The first novel in Hermione Lee’s fantasy trilogy hits bestseller in Taiwan’s largest online bookstore.

Seventeen-year-old Hermione Lee’s first novel, In the Name of the Otherworld, was published in September. It is already a recipient of the Literary Titan Silver Book Award.

The novel follows an orphaned teenage witch Alexandria who, alienated by her peers, finds adventure in a magical land and explores the depths of her courage. 

For Lee, the novel is a testimony of how far she has come as a writer, despite the numerous rejections. She exhibits not only the hardships faced by authors but their resilience in the face of rejection.

“I tried once but bagged the idea after writing two thousand words because my prose was beyond awful. I stopped writing for three years, but deep down I never stopped thinking of myself as a writer.”

Hermione Lee

Hermione initially planned to write the book in Chinese but opted for English instead. Her fluency in English developed from her habit of extensive reading as a child. This has now put her at a level where she surpasses her peers.

Despite the enormity of becoming a published author at her age, Lee says Taiwanese media seem more interested in her English-learning journey rather than the novel. This, she says, stems from the way the country views English education.

Lee, who aspires to one day revolutionize the English education system in Taiwan, believes the strenuous method of exams and focus on grammar, ’murders,’ children’s interest in English.

She says, “Instead of cramming new words into students’ minds, the school should encourage kids to read more.”

Lee is not the only one that criticizes the test-centric system towards English education, which has been a crucial tool in Taiwan’s education. Linguist Dr. Stephen Krashen stresses the importance of language acquisition.

Dr. Krashen is a professional emeritus from the University of Southern California and an expert in second language acquisition. Acquisition as opposed to learning, he says, is more effective and long-lasting.

He says: “We acquire language when we understand what we hear and what we read – when we get comprehensible input, it does not happen when we study grammar rules.”

Krashen notes that literature and reading is not only an efficient way to acquire a language, but it is pleasant too.

Find In the Name of the Otherworld here.

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