I think he gets married to a human-like elf person. I just remember feeling a sense of melancholy reading it. The guy gets put back into his own reality, the modern world and spends the rest of the time trying to find a way back into this other reality/dimension where he has a wife.

I read it when I was 12 or 13 in 1989 or 1990.

  • 4
    You've gotten a wide variety of answers here. Are there any other details you can think of to help narrow this one down?
    – Michael W.
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 18:15
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    Does he go back and forth between our reality and the more fantasyish one? Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 22:44
  • Seems to be a common plot device. So much so that I cannot find that en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puhoy is derivative.
    – mckenzm
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 23:56
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    Sounds like John Carter of Mars.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 0:11
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    I don't think this really helps but I remember another book at the same time at the library as that book. It was Tailchaser's song by Tad williams (I've never read that book) but the cover reminded me of the book I'm looking for, maybe it was the same artist or a similar artist.
    – Rid X
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 0:18

8 Answers 8


This reminds me of the Magic Kingdom of Landover books by Terry Brooks from the late 80s. Ben Holiday is a guy from this world who crosses to the Magic Kingdom, where he marries a dryad, Willow who sometimes turns into a tree.

In subsequent books in the series Ben returns to this world several times, but I don't have the books to hand to see which one matches the OP's post most closely.

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    While this is the one that immediately came to mind, I don't think he was ever trapped in Landover. I think one of the characters (Abernathy) was trapped on Earth and was trying to find his way back to Landover. Maybe a misremembering and merging of characters and storylines? The OP's timeline of when he read it could have the first 3 books. Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 20:21

There is a movie called John Carter, which is based on the book A Princess of Mars (which can be obtained from Project Gutenberg here).

Cover of A Princess of Mars

The main character, John Carter, is accidentally teleported to Mars and for a large portion of the book, does not know how to return to Earth. The bulk of the story is a classic fantasy adventure, with strange "men" (the tall, four-armed Tharks) and a princess that needs saving, with whom the hero ultimately falls in love. The world has an eclectic mix of technology, with flying ships and energy weapons alongside swords, resulting in a very classic "medieval fantasy" feel. Of particular note is that John Carter's body, adapted for Earth gravity, means that he is stronger than the natives and capable of jumping quite high and far.

At the end of the story, John Carter is sent back to Earth due to actions of the main antagonists, and spends many years trying to get back to Mars a.k.a. Barsoom and his beloved wife.

However, the titular princess is not an elf, although her people may seem elf-like compared to the Tharks and the other, antagonistic human tribe.

  • 3
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    – Community Bot
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 8:18

This sounds like Matthew Stover’s Heroes Die, published in 1998.

From Penguin Randomhouse: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/174355/heroes-die-by-matthew-woodring-stover/

A man shouldn’t die with no understanding of why he’s been murdered

Renowned throughout the land of Ankhana as the Blade of Tyshalle, Caine has killed his share of monarchs and commoners, villains and heroes. He is relentless, unstoppable, simply the best there is at what he does.

At home on Earth, Caine is Hari Michaelson, a superstar whose adventures in Ankhana command an audience of billions. Yet he is shackled by a rigid caste society, bound to ignore the grim fact that he kills men on a far-off world for the entertainment of his own planet—and bound to keep his rage in check.

But now Michaelson has crossed the line. His estranged wife, Pallas Rill, has mysteriously disappeared in the slums of Ankhana. To save her, he must confront the greatest challenge of his life: a lethal game of cat and mouse with the most treacherous rulers of two worlds . . .

Common elements: real world & fantasy world Elven wife, Pallas Ril dissatisfied hero longing for return to fantasy world: Hari Michelson needs to be Caine — his avatar in the fantasy world

The date is off, however.

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    On subjective side, Heroes Die was good, but it’s sequel Blade of Tyshalle, was a much better effort, retaining the core elements but delivering the story which really showed Stover coming into being a writer. Commented Oct 28, 2021 at 22:06

Could be The Knight by Gene Wolfe. A young boy is transported to a Norse style fantasy realm Mythgarthr, where he is turned into a man (but his thinking is still that of a confused teenager).

Going by the name Able of the High Heart, he has a love interest Disiri who is an elf woman.

I can't recall if he gets back to normal life at the end and wants to go back to Mythgarthr, or just finds a point between the two worlds where he can see his brother (my books have been in storage recently and I'm still trying to sort them out, so don't have the book close to hand).

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    Looks like The Knight was published first in 2004, so it would've been hard to read in 1989. Commented Oct 30, 2021 at 18:22

This is very common, as you’ve seen. Another is Three Hearts and Three Lions, by Poul Anderson, where the hero is a Danish partisan who becomes a paladin, then returns to save a nuclear physicist from the Nazis, and the heroine is a Swanmay.

  • I thought of that too, even though they do not marry in the course of the novel.
    – Mary
    Commented Mar 9, 2022 at 0:13

This bears some similarity to "The Lyndesfarne Bridge" novels -- New Bridge to Lyndesfarne, Bridge at War, Death on the New Bridge, and Bridge of Stone and Magic by Trevor Hopkins.

The titular bridge goes between the northeast coast of England and another world, where the natives have some similarities to elves; the other world runs mainly on