Portal fantasy (and sci-fi) has become a favourite of readers, ever since the advent of The Chronicles of Narnia. There is just something mythical and fascinating about being transported to another world. In Rosalind Tate’s Stranded, which is the first book in her Shorten Chronicles, the portal travels in time, to a place in the distant past, where social graces and keeping secrets to oneself may be the most important thing. Oh, and there’s a dog. Already, this is a great start.
1. Thoughts on the plot
This book follows Sophie Arundel, a new University student who is transported to the past with her acquaintance from school, Hugo, and her not-quite-official service dog, Charlotte. The portal leaves Sophie and Hugo stranded in a lane in the England of a different time, and once they leave the portal, it vanishes. Now, Sophie and Huge must blend in as best they can while they try to decipher the workings of the portal. The only thing is, history in this England isn’t the same.
I will admit, it took me a little bit to really get into the story on this novel. The first part, about the university, and then Hugo and Sophie’s initial trek to the Shorten Manor, didn’t really grab me. It felt a little like a typical portal fantasy, and even their thoughts about it being a dream felt a little too typical. But, as soon as we got to the Manor and learned that the lift portal had vanished, I was hooked. This story unfolded in a slow unfurling, and it was done spectacularly well. Each piece of the story built on what came before and fit in so perfectly with the adventure, the questions about the portal, and Sophie’s character development. By the end of this book, I was really keen to read more (and still am!).
This book is a slow-burn sort of book, but the detail that went into the construction of the plot, down to the clothing and food, not to mention science, was exceptional.
2. Thoughts on the characters
Despite my not really getting into the plot until we reach the past, I did like Sophie’s character right from the start. Any girl who has the gumption to arrive at University with her dog in tow, but no official service animal paperwork, is one I’m interested in reading about. She has spark, and doesn’t always think things through, but is fully aware of how her actions affect others. Only, maybe, after they’ve already happened.
I really enjoyed reading about how Sophie’s character changed and adapted to the circumstances throughout the novel. Learning tahe social graces of a different time is always complicated, but Sophie’s leap first philosophy made it even more entertaining to follow. I also like the various relationships she formed while on her adventure, from friends to family and maybe more. It will be fascinating to see how those unfold in future stories.
3. Favourite part
Charlotte’s antics must get an honourable mention here, since she is absolutely a wonderful dog and character. But my true favourite part would have to be all the detail that went into this piece. The house, the products described, the social attitudes, the science, everything was just so well placed as to make the world come alive without overwhelming you with information. It was such fun to read, to see history come to life.
I really don’t have any real critiques for this novel. Despite it being a slow start, I thoroughly enjoyed it and even will say that the beginning makes perfect sense once you reach the end (or even middle) of the story. And even though the story ended on a cliffhanger, I can’t complain about that, either, as it was a perfect end to the story and didn’t leave you hanging. Yes, I do note the irony of that statement. Trust me, it makes sense when you read the book.
All in all, I should say that Stranded was an absolutely charming, delightful fantasy with just a touch of romance and romanticism. I enjoyed it a lot, especially Charlotte, and would recommend it to anyone who wants to see a bit of history come to life.