Let’s Read Otherbound ch. 3-4


Chapter three

It’s back to Nolan, who is vomiting while Amara and Maart bump uglies in the Dunelands. This leads to an interesting juxtaposition:

that meant switching between feeling his knees on cool tiles and acid in his throat to witnessing Amara and Maart in the alcove bed, leaving him with mental whiplash and voyeur guilt and—in short—terrible aim.

That’s pretty amusing.

—Maart was kissing Amara, slick lips on her neck, the dip of
her collarbone—

This is an extremely uncomfortable scenario to imagine a person being in. Or possibly not?

If he had to deal with Amara’s pain, shouldn’t he be allowed the good parts, as well, no matter the guilt

Nolan, you cad. Interestingly, he indicates here that there are times when he wants to get mentally pulled into Amara’s point of view, and during those episodes it can be hard for him to come back to reality.

We get introduced to Nolan’s thirteen year old sister Pat, who apparently wears fingerless leather gloves with spikes across the knuckles.


(For some reason typing “radical teen” into google image search brings up tons of hits related to Christian youth groups)

We get a bit more backstory on Nolan, namely that his being bound to an other world (otherbound, you might say) has been going on at least since the age of five and doctors came up with a diagnosis of a rare and complicated form of epilepsy to explain all of the symptoms even though it doesn’t really make any sense. He now claims that the “hallucinations” of non-existent people have stopped, although of course they haven’t.

He glanced at the faded ballpoint scribbles that stretched across his flesh. Dit letters. He’d practiced writing them the other night at the same time Amara had

If you stare into the Dunelands, the Dunelands stare into you.

Seriously though it’s interesting how Nolan brings elements of Amara’s life into his own. It feels like a very well observed detail.

“That was Grandma Pérez’s carnitas. We’re having the Thai

From three days ago? Nolan swallowed the words. The rule
was that you didn’t toss out food until it turned suspicious

Money troubles at the Santiago household? Nolan’s treatment might be straining their finances.

During the dinner Nolan witnesses Amara and Maart freaking out over something happening to Cilla that turns out to be nothing to worry about, while lying to his mom and handling general family interaction. If there’s one kind of unbelievable aspect of this story (although it’s a necessary conceit) it’s that Nolan is able to function at all; if you actually had to live like this full time you’d probably be driven to either insanity or suicide before too long.

This act used to be easier. He’d always been the good big brother and the ideal son, who might be aloof but at least didn’t do drugs or smoke or hang with the wrong crowd. At least he didn’t splurge on video games or stay out all night. At least he no longer had those hallucinations.

But lately, people wanted more than tailor-made smiles, and he didn’t know what to give them.

I’m always wary of assuming an author is basing parts of their book on their own life (mainly because I think people really overestimate how often writers actually do that) but I do wonder if Nolan’s mindset is based at least partially on Corinne Duyvis’ experiences with autism. The way he reacts to his “condition” has a level of realism to it that you just don’t see a whole lot in fiction. If so it’s a good argument (not that any is needed) for the importance of “non-mainstream” voices in fiction.

Nolan goes to scribble in his notebooks and we get some fairly horrific details about Cilla’s curse and how Amara negates it:

 Jorn grabbed his knife. He slashed open Cilla’s skin further, then thrust Amara’s hand into the cut and dragged her arm along it. Then, pushing her out of reach, he helped Cilla wrap up, shielding her palms from the air so her blood couldn’t call louder than the fresh smears on Amara’s skin.

The earth drew open. Roots wrapped around Amara’s ankles. They dragged her down, slicing her legs through the thick fabric of her winterwear. When she stumbled to all fours, the next root coiled around her arms, up to her throat. One wormed its way between her lips. Pushed into an empty mouth, past the remains of a sliced-up tongue, and beyond.

Then the roots drink her blood! She’s seven during this bit, by the way. This is incidentally also when Nolan (also seven) lost his foot- he fell off his bike and a jeep ran him over.

Like I said last time, these people’s lives are fucked up. Holy shit.

Instead, he’d gone upstairs after abandoning his meal, leaving Pat to her Nahuatl studies and Dad to sort through bills and write angry letters about banned books at Nolan’s school.

I was not aware that you can learn Nahuatl in high school, but apparently you can? Not sure what’s up with Nolan’s dad writing angry letters as well.

We get some confirmation of what I suspected earlier, that Nolan’s family is in financial trouble, mostly because of the fancy anti-seizure meds he’s on (that don’t actually do anything because they weren’t designed to treat being OTHERBOUND). Naturally Nolan is pretty guilty because of this. Hey look protagonists with normal, understandable human reactions to things, what a surprise.

Chapter 4

Back over to our girl Amara, who is going to sneak downstairs to the mystery pub where Cilla is getting a chance to experience the joys of alcohol as a once-off thing (it’s usually too dangerous for her) and Jorn is getting hammered. Apparently he’s been getting hammered a lot lately.

most Alineans had returned to the Alinean Islands after the coup, but the ones who remained in the Dunelands still made all the money, still had the best jobs, and still walked with their heads held high, and that was starting to bother even those who’d supported the monarchy.

