When I sat down to read this book I was really looking forward to a good foray into fantasy. The blurb intrigued me, I love the cover, and the idea behind it seemed really interesting. In fact, it was not quite what I expected.
The story tells of Kate, a divorcee living with her two children and the two children of her good friend Sam who suddenly disappeared in mysterious circumstances two years back. The ensuing stress of dealing with Sam's children has broken up Kate's marriage, and her heart as well; and then one day, out of the blue, Sam comes back.
With the help of their friend Lily, Kate and Sam - and all their children - must try to remake their lives; but through the Portal, in the realm where Sam has been kept prisoner by the mysterious Master, trouble has been brewing for a long time. Lily must return to her home and attempt - with Sam's help - to heal the realm and overthrow her old consort, the Master.
So far, so enthralling. The characters are well-defined and the action is interesting and moves at a nice pace. There are places where the sentence construction could be polished, but nothing that really irked me, and some of the descriptions of food did have me feeling quite hungry. So why the three stars?
I dithered about this, in all honesty, and nearly gave it four because the writing is probably worth that at least; but the guidelines say reviews are about how much *you liked* the item in question and in the interests of consistency I had to give it three, not so much because of any inherent flaw in the book itself but because there wasn't as much fantasy in it as I'd been expecting.
Pedantic? Quite possibly; but I don't often read contemporary fiction because I'm not really interested in it. I loved the parts of the story set in Lily's realm, and am hoping there will be more of the story set there in the subsequent books; though the parts of the story set in this world vary from well- to beautifully-written, they are by nature based in real life, and when reading fantasy, that's what I'm trying to get away from. As for the sequels, I will quite probably try the next one, and with my expectations correctly reset, should hopefully get on much better with it than I did with this one.
So: should you read this book? Yes, I think so - but be aware that by far the larger part of it is set around the kitchen table or on the sofa, and if you know that from the get-go, you'll probably really enjoy it. As an escape from real life it might not pull its full weight, but if you're looking for an enjoyable, well-written read, go for it.