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Reviewed by Hilary Hawkes for Readers' Favorite
Othinian: The Other Side of Fear is a touching tale about overcoming fear, finding courage, love, friendship and determination to make life better. In Kay Madison’s YA novel, Alessa survives day to day taking care of herself and her ten-year-old brother Timothy. Times are hard and the people are ruled by the cruel and frightening Natas and his men. But when Timothy becomes dangerously ill, Alessa decides to overcome her fear and doubts and follow the instructions of the good and mysterious man in white who had appeared to her with the instruction: "When you find Natas you will find the answer to your people's suffering." She meets a blind boy, Kaylan, and the two set off on a mission of peril, danger, and unlikely discoveries. Can they believe the stories about a man called Jerrin who can challenge Natas? Alessa discovers that their suffering and way of life can be changed more easily than she ever thought possible – if only she has a little belief and makes the right choice.
Kay Madison’s story has a special message about making the right choices in life and the power that is ours when we do that. I liked the character of Alessa with her protective instincts and love for her younger brother and her determination to change things for the better. Her fears and doubts are understandable and show Kaylan as the friend she really needs. Kaylan is depicted as someone who has found a way through hardship and setbacks and acquired a wisdom that enables him to inspire and encourage Alessa on her journey. The plot unfolds at a good pace and has all the ingredients of a story about good forces rising up and conquering bad.
Finding courage is an important theme in the story. Readers will identify with Alessa’s fears and feelings of helplessness and inadequacy. My favorite moment in the story is when she chooses Jerrin’s leadership over Natas’ – meaning she chooses the power of goodness over the power of badness. From there her world is transformed and she realises that what happens to us is often a matter of what we accept or allow – as individuals and as communities. This is such a great message for young readers. A YA novel with an enjoyable story and a special message.