When a young woman who can enter fictional worlds decides to change their plots, she faces fierce resistance in this debut contemporary novel.
“Sometimes I just want to shout the truth about me and what I’m capable of at the world,” says Elana Black, but she knows that’s a terrible idea. Who would believe that Elana can depart her current reality and step into novels, TV shows, movies, and even comic books? She can’t explain it herself: “There’s a lot that I don’t know. I don’t know most things.” In an old sitcom, Elana for the first time meets someone like herself, Paolo, who explains they’re not alone; they’re “travelers of a kind.” They can tap into the Knowing—learning people’s tales—and all worlds are real. Thinking of the suffering she’s read or seen, Elana is deeply unsettled, and after entering a favorite episode of the Doctor Who–like show Eternity Pilgrim, she prevents a minor character’s destruction. This success gives her a new sense of purpose: “I’ve decided to rewrite history as a full-time hobby.” But Elana has dangerous, angry foes who don’t want her to upset the balance of things and are willing to use her friends as pawns. Elana must learn more about herself and her abilities to stand up for the principle that every story matters. In this series opener Bell (Warning Call, 2017) offers a nice twist on the portal fantasy, with Elana able to enter any kind of world that fiction can describe. It’s almost too soon that the tale turns to its complications, because the intriguing notion is worth more exploration. Elana is a sympathetic heroine with some challenges (social anxiety, a low-status bookstore clerk job) but a strong moral compass that points true. Friendship, too, is a theme of the novel, and Elana must learn to trust that she can rely on her circle. As she explains, with an appropriate fictional reference, she’s not a lone wolf, she’s “Buffy Summers, someone who needs a family.”
An entertaining premise, effective voice, and underlying warmth make a strong start to this fantasy series.