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Journalist Eric Albright doesn't have a lot going for him in his life, which might explain why, when a door suddenly appears in a train underpass, he ventures to the strange world that appears on the other side. Eric and Case, his homeless friend and underpass dweller, travel to Levaal, a pocket world between worlds, and become dangerously embroiled in the local conflict between a power-mad wannabe god and the free cities that are opposed to him. VERDICT Fast-paced action and vivid descriptions of the magic-wielding creatures help propel this fantasy, the first volume in Elliott's(The Pilo Family Circus) "Pendulum Trilogy," although the characters never quite soar off the page. The portal fantasy always has great potential, giving the reader a fish-out-of-water view of a new imaginative world, but it has been done better by authors such as Kim Stanley Robinson and Stephen R. Donaldson.