Publisher: CreateSpace (2012)
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Mind bending is one thing, but when teenager Victoria Nike paints her landscapes – and then falls through them into another dimension – you know you’re in for a treat in this charming and intelligent fantasy, Gateways.

There are many similarities between Victoria’s story and that of Dorothy Gale: the emerging of special powers, real or imagined; companions both human and beast; an ultimate confrontation with a wicked witch.

That said, in Gateways, Jessica Schaub has created a wonderful fantasy that takes readers on a journey into parallel worlds, where mages – beings who can invoke the elements and use their energy – coexist with sphinxes and other fantastic beasts. It’s also a tale of self-discovery, of innocence lost and wisdom gained. Schaub succeeds in placing teenagers into a story of mystic powers and magical without her characters losing their modern savvy and their wisecracker-y. This refined skill in storytelling keeps the elements of this story believable.

When Victoria sees her mother’s growing distress, she notices her world changing in subtle ways as well. She retreats into the art room at school, where she paints. When she abruptly finds herself inside of her painting, she has no idea of how to climb out. Her art teacher, Anna Witherspoon, comes to her rescue. Anna is a Painter of gateways, and so, apparently, is Victoria.

When she returns home, Victoria and her twin best friends, Tucker and Bobby Martin, are told by their parents to flee. “No matter what,” Mr. Martin tells his boys, “keep her safe.” Victoria takes Tucker to hide with her inside a painting of a forest.

But that particular painting holds a prisoner, Lucian – a fallen mage accused of murder. Lucian wastes no time in escaping with the painting – the portal leading back to Victoria’s world – and so she, Tucker, Bobby, and Anna have no choice but to set off to recapture him in order to stop him from perpetrating further harm.

This is a coming-of-age novel, and much like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, Victoria learns that things aren’t always as they seem. Bad people turn good, and good turn bad. Family history enlightens and relationships shift. But that is life and Victoria realizes that though her world has suddenly opened into ever-expanding opportunities, there truly is no place like home.

A great read with a magical – air-bending quality that will draw the reader in and not allow them to leave until the very last page.