Cilla was the Alinean princess, by the way.

And Cilla—she might not wear her hair the proper way, but she was Alinean through and through, from the way her dark skin blended into the shade of the booth to the way her nose pinched between her eyes, then flared wide

A description of Cilla, in case anyone is interested. Amara is an “Elig” and therefore apparently has somewhat lighter skin than the Alineans and the other major demographic in the area, who are called the Dit (although she’s still described as “dark” which means none of the characters described so far are white, which is rare for fantasy)

Amara sneaks over to some fantasy-newspapers to read about the situation in the nearby capital, but then Cilla accosts her looking panicked. Amara assumed she’s been injured, but it turns out that mages sent by DJ RudeMinister Ruudde have arrived. Maart stealthily signs to Amara to just ditch the princess and run, but she ignores him and decides to fulfill her role as bodyguard/supernatural whipping girl.

It looks like the same group of mages have been pursuing our heroes for a while, which means we’ve got a quirky miniboss squad I guess. Apparently the woman with the knife is the most dangerous, but she hasn’t shown up yet this time. Also, the mages have apparently “killed” Amara several times before, only for her to heal afterwards.

But what Amara wanted—needed—was to burst through the crowd and kill these mages, knifewielder or not. Killing a mage ended their spells. A curse like Cilla’s would’ve required tens of mages working in unison, but in the end, a single person channeled the magic. A single mage responsible. It could’ve been a minister. Could’ve been someone they hired. Could’ve been one of these two.

It’s played somewhat ambiguously whether Amara is so desperate to end Cilla’s curse for Cilla’s sake or her own. Both would be perfectly understandable motivations.

A Thrilling Chase ensues, during which the phrase “dumphouse” gets used a lot. As they’re leaving Cilla gets a bit too close to Amara and Amara swoons a bit. Come on Amara, now isn’t the time. Focus more on escaping and less on your f o r b i d d e n  r o m a n c e.


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12 thoughts on “Let’s Read Otherbound ch. 3-4

  1. Pingback: Let’s Read Otherbound ch. 5-6 | Doing In The Wizard

  2. Signatus

    While in past chapters I thought the prosthetic leg was a bit too much, I’m totally cool with the explanation this finally got.
    I have to agree with you, this condition would be more realistic if, instead of seeing the world of the Dunelands everytime he blinked, it was like epileptic attacks, it happened in sequences. I believe that approach has been done before and thus the author didn’t want to do something similar to other fantasy books, but his condition is unlivable. We blink several times a minute, I’m not sure he would be mentally sane by this point. If something, the stress itselt would have taken a toll on him.

    The final sequence in the last chapter, I did not interpret Amara’s sudden feelings because of her closeness to the princess, but maybe as foreshadowing to some realization about the world at the other side. That is, maybe Amara is starting to be more sensitive to Nolan’s world and her connection with him.

    1. Alice

      Which would remove the only LGBT character from the story – ie she’s not bi, she’s just picking up on Nolan’s hetero feelings. I really hope that’s not the case. I’ve already given up on seeing a trans or lesbian character as it is. A cis bi character doesn’t represent me one bit, but I’d still take it over a completely cishet cast.

      1. ronanwills Post author

        I actually got the feeling from the sex bit between Amara and Maart that Nolan might be gay, since he seemed to regard Maart’s attentions as experienced through Amara to be desirable, which isn’t really how a heterosexual dude would probably react.

      2. Alice

        Except if he’s feeling what she is feeling, he *would* react that way. If she is straight and finds Maart desirable, and he’s experiencing her emotions, then he would find it desirable too simply because he’s sharing her feelings. That would also explain her finding the princess attractive, because she’s feeling what Nolan is feeling. He’s attracted to the princess, which Amara feels, and Amara is attracted to Maart, which Nolan feels. They’re each experiencing the other’s emotions. And everyone is straight.
        Really, it would be nice if the narrative flat out tells us what the characters orientations are, rather than it being left to the readers to interpret or guess. Being vague and open to interpretation like this is not exactly good representation. It’s like Mulan from OUAT.

        1. ronanwills Post author

          This might be cheating slightly but I have read blog posts that explicitly state that the book has bisexual character(s), so I don’t think that interpretation is correct.

      3. Signatus

        That’s… not what I interpreted. I saw her confused for a moment, as if she had spaced out and suddenly felt Cilla very close to her, and her hands on the door handle. The way I saw it, she was confused because she might have flashed for a brief instant to Nolan, somehow.

  3. Chackludwig

    You know, this book really would earn extra brownie points (on top of those it already gets for not being a Nicholas Sparks/Twilight clone) if it wasn’t all “but that’s forbidden love~~~~” about Amara fancying the princess.

  4. Pingback: Let’s Read Otherbound ch. 1-2 | Doing In The Wizard

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