Esme’s SPFBO 2017: Beyond The Forest by Kay Ling

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This book was part of Ventureadlaxre’s group and has since been eliminated – their review is here Review


Lana is a recent college grad coming out of school for gemology, and she works in her father’s jewellery store. She believes in the old lore surrounding gems and their magical powers they can pass on to those that hold them. Different gems give her different boosts, some help her sleep, others keep her awake, others give her courage or calm her down. She’s one of the few people who believe in this sort of thing – this is an urban fantasy set in modern day and people scoff at gemology as new age hogwash. Her father doesn’t believe in it, but he supports his daughter and thinks she’ll be a great manager of the store when it passes on to her.

She loves hiking and takes frequent walks in the woods, one day while taking a hike and returning to her car, her car doesn’t start. She can’t find a way to get home, so decides to just camp out in the woods until the rangers return in the morning. That night she runs into monsters from the Shadow realm called breghlin and is rescued by a gnome.

The gnomes are trying to guard the rift between the Shadow realm and the human world – long ago they had someone called the Challenger who defeated the master of the breghlins, a woodspirit called Shaemathan. The Shaemathan is destroying everything in her path, abducting gnomes, and poisoning the forest.

Lana is somewhat resistant to Shaemathans attacks, she doesn’t succumb to the paralyzation that she inflicts on the gnomes, and as a result, she’s been asked by the gnomes to aid them in trying to defeat Shaemathan.

Final Score: 7.5/10


Most of this story is told through Lana’s perspective, with a few minor POV’s here and there. Lana is a pretty typical upbeat and happy college grad, she cooks breakfast to music and dances a little, she’s eager to learn and prove herself to her father and is overall a likeable character. She’s definitely not the stereotypical hero figure, she’s scared of bugs and has a hard time dealing with the fantasy creatures in the Shadow realm – especially the giant mutant bugs. She handles herself well, steeling herself up when she has to and makes for an unlikely hero.

The other POV’s include a gnome who’s part of the group trying to stop the woodspirit, and there are two young boys who have been turned into rats by the woodspirit who also make brief appearances as POVs.

Final Score: 7.5/10 

World Building:

The gems in the human realm can have even more powerful effects in the Shadow Realm. Stones that would help ease aches and pains in a minor way in the human world have significantly greater healing effects in the Shadow Realm. There are a number of gems and stones that can’t be found in the human world and vice versa. Many of the common gems that she has around the store are very valuable to the gnomes.

The gnomes use interdimensional travel in a way, to travel from tree to tree without putting themselves out in the open, it’s their greatest defense against the breghlin.

The breghlin are a simplistic race, they aren’t educated and can be easily manipulated. Lana tries to use this to her advantage when she’s captured.

The woodspirit can turn humans into anything she wants to, dogs, rats, etc.

The Shadow Realm is host to a ton of weird creatures including pig/fox like animals and giant winged serpents that can talk.

Final Score: 7.5/10 


I didn’t see any editing errors, and the writing style was pretty entertaining. This was definitely a lighter toned book, the main character is kind of bubbly and keeps things amusing.

The pacing was okay, there were slight slow downs in the middle but nothing that took away from enjoying it.

Pacing Final Score: 7.5/10

Writing Final Score: 8/10 


I see a lot of elves, dwarves, orcs, goblins and the like in fantasy, but for whatever reason I just don’t see a lot of gnomes. Thumbs up for an under used fantasy race.

Although gems and stones having powers is pretty typical in fantasy, I’ve never seen an entire lore and magic system based off real world gemology lore, another thumbs up for creativity.

Final Score: 9/10


  • For people looking for female POV without romance!
  • For people looking for female authored books
  • For people who like portal fantasy
  • For people who like urban fantasy
  • For people who like gnomes!
  • For people who like fantasy creatures
  • For people who like lighter funnier tone

Final Score: 47/60 or 7.83/10






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