She wakes up on a flying steamboat on her way to a school run by Angels in a white marble castle. On the boat she meets Mick who has been dead for more than a hundred years but still looks like a teenager. He helps her past the difficult beginning at the new school in a new world filled with heavenly magic. One day some of Meghan's roommates find a mirror in the cellar of the school and they persuade her to go through it with them - well knowing it is strictly against the rules of the school. Meghan ends up back on earth where she meets Jason. But Jason is in danger and Meghan knows something important. Something that is a matter of life and death. Soon she is forced to choose between the two worlds. The one she belongs to now and the one she left.
How do I say this? Well, the thing is … I am a spirit. Before you close this book because you don’t believe in a life after death, just take a deep breath and listen to my story. It might be interesting to you. You might want to know that death is only the beginning of the next great adventure. I know I would have liked to have known that when I was still alive.
Maybe you do believe that there is an afterlife, maybe you have even seen us, or at least seen what we can do. Either way I am sure you will enjoy my story.
Before I begin we need to get the facts straight. In the world of the supernatural we make distinctions between spirits. Some are like me—Ru’ach, as we are called here, which is Hebrew meaning “the wind of man” or “the spirit of man.” As a Ru’ach I am a part of the Spiritual Realm, which is just as real as the Natural Realm. Those who are still human in flesh and blood just can’t see it. I can go wherever I want, do what I want, and even talk to whomever I want, including humans.
Then there are the Se’irims, which means “hairy beings.” You can call them demons if you prefer. They are the evil spirits that ascend from Hell and walk the earth just like us, but they make bad things happen to people, and make them feel guilty and depressed.
How did I get to be a spirit? Well I really don’t know. I guess I died in some sort of way.
By the way, my name is Meghan and I am sixteen years old, or at least I was when I died.
As I just said, I don’t know how I died, just that I did. I woke up on a steamboat. That is my earliest memory of anything. It is not that we forget everything when we die; we remember a lot of different stuff from when we used to be alive, but we don’t remember the people we used to love or who used to love us. Also specific things and details about our life go away as well. But that is only to protect us, they say, so we won’t miss our family too much. It is just in the beginning. They want us to focus on our new life, not the old one. Eventually when we finish our education and training at the Academy, they open our file and we get the memory back and, best of all, we get to visit the people we love and protect them.
Before you start wondering, yes, we do look just like humans. Actually we are just as we were before we died. I have been told that the spirit leaves the body exactly two seconds before the physical body dies. So we have the faces we used to have and we do wear clothes, the same ones we had on the day we died. If you were to see us, you would actually have to get really close to see that we are not humans. But when you do you will realize that we have no body of flesh and bones and blood veins. We are nearly weightless, we weigh only 21 grams, which is kind of cool and very fun. We are not pearly white as you would think; we have all of our color on our clothes, on our skin, and in our eyes. It’s hard to explain exactly how we look because we do have hands and feet and stuff, but it’s just not like humans have it. We are made of a soft fluid-like material.
Anyway, back to my story. You can probably imagine the surprise I got when I opened my eyes and found myself standing by the railing with several people next to me whom I had never seen before. And boy, what a shock I got when I looked down and saw that the moving steamboat, with a big paddle wheel on its back, was in fact flying through thin air. Underneath us there wasn’t any water, only mountaintops. I have always been afraid of heights, so I tried to grab on to the person standing next to me. But that was before I knew anything about who I was—or rather had become.
The person next to me was an adult and a spirit as well, so I just went right through her body with a plunging sound, like we were both made of water. We both fell to the wooden deck. She wore a pointy hat and a long black coat. Her face seemed stiff, maybe because of the fall. While lying on the floor, she spoke to me first.
“For crying out loud, get out of me,” she said.
I realized what had happened. I had jumped inside of her, so to speak. Our skin and bodies could bend and move like they were made of some fluid.
And that leads us to another of your many questions. Yes, Ru’achs can feel something. I can feel it when people touch me most times—and I definitely felt it when I jumped inside that lady. It didn’t hurt, though. It just felt strange and weird and a little clammy.
