Book Reviews – The Gate & Shadows on the Border by A.L. Lester

Lost in Time #0.5
Publisher: JMS Books – available as a freebie
Pages: 22
Characters: Matty/Rob, Lin (also check Lin’s character, is it Fenn from book 2?)
POV: 3rd
Genre: Historical, Time Travel, Fantasy, Series

It’s 1918, and Matty returns home to the family farm from the trenches only to find his brother Arthur dying of an unknown illness. The local doctor thinks it might be cancer, but Matty becomes convinced it’s connected to the mysterious books his brother has left strewn around the house.

Matty confides his suspicions in his friend Rob, a hired hand on the farm and potential lover. Rob has found something that looks like a gate of some kind, something Arthur referenced in his papers which may rest at the heart of his illness. But a gate to where?

This short story introduces the world and characters in A.L. Lester’s novel, Lost in Time.

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I’d already read and enjoyed the first book in this series Lost in Time, before realising this one existed, so wanted to read it before I read book 2 in the series.

I thought it introduced the world of the series very well, and for a short piece, it did a great job in not only doing that, but also exploring Matty’s character in particular, and the potential damage being too close to a gate can do. It left me wanting to know more about this world, and these characters.

I liked the description of Arthur and Matty’s brotherly relationship, and how different they are. And also the subtle way in which Rob and Matty are attracted to each other. I thought it fit the time period well as it would be dangerous to just come out and admit their attraction. Being post WWI, it also didn’t shy away from the impact of Matty’s war experience. I liked how Lin introduced both men to the idea of the gate, and the dangers that lurk beyond it. I thought it did what it set out to do – set up and introduce the bigger story, although I would like to see more of Matty and Rob.

I’d recommend The Gate to readers who want a taste of the series, and who enjoy historical settings with a mix of fantasy. 5 out of 5 stars.

Lost in Time #2
Publisher: JMS Books
Pages: 179
Characters: Lew/Alec, Will/Fenn
POV: 3rd
Genre: Historical, Time Travel, Fantasy, Series

Sequel to Lost in Time

Newspaper reporter Lew Tyler and his lover, Detective Alec Carter, are working out the parameters of their new relationship. Meanwhile, time traveler Lew is trying to decide whether he wants to stay in the 1920s or find a way to get back to 2016, and Alec doesn’t know if he can bear the vulnerability of being in love with someone who uses such dangerous magic.

Fenn is a Hunter from the Outlands, come through the Border to search for the murderous Creature and its offspring at the behest of the Ternants, who maintain the balance between Fenn’s world and ours. Fenn strikes a bond with Sergeant Will Grant, Alec’s second in command, who is keen to learn more about his own magical abilities. As time goes on, Will grows keen to learn more about Fenn, as well.

Fenn has their own painful secret, and when they appear to have betrayed the team and goes missing in London, Will is devastated. He has to choose between following his heart or following his duty.

Moving through the contrasting rich and poor areas of post-First World War London from West End hotels to the London docklands, the men need to work together to capture the Creature … and choose who – and what — is important enough to hold on to and what they may need to give up to make that happen.

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Shadows on the Border picks up where Lost in Time left off, so I would suggest reading the series in order. I love the 1920s feel and descriptions of this story—as with the other books in the series. It made for a very visual reading experience, which added to my enjoyment. I also love the fantasy part of this series, and the description of the ‘working’.

I was already invested in Lew and Alec’s story from book 1, and enjoyed seeing Will’s perspective in this story, and learning more about him. I hope we see more of Will in future books as he’s interesting and grows such a lot in this story.

Fenn’s part in this story brought with it more world building about what lies beyond the gate, and in their world, rather than just 1920s London. I thought their fluid sexuality added to the story and also showed the different sensibilities between the 1920s—who want to learn but have no experience to base it in—and time travellers, who of course are a lot more clued up.

I love the time travel element in this, as it gives a different perspective on the story, with Alec’s present day is the 1920s, and Lew is from 2016 which is Alec’s future. I really felt for Alec trying to deal with the fact that Lew is from the future, which also, of course, brings up their different views on their relationship. Alec is very much a closeted man which he needs to be in the 1920s as it’s illegal to be in a homosexual relationship while Lew is used to not having to hide who he is. I also like that Lew is still adjusting to being in his past, rather than just fitting in without any problem. His struggle felt very realistic. I enjoyed the insight into his and Mira’s friendship too, and the flashbacks to their life in 2016. I thought the descriptions in those scenes were very vivid. Alec’s feeling of isolation because he’s not a worker feels very real, and I liked that he didn’t just take it all in his stride.

I also liked that the Camas’ perspective is included in this story. It gives a very alien point of view, and I could feel its urge to survive.

I thought this book was very much about choices. Mira needs to choose between her voice and being a worker. Fenn has choices to make, although they have been put in an impossible situation by those who sent them to retrieve the Camas. Lew has to choose between returning to his own time, and his life in the past with Alec. As an aside on that one, those guys really needed to talk to each other! I thought both their character flaws added a lot to them as characters, and I loved both of them for their fears and doubts.

I’d recommend Shadows on the Border to readers who enjoy historical based fantasies, time travel, in depth world building, and realistic characters. I got invested in their story very quickly, and hope there are more books to come in this series. 5 out of 5 stars.

About Anne Barwell

Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with a cat with “tortitude” who is convinced that the house is run to suit her; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date, it appears as though Kaylee may be winning. In 2008, Anne completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra. She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth. She also hosts and reviews for other authors, and writes monthly blog posts for Love Bytes. She is the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance writers, and a member of RWNZ. Anne’s books have received honorable mentions five times, reached the finals four times—one of which was for best gay book—and been a runner up in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical. Anne can be found at
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