The Light Between Worlds is a much more complicated story than I anticipated. There’s a lot to unpack here.
If you’re expecting a light YA portal Fantasy, you’re wrong. This is a deep dive into codependency, mental health, guilt and trauma.
Broken into two distinct sections, this book follows sisters, Evelyn and Phillipa, and their complex, codependent relationship.
During WWII, the girls, along with their brother, Jamie, cowered in a London bomb shelter during a ferocious air raid. Somehow, whilst there, they are able to flee the shelter through a portal into a fantasy world known as the Woodlands.
They remain in this new world for five years, living amongst the creatures of myth and legend.
Ultimately they return to their world, where no time has passed at all. Jamie and Phillipa are ready to be back, but Evelyn, whose heart belongs to the Woodlands, finds it close to impossible to adjust.
Every day is a struggle for her. All she wants is to return to the Woodlands, which she considers her true home.
The first half of the book follows Evelyn’s perspective exclusively. We get present day portions, as well as various flashbacks to the children’s time in the Woodlands.
Through Evelyn, we learn more about her sister, Phillipa, who has since moved to America for University.
Evelyn is clearly struggling with Phillipa’s departure. She’s like a boat set adrift. She spends a lot of her time at her private school, Saint Agatha’s, exploring the woods on her own, hoping to find the portal to return to the Woodlands.
During Evelyn’s portion of the book, I developed one opinion on who Phillipa was as a character. I had the impression that Phillipa would be meek and mild, that she was scared to live in the Woodlands and that by going to America, she was running away.
Then the second half of the book is told solely from Phillipa’s point of view. It was a true perspective shift indeed.
It quite took me by surprise. What I thought I knew was flipped on its head.
The first half of the book seems choppy and random, although beautifully written, I found it a little disjointed and confusing. However, upon reflection, I believe that was intentional to set up the state of Evelyn’s mental health.
As we meet Phillipa, we discover she is bold and steady. Not at all how I expected. Evelyn is the one who is scared. She is afraid to live in the real world, where she suffered so much trauma, and was actually escaping into the fantastical world of the Woodlands.
When Phillipa receives a call from her brother, Jamie, she knows it is not going to be good news. She has been so worried about Evelyn, having cut herself off from her, and indeed, the news does concern her sister.
It appears Evelyn has gone missing and Phillipa must return to aid in the search.
Y’all this is a heart-breaking story. Once it starts to evolve, it’s so compelling. I couldn’t put this down once I figured out where it was going and what it was really about.
Please read the content warnings at the bottom of the synopsis before you pick this up. It certainly was much deeper, and more intricate, than I ever would have guessed in regards to trauma, PTSD, depression, and suicidal ideation.
I felt the relationship between Evelyn and Phillipa was incredibly crafted. Their codependent relationship was one of the best I have ever read. It definitely reminded me mildly of The Wicker King. If you enjoyed that book, you would probably also really enjoy this.
This is one of those books that the longer I sit with it, the more I gain an appreciation for how well-written it actually is. Weymouth made some very clever choices with how she told this story.
The Light Between Worlds is so much more than your run of the mill, YA Fantasy, so if you like stories with a bit of depth and real world bite to them, you should absolutely give this one a go.
Just keep in mind, though the writing is beautiful, this story is very heavy. Be prepared.