The woman next to me told me to calm down when we got back on our feet. I was naturally frozen with fear.
“Who are you?” I asked.
The woman chuckled.
“Now where are my manners?” she said and reached out her hand.
I took it in order to shake it, not knowing what else to do, but my hand just went straight through hers making that plunging sound again. She looked at me and then at her hand.
“Well, yes, you will need to work on that,” she said and pulled back her hand. She talked with a high-pitched, annoyingly old-fashioned voice.
“I haven’t introduced myself. My name is Penelope Higgins. That is Mrs. Higgins to you. I am a teacher at the Academy of the Spiritual Realm.”
Imagine my surprise.
“Academy of the Spiritual Realm,” she repeated, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, which is of course it wasn’t. It was supernatural like the rest.
“Oh yes that’s right, you don’t know anything yet. You just got on the boat.”
“Why am I on a boat?”
She leaned toward me and whispered. “You are dead.”
“I am what?”
“I am sorry to be the one to tell you, but you are dead. Now you are a Ru’ach, or a spirit if you prefer the more earthly term for it. You are going off to the Academy where all spirits go when they have just left the world of the living and entered our world. This is where we teach you how to live your new life.”
“What? I … I mean … how …?” I asked very confused and slightly panicking.
“Well, you did come a little unexpectedly,” she said and looked at me as if the cat had brought me in. Then she smiled a kind of weird and scary smile.
“We will make room for you at the Academy, I am sure. They will know you are on your way.”
“How did I even get here?”
“How does anyone get anywhere these days?” She chuckled. Then she stared at me. “I guess you died,” she said.
I shook my head not believing a word of what she was telling me. How could this be?
“But … what about my parents? Where are my parents? They will be worried if they don’t know where I am.”
At least that was what I thought, because in the same second I realized that I didn’t even remember my parents. All I remembered was that I had a mom and a dad and that they usually worried about me.
Mrs. Higgins sighed and shook her head.
“They will not be worrying about you, trust me.” Then she stared at me in an observing way. “Do you mean to say that you actually still remember your parents?”
I thought hard about them but couldn’t recall a face or a picture or anything. But I knew in my heart that they were there.
“Well, not really. I can’t picture their faces or anything, but I kind of remember … I don’t know what it is. It is like a feeling or something …”
Mrs. Higgins snorted.
“That is highly unusual,” she said. “Well maybe it will wear off eventually.”
I looked at the kids standing next to me, looking down at the landscape floating by underneath us. One was a chubby little boy; next to him was a just-as-chubby girl looking almost exactly like him. I guessed they were brother and sister, as I later found out to be the truth. Not only that, they were twins. They had red blood stains on their clothes and glass splinters in their faces. When they realized I was staring at them, they both stuck their tongues out.
“This is Frederic and Alexandra Cornwell,” Mrs. Higgins said. “They will be in the same class as you. They got on the boat a few hours ago.” Then she turned toward me and whispered. “Car accident, they told me.”
My eyes widened. Then I looked down at myself. I was wearing ordinary clothes: jeans, a top, and a small jacket. I had dressed nicely the day I died, I was happy to see. And I had no blood on me. I felt my head and there were no bruises or glass or anything that indicated it had been a violent death.
“At least they know how they died,” I mumbled and dared to stare down for a short second. Mountaintops and valleys with rivers, forests with pine trees and small lakes floated past beneath me. Then we came to a stop. It was like a dock, but placed between two clouds. Here more people got on the boat. Kids were hanging out by the railing and talking, while others were hanging their heads out the windows from the restaurant inside.
Then there was a loud sound, as the big paddle wheel started turning again and steam from the engine drifted over the heads of the people standing on the top deck.
Soon the boat was off again. Everything seemed so blurry and strange. I was leaning on a red railing and if I reached out and touched it my hand went right through. But I still managed to lean on it without falling through. I didn’t understand how that was possible. But again none of it seemed to be possible.
