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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
The Open Portal by Michael Scott Clifton is the first book in the Conquest of the Veil series, which centers around a teenage girl named Mona who makes a life-altering (and potentially world-altering) decision. Mona feels she can no longer cope. Alone without friends or parents, bullied, and with painfully high feelings of inadequacy from having nobody to protect her, or instill in her the confidence that goes beyond a superficial standard of beauty, she feels dead inside. She wants to be dead for real, sleeping each night with a bottle of pills clutched against her chest. Enter Thaddeus Finkle who has an offer. An offer she cannot refuse. An offer that seems too good to be true—because...it is. Mona soon crosses over into a parallel universe where she is what she thought she wanted to be. Beautiful by modish standards, rich, titled, and influential, she is now Alexandria. What she didn't bargain for was an evil Queen, raiders, and an existence in constant peril.
The Open Portal is a wonderful leaping point into the Conquest of the Veil series and has all of the hallmark elements readers look for in a young adult, coming of age fantasy. The narrative is both exceptional and believable, and the characters are fantastically layered and multi-dimensional. I loved Tal, who is also a point of view character and (in my opinion) possibly more interesting than Mona/Alexandria. I believe that Michael Scott Clifton shines in two distinct areas; dialogue and world-building. The descriptions bring every inch of the Duchy of Wheel to life and I think this series will find a wide audience among both young and older lovers of fantasy fiction.