Review: The Open Portal by Michael Scott Clifton!

Happy Thursday book lovers! I’ve been a bit MIA the past couple of weeks with traveling and nailing down the end of my husbands PhD and our move out of state but I swear I’m getting back to it! I’m really excited that despite being a *tad* behind on some of my other reviews that I get to bring y’all one for The Open Portal by Michael Scott Clifton! Reviewing again with the wonderful members of the Lone Star Book Blog Tours I’ll never be able to say how great supporting Texas authors is! Fantasy as a genre is right all up in my wheel-house so I couldn’t jump on this band-wagon fast enough.
Conquest of the Veil #1
Genre: Fantasy / Paranormal / Magical Realism
Publisher: Book Liftoff
Publication Date: May 1, 2019
Number of Pages: 337 pages

But with dreams, there can also be nightmares

Lonely and plain-featured, Mona Parker is just another faceless teenager at Spring Hill High School. One day she runs afoul of Lady Anne Golightly, a beautiful and arrogant classmate who turns Mona’s colorless life into a hellish existence. Bullied relentlessly and with nowhere to turn, Mona considers suicide. One night, Thaddeus Finkle, her guardian angel, appears. He offers her a way out—swap lives with another.

The choice seems easy, and Mona takes the angel up on his offer. She awakens on Meredith, a parallel world of Earth where magic has replaced technology. Mona discovers she is Alexandria, a woman of breathtaking beauty, and the daughter of a Duke complete with servants and riches.

Then she discovers the price of her bargain.

Trapped behind the Veil, an impenetrable curtain of magic, the Duchy of Wheel is the last major province still unconquered by Marlinda, the creator of the enchanted barrier. Known as the Dark Queen, Marlinda’s cruelty includes a singular fondness for melding men, women, and children, with animals…and she has special plans for Alexandria.

Tal, the Prince and Heir of the Empire of Meredith, burns with an intense hatred for Marlinda and her minions. The Dark Queen’s raiders regularly cross the Veil to prey upon the helpless citizens living near the magical boundary. Despite an elaborate system of Watch Towers along the enchanted barrier, it is impossible for the Empire to stop all the raids. Desperate to protect his people, Tal takes dangerous risks to prevent these attacks. Banished to a remote garrison for his reckless behavior, while on a routine patrol, Tal leads an elite unit that happens upon a group of raiders—one whose leader possesses the means for opening a way through the Veil.

Thus begins the conquest of the Veil.


Mona Parker is your typical, normal high-school teenager. She’s not particularly beautiful, she doesn’t shine particularly brightly and she’s on the losing end of an environment that thrives on tearing others down. Facing down children who are bullying her relentlessly and feeling completely lost and alone in a world that seems out to do nothing but bring her down, Mona grapples with life’s hardest question: is it worth it? As Mona wades through where her life has led her thus far and what kind of future she might have, Thaddeus Finkle, her guardian angel bee-bops on down and gives her the choice to switch lives with someone else. Only this someone else isn’t a someone else on Earth, but in a parallel world known as Meredith.

On Meredith, magic has replaced technology and Alexandria has replaced Mona. Instead of a no-nothing teen on Earth, Alexandria believes she can make a difference in her new life and change the world. It doesn’t take long for Alexandria to realize that this isn’t the case at all and she has been trapped. Not only is she trapped in the body of someone else, having to forsake some of her own natural instincts in favor of Alex’s but she faces the loss of her identity as Mona. As Alex/Mona navigate this new world, with it’s new rules and it’s new prices the tension continues to mount and the story begins to move at a pace most readers wont be able to step away from.

Remember what lies within you is far greater than what lies on the outside. Trust your heart, Mona, and it will guide you through the doubts and dangers to come…

So as anyone who has read my reviews will know, I’m a big fan of full-disclosure. So, to honor that I’ll be up front and say that while I was excited to read this, I also worried that Clifton was going to fall into the “Mary-Sue” trope and those completely lose me most of the time. For me personally, placing too much importance on beauty is always one-dimensional and it is always fleeting. When books place too much emphasis on perceived beauty it always feels one-note to me. What I’m happy to say is that while the synopsis felt focused on beauty, my take away from the novel was just the opposite.

One of my favorite aspects of this read was the growth we experience with Mona. As she transforms herself from a timid, quiet, seen-but-not-heard girl into a strong and powerful woman, we get to experience this along with her. I’ve said it before and I know I’ll say it again but I just love a good story about women overcoming adversity to be the boss bitches we knew they always were. There are other POVs at play in this novel but Mona/Alex definitely shined the brightest for me and was not only empowering to read and be a part of but it felt like a win for the reader. I think most people have felt similar to Mona/Alex at times and it brought a connection to not just the story, but it’s central character as well.

Frustrated, she decided she wasn’t going to be pushed around without a fight. The old Mona, the meek and passive girl who never stood up for herself, stepped aside, and in that brief space of time, a subtle but profound shift occurred. Like the cascade of sand in an upturned hourglass, Mona felt her personality shift and evolve grain by grain….into something new.

Overall, this is the first installment in a series so there’s a lot of set up going on here. My biggest gripe is that the foundation in which this world was built felt unstable at certain points. Clifton clearly has a vision and the imagination to back that vision up but there were definitely points that felt convoluted that I had to re-read to fully understand. This is a pit-fall I see in a lot of fantasy novels, it’s hard to sink your teeth into something that feels totally inaccessible to anything you’ve ever known unless you, the reader have just as vivid an imagination as the author (which I do not). However, despite there being a few points that felt disjointed, overall this was a bang-up first installment that has set up a series I’m very interested in seeing to it’s conclusion. All-in-all I quite enjoyed this read, it was complex in a way that many YA fantasy novels are not, but it kept a sense of being grounded throughout that I don’t think would lose those that are new to the genre.

“The Open Portal is packed full of action from the time it begins in our mundane world, to when it jumps to another. It has all the elements of a good fantasy: a cruel queen; a frustrated prince; and beautiful girl with a pure heart. There are brave boys, werewolves, white priests, and watchtowers. I can’t wait for the saga to continue.” — Abookanight


Michael Scott Cliftona public educator for over thirty-eight years as a teacher, coach, and administrator, currently lives in Mount Pleasant, Texas with his wife, Melanie and family cat, Sadie. An avid gardener, reader, and movie junkie, he enjoys all kinds of book and movie genres. His books contain aspects of all the genres he enjoys…action, adventure, magic, fantasy, and romance. His fantasy novel, The Janus Witch, received a 5-Star review from the prestigious Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews, and he has been a finalist in a number of short story contests with Edges of Gray winning first place in the Texas Authors Contest. Professional credits include articles published in the Texas Study of Secondary Education Magazine. Clifton’s latest book, The Open Portal, launches the fantasy book series, Conquest of the Veil. In addition, look for the YA novel, Edison Jones and the Anti-Grav Elevator, to be released soon. He is available public speaking.

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2 thoughts on “Review: The Open Portal by Michael Scott Clifton!”

  1. Nothing better than a book that makes you feel empowered. Hopefully the next book will get tightened-up — sounds like this author has a great series to watch. Thanks for the review!


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