The guy standing next to the fat twins leaned over and said, “It’s the only thing they remember.”
I looked at him. He seemed to be about my age. He was tall, kind of cute-looking with his blue eyes and blond hair. His clothes seemed very old-fashioned. He wore nice grey pants and a white shirt with a silk vest and some sort of black wide tie underneath his jacket. He was very elegant but looked like he had stepped right out of an old movie. A movie about rich people, that is. He wore gloves and held a black hat between his hands.
“Hi, I am Mick,” he said and shook my hand. This time I managed to grab on to it for a few seconds. It felt funny because our hands went right through but I still felt his handshake. It was a tickling feeling.
“Hi, Mick. I am Meghan … at least I used to be.”
“It is scary the first time, right?” He asked and looked down. We had passed the mountains now and the boat was flying over the ocean.
I just nodded.
“What did you mean by ‘It is the only thing they remember’?”
“Well, most people don’t remember anything when they have just died. But some have such a traumatic death that they will remember just that moment when they died, such as a car accident or a plane crash.”
I looked at him skeptically. “How do you know all this?”
He smiled. He had a nice smile.
“I have been dead for a long time.”
“How long is that?”
“Almost a hundred years. That is in earthly years. Times goes faster here in the Spiritual Realm so that is more like three hundred years.”
A hundred years? I was stunned. That was an incredible long time. Around six times as long as I had been alive.
“I know it sounds like a lot, but I am really just very new here compared to others who have been here for thousands of years.”
“So why are you going to the Academy if you already know everything?” I asked him.
He shook his head, still smiling a little arrogantly. I didn’t like that much, but I really liked him. I was very attracted to him in a weird way. Like we knew each other from somewhere or were spiritually connected. I don’t know what it was; I just immediately felt comfortable in his presence.
“I am not a student at the Academy; I am the cook. I prepare food for the students.”
He didn’t strike me as a cook. As a matter of fact he looked like he had never been in a kitchen or done manual labor of any kind. He was much too aristocratic in his appearance.
“You’ve been dead for nearly a hundred years?” I asked, kind of blown off.
He nodded. “Yes.”
I tried to smile and nod. This was very weird and hard for me to take in. I still thought about the opportunity that I might be dreaming. That was the only solution I could come up with right now.
Mick came closer and put his hand on my shoulder. He squeezed it and I actually felt it.
“Don’t worry, Meghan, you will learn fast enough,” he said. “Everyone has a hard time the first few days, but just be yourself, and you will be fine.”
Be myself? I thought. How was I supposed to do that when I didn’t remember who I was or used to be or … whatever.
If I was anything, I certainly wasn’t myself right now.
The boat slowed and finally stopped at a small harbor with no other boats in sight. I followed the others and pushed my way out. Now I stood on a dark platform. Strangely, I felt neither warm nor cold. I couldn’t feel the wind even though I could tell it was blowing in the treetops. And when I lifted my hand to feel it, it was as though the wind blew through it while the tips of my fingers seemed to dissolve, like the wind had removed them. But as I lowered my hand, it looked the same as before.
“New students this way,” a voice called in the distance. I followed the line of people toward a lamp. A small man with a big beard held it suspended on a stick between his hands as he called.
“I need all new students to follow me.”
We followed the tiny guy down what seemed to be a steep, narrow path. While we were walking as humans normally do, the tiny guy seemed to be floating a few inches above the ground.
The people around me looked as scared and confused as I felt on the inside, not knowing where we were, where we were going, or even where we came from. I felt a strange emptiness inside, but I guess not knowing your past or even who you really are will do that to you.
The darkness on both sides of us gave me the impression we were going through a forest with big trees. No one spoke a word. The chubby twins walked right in front of me. The boy sniffed a few times and then the girl did the exact same thing a second later.
“I’ll get you all nice and settled in at the Academy in just a few minutes,” the man with the lamp said. “It is just around the corner.”
The path turned and we stopped in awe of the sight before us.
“Ooohhhh,” a young girl next to me said.
“Cool,” said a boy looking to be a few years older than me.
The path ended at a big marshland with beautiful flowers and high grass. Perched on a high cliff we saw a giant castle with more than a hundred high towers reaching to the sky. It appeared to be made of white marble. White clouds and beautiful rainbows surrounded the castle. I was quite stunned by the beauty.
“Come on,” the small man said as he found another narrow path through the waist-high grass. I stared at the castle in front of us and couldn’t help feeling a little excited. Was this the Academy? Was I going to live there? I didn’t know much about where I came from or what my old school was like, but I knew it didn’t look like this.
Everyone was silent during the walk through the marshland. I stared up at the great castle in front of me. And so did everyone else. Maybe they were all as surprised and overwhelmed as I was. Maybe it was just that we didn’t have anything to talk about since we didn’t remember much.
When we reached the foot of the high cliff, we saw stairs carved into the wall, all the way up to the castle. It seemed like an endless walk but I never felt tired. As we climbed, we heard noise coming from above, like laughing and chattering from a big crowd of people. I looked up and saw people floating over our heads, reaching the castle from the air. They talked and laughed as though they had known each other for years. We all stopped and stared at the crowd. I recognized a few of them from the boat. Mick was one of them. He waved at me.
“Soon you will be floating in the air like them,” the tiny man said. “One of the advantages of being a spirit is that you don’t need stairs.”
As we climbed the last stone steps, we crowded in front of a huge oak door. The bearded man raised the stick he used to carry the lamp and knocked at the castle door.
“Normally we just go right through,” he said and smiled, “but since you haven’t quite learned how to go through doors yet, we do it the old-fashioned way.”
The door swung open at once as if someone had been waiting behind it.
A bright light shone in front of us, as bright as the sun. It came from a fair and incredibly beautiful woman with long blond braids and crystal-blue eyes. Her height was much taller than a normal earthly woman. She wore a long white dress and floated like many other people we had seen. She looked at us with affection in her eyes. I remember feeling so exceedingly loved at that moment.
“New ones, my lady,” the tiny man said.
“I will take them from here,” she said with a gentle, almost singing voice. She was alluring. I felt so close to her. I wanted to be close to her.
She pulled the door wide open and we entered a hall as big as a house with white marble floors and white marble walls holding burning torches. Magnificent paintings covered the ceilings like in an old cathedral and the stained glass windows rose from floor to ceiling.
Never have I seen anything this beautiful, I thought. But then I remembered that I actually didn’t know if I had.
“Come with me,” the woman in white said with a smile. “I am Rahmiel.”
We followed Rahmiel across the white marbled floor. As we passed chambers and other hallways I was certain I heard voices coming from everywhere. Happy voices and people laughing. And I couldn’t help but feel cheerful inside. Something about this place made me happy.
Rahmiel led us into an empty chamber.
“Welcome to the Academy of the Spiritual Realm,” Rahmiel said. A man suddenly streamed through the marble wall behind her and glided through the room with a great smile. He had long white hair and a long white beard to match. He was as big as Rahmiel and wore a white robe. He smiled at Rahmiel.
“This is Salathiel. He is the headmaster at the Academy. He will fill you in on what you need to know.”
Salathiel cleared his throat and looked at us with another big smile. He too had a strange bright light surrounding him.
“So these are the new ones. Well, welcome all of you. I know it is a difficult time for you right now and there is a lot you don’t understand. But I ask you please to wait with your questions until later. You will get a lot of them answered the coming days when you begin your education. This is a whole new life that is beginning for you; we call it the Afterlife, and we hope you will enjoy your stay here. It is our job to train you and educate you so when you leave this Academy you will know all there is to know about the Afterlife. It is much different from being a human, as you will soon learn. First of all we will be sorting you in different groups.”
Salathiel and Rahmiel began to sort us into our classes. We were quite a mixed group, I now realized. There were forty-five elderly people, twenty-two adults, a couple of children around eight or nine, and fifteen kids aged twelve to eighteen. Rahmiel put all us teens in the same group. I recognized the twins with the broken glass in their faces. A young Indian boy wearing a hospital gown, named Abhik, was bald and extremely skinny. Another girl about my age seemed angry and hostile toward everything. She looked around with mad green eyes, hissing at people who came too close to her. Her name, I later learned, was Portia.
“Now that everybody has found a group, it is time to get the gala started.” Salathiel looked excitedly at the crowd.“Dinner is served in Hornam Hall.”
Great new YA Fantasy Series!!
I love a series! It allows you to get to know the characters. Beyond is the 1st in a young adult series (very enjoyable for adults who don't like too much graphic sex and foul language). The story begins with Meaghan realizing she's dead and is being sent to Heaven's prep school. It's a combination of Hogwarts and the P.C. Cast series. The story has definite Christian overtones and mentions quite a few actual angels (I googled the names!) but is not pushy in it's premise and would not be offensive to those with different beliefs. A unique take on the afterlife. There are 3 books in the series so far and I'm hoping for a fourth. A quick read that was very enjoyable.
By Pamela Nichols (Glendale, AZ, US)
A well written and exciting read,
Death is only the beginning.
What a fitting quote (found on the cover) for such an intense paranormal romance. Boje has written one of the most emotionally charged paranormal reads I have happened upon this year. Meghan's story begins sadly, with her death, and continues with her transformation into the spirit world. The Academy is a school for the recently deceased that provides a foundation for the new spirits crossing over, helping them to begin their new lives. Meghan has so many questions about her new life and finds herself in the most unusual and restricted of situations. She allows a human to see her... and it doesn't stop there.
The creativity and world building are very similar to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter, but only in a minor way. For example, the rules for the new spirits/students are strict in much the same way but it all ends there. My favorite parts encompassed Meghan's flying adventures. How the characters felt as they experienced flight, walking through mirrors, etc was intense and fun.
Meghan seemed to have more human emotion and sense of right and wrong than many of her co-characters. I thought that this would destroy the plot but it only added to the suspense. Her friendship with Jason, a human boy, was exciting. Their time together was a perfect blend of excitement and utter sadness. I needed a box of tissue to make it to the end.
I thoroughly enjoyed Beyond and look forward to returning for the next installment. The ending was such a shock that I have to know what happens to these amazing characters. Willow Rose definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat. She balanced fantasy and intense emotion brilliantly. I highly recommend Beyond to anyone that enjoys the paranormal.
By Jennifer @ Fictitious Musings (Texas, USA)
Great, unique novel,
Beyond had a premise that jumped out at me, one I had not heard of before, which is a great thing with so many similar plots out there.
The characters of Beyond could have been developed a bit more. I didn't feel like I knew the characters as well as some other novels and I wished that their appearances and personalities were described more. However, I'm hoping that book two will shed more light on them.
I also would like to have known how Meghan died and more about her life as a human. It seemed like everyone else had their stories, yet Meghan's was a mystery. Luckily, there were some clues and it seems like that's something that's going to be revealed as the series goes on.
The plot was incredibly unique and I enjoyed learning about the Afterlife world. Willow Rose did a wonderful job carving out the beginning of the world, as well as the lore that came with it. The plot was pretty straight-forward, but there were a couple twists I did not expect. Also, some of the themes that were presented in the plot surprised me, as they were a lot darker than I expected when talking about some of the students' deaths, but welcome nonetheless. I felt this added a lot of reality to the characters, instead of everyone dying a natural, peaceful death.
The writing wasn't the best for my personal taste. The dialogue just seemed to be a bit old-fashioned. At times it was awkward and almost forced. This is another thing I see getting better with time, though, and something I grew pretty used to. Despite some of the writing, I actually found myself laughing out loud at the more humorous moments.
Overall, I really enjoyed Beyond and tried to go in with no expectations, because I had never heard of this book, therefore I hadn't heard any positive or negative things about it. I wasn't disappointed and will definitely be checking out book two. I recommend this to fans of the paranormal genre and ghosts/spirits.