Harpyness is Only Skin Deep by D.H. Willison

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I didn’t read the blurb going into this, so I wasn’t totally sure what to expect outside of what the title and cover art suggest.

As it turns out, this is a portal fantasy wher the main character, Darin, is given a weird message about a game similar to LARPing. The message told him to go to  The Fantasy Palace, but when he gets there is’ a strip club and he thinks someone is pulling a prank on him. Curiosity gets the better of him and he goes inside anyway, and once inside, he’s shown an incredible piece of tech that allows him to travel between dimensions. Of course, one thing leads to another and he ends up transported to a new world to start a new life in a realm that’s much like our classic fantasy books. The creatures there are pretty similar to our stories of dragons, harpies, snake people, spider people, cat people etc. The problem is, it’s a really dangerous world, and people are on the menu for a variety of wildlife…and fauna.

The other POV is a Harpy who’s sort of the loser of her generation. Rinloh’s teachers don’t think much of her, her classmates are outperforming her, and she’s an all-around outcast. Harpy’s in this world are apex predators and definitely have humans on the list of tasty things to eat, which makes things interesting when these two POVs join up and start a tentative friendship.

The writing was fun, buoyant, witty, and sarcastic – I flew through this book in a single day. It would have been a single sitting if I had a big chunk of continuous-time, but alas, I do not. The pacing was a little stop and go, with some parts feeling rushed and other parts taking too much page time. I didn’t really have any idea what the over arcing plot was other than Darin trying to survive in this new world, and Rinloh trying to prove she was a worthy harpy. Which is fine, I don’t need a ton of plot if the characters are developed thoroughly. I would have liked more depth to each of the characters, but once they started interacting with each other and forming a friendship they became more engaging. The plot did start to take shape later on in the book. People are going missing and Darin is trying to find out where they are going.

This isn’t a bad book, I think it has good bones, it’s just a little light in places where I would have preferred more depth. For instance, I have no idea who Darin was before he got transported to this world. His family and background aren’t talked about much at all, and I always find that weird with portal fantasies. I’d be thinking of my family a lot if I suddenly found out I’d never see them again. Of all the constructive feedback I can give a book, asking for more is one of the easier things to fix rather than “this sucked”.

Overall, I’d rec this to people who enjoy light funny stories with relatable and likable characters.

Mark TBR on GR

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