Review: To the Other Side (Terra #1) by SJ Frost

When Garrett Evergard is rescued by the witch, Bryson Summers, he discovers an alternate world unlike anything he's ever imagined, and when that world is threatened, he'll do anything to save it and the man he's grown to love.

Garrett Evergard is a finder of secrets. As a biologist and environmentalist, it's his job to go into wild lands and uncover their mysteries in order to save them. In the Pacific Northwest, he races against logging lobbyists to save a section of temperate rainforest, but the forest seems reluctant to give up her secrets. Until a fateful meeting with a rare spirit bear opens the door to wonders beyond anything he's ever imagine, the greatest of those being the beautiful man who comes to his rescue. As a witch and Gatekeeper, Bryson Summers is used to living a solitary life. He lives between two worlds, Earth and Terra, feeling not fully part of either, and dreams of meeting someone who understands him. From the moment he sees Garrett, he believes -- and hopes -- he's looking upon a twin soul. Dragons, unicorns, and a witch with enchanting brown eyes, Garrett tries to make sense of a world so different from anything he's ever known. But his mind and heart are open, and he finds himself drawn more to Bryson with each day they spend together. When Bryson and the gate that links the two worlds fall under threat, Garrett is willing to do all he can to protect them, even if it means facing down dark magic.

There was so much about this fantasy story to like and I liked all the things.

When the Clubhouse voted to have SJ Frost as Author of the Month and I saw that there was a book with a unicorn on the cover, I snatched it up so fast it made the interwebz spin. You gotta call “DIBS” pretty quickly in the Clubhouse as they can be a brutal bunch.
I knew I had a win when I came to this:

. . . .he’d (Garrett) seen countless beautiful and magnificent horses, but the unicorn stallion had to be the most breathtaking creature he’d ever seen.”

Yep, I win.

This tale is the love story of Bryson, a witch (the good kind) and Gatekeeper of Terra and Garrett, resident of Earth and Biologist employed with the EarthQuest Foundation. Garrett’s job is to go into areas that are set to be destroyed by big business and government and find a way to save them. His goal is to find something that makes that piece of land unique and invaluable. Trooping through the woods in Washington State one day he had no idea what unique and invaluable treasures he would find, but find them he did. After an unfortunate stumble he ends up being nursed back to health by Bryson and the two of them begin to form a slow and steady bond that goes beyond attraction but also for the love of their lands and all the amazing critters they come into contact with.

Bryson lives in and guards a Gate (hence the Gatekeeper title) which is a portal between Earth and Terra. Earth and Terra are kind of like mirror images of each other, but on different dimensions. Both must be protected so that they can both thrive and survive, but very few people know of the existence of the other land. The Gate that Bryson lives in is pretty much the coolest sounding place on the planet. And now I’m going to take a paragraph to tell you all about the little stuff that made this story for me. Bryson lives in a treehouse, the tree is his house. It’s all open at the top, but protected by wards so he is safe from the elements. At the top of the treehouse is where Wynn lives. Wynn is the dragon that lives with Bryson and I’ve already told the author, I’m pretty sure Wynn is my spirit animal. Dragons in Terra are smarter than people and this little one loves to read romance novels and eat Oreos. I love him. There are a lot of neat little “things” that make Terra a place I want to live and I loved reading about them.

Of course, what would a fairy tale be without a couple of villains? In Terra there is the evil Duke who has an unnatural obsession with Bryson and the power that he has and the warlock that the Duke has “employed” to help him get the partner ring that Bryson has and achieve immortality. Each Gatekeeper ceases to age naturally as long as they are guarding a Gate so, they also have a partner ring that they can give to their true love that will cease their aging as well. There are some nasty shenanigans going on between the Duke and Gethin the warlock. Gethin has his own motivations to get rid of Bryson and both of these guys will stop at nothing to get what they want. The battle at the end is bloody and heroic and worthy of a fairy tale story like this.

I think it will help to keep in mind that this book is the start of a series, so there is a lot of character and world introduction and explanation and the first half of the book is “quiet” for lack of a better word. But, I loved that part as much as the action in the second half. It’s an easy world to get lost in and I was happy to go along with Garrett’s journey as he got to know Terra and especially Bryson. The two of them are seriously hot together and they connect on a lot of different levels that made me believe in an HEA for them. The world building read really organically and wasn’t overly complicated or overly simplified. I never felt like I had to start a flowchart to keep up with characters and connections even though Bryson has a pretty good size band of misfits that come and go at the Gate in the human, creature and forest dweller forms.

All the secondary characters have distinct personalities and voices and I want to read all their stories. Torran and Sir Karrick are up next in Knight of Fire (which I’m reading now – I just wasn’t ready to leave Terra yet). I’m really anxious to see what happens with Larkin and Zain, there is not going to be any easy compromising on that one, I’m expecting some angst there.

This was a really fun fantasy read with interesting characters, a great setting that I want to live in and swoony sexy times that were all kinds of romantic and full of love.

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