South America. Now the trio has followed her to prevent Sister from using Maggie’s “truename” against her. Dan is no stranger to Inland, but this is his first time in South America, which is populated not by European-style hobgoblins and fairies, but by Andean muki, with their backward feet, and Condor People. Though this is new territory for Dan, he has mystical friends to call on even here, from the healer Auki to the Gatekeeper Crackerbones, and a special power of “threeness” from traveling to the area with his two close friends. And he’ll need the help, because this escapade sees him trekking from the jungles of South America to the fairy Marrowland, where Dan and Maggie will have to confront not only Sister, but also the changeling’s family history. Rosegrant’s (Rattleman, 2016, etc.) latest novel in his series widens the worldbuilding of Inland, taking the reader to new places, examining the Old Ways of the fairies, and painting in the history of Maggie and Sister, the human who had been swapped for the changeling. There’s plenty of action in this tale and also a measured amount of YA reflection: when things go wrong, Dan sinks into a bad mood, but even when his plans work out, he feels melancholic and wonders why. But Dan and his friends aren’t mopey: they keep a sense of humor throughout (“Hashtag WowBlameTheVictim,” says Alice about how the fairies treat Maggie). And the fact that Dan is a fantasy fan makes him easy to identify with—he offers the same comparisons to Tolkien that the reader is tempted to supply.
Another exuberant entry that explores the Inland world.
Kirkus Review of RATTLEMAN:
This installment of the Gates of Inland series picks up where the last left off, with the human Dan endeavoring to get himself and his fairy girlfriend, Maggie, back to Inland. Complicating the plan is Sister, a villainous girl who was taken to Inland in Maggie’s place as a child. Sister has learned magic and plans to destroy Maggie, Dan, and much of Inland if she can learn Maggie’s True Name. As in previous books, Dan travels between Inland and Outland, and as he attempts to weaken Sister and continue his own quest to find the legendary First Changing Beast, he also tries to reunite Sister with her real mother, who raised and abused Maggie. He journeys to New York City with Graciela, where Sister seems to be using the local museums to create portals and draw power to herself, and he meets old friends in Inland, who inform him of a prophecy. Meanwhile, Maggie’s mother speaks to a mysterious being called Rattleman, and Dan’s therapist exhibits suspicious behavior. This volume is as action-packed as previous titles in the series… and there’s plenty of suspense and intrigue for those who go along for the ride. A fun fantasy adventure…
Kirkus Review of KINTRAVEL:
Dan can’t shake thoughts of Inland, and he’ll do anything to be reunited with Maggie, who went off to find the Moss Maidens, whom she believes are her ancestors. Luckily, Dan gets a chance to return to Inland while on a trip to Palenque in Mexico. Accompanied by his best friend, Josh, and new friend, Graciela, the daughter of a shaman, he enters a portal and finds himself back in the fantasy land. The first book focused on a fairy world based on English and Irish tales, but this one starts off in Mexico, which gives Inland another flavor altogether: Dan meets Quetzalcoatl and Mexican water spirits, cousins of Gatemoodle’s Nellie, a mermaid-type creature. This adds an intriguing layer to this series’ world; if each area of Inland represents the myths and legends and dreams of the portal’s location, the possibilities for adventure are almost limitless. … Dan locates Billy Portman as well as Maggie, who has certainly changed—she speaks with a different cadence, and has learned the ways of the Moss Maidens. Although she has no desire to return home, she still misses certain Outlanders, and feels like she doesn’t quite belong in Inland. Together, she and Dan set out to find the “First Changing Beast,” a creature who can help them pass between Inland and Outland more easily, whenever they desire…Dan continues to be a likable character, and readers will likely be interested to see how he develops in future books…A solid YA sequel that offers a wider worldview and deeper themes of responsibility.
Kirkus Review of GATEMOODLE:
A 17-year-old must save a magical world in a novel that blends reality and fantasy.
At the beginning of Rosegrant’s YA debut, Dan Hillman is bored. He has plenty on his mind—his new crush and his upcoming college applications, class trip, prom and high school graduation—but he can’t seem to get excited about anything. That changes when he wakes up one night to find his favorite childhood stuffed animal playing “World of Warcraft.” Dan learns that his beaver has been possessed by a creature calling himself Billy Portman, a “gatekeeper” from the world of Inland, which exists alongside the real world. Billy’s world needs help from Dan, who will have to find it before he can learn his purpose there. Divided into three sections, the novel involves Dan’s attempts to find his way to Inland, his journey in that magical realm and his return to his own world to act as instructed. Dan sets out on his trip with Maggie, the goth girl he has a crush on, and they encounter a river enchantress, witches, goblins and other supernatural creatures. Maggie feels at home in Inland and is entranced by one of the witches. What is Maggie’s connection to Inland, and what does Inland need from Dan? Gatemoodle is the first book of the Gates of Inland series, which will answer some questions in future installments...Dan is a funny and likable protagonist...and Rosegrant links his regular and fantasy lives well. It’s also interesting to have a protagonist in a fantasy novel who likes fantasy, including games such as “World of Warcraft,” himself. His interests allow him to make fun connections in Inland that the more typical reluctant hero of fantasy might have missed. The novel also gives well-known fairy-story tropes a modern twist through Dan’s point of view.
A fantasy journey with an engaging teenage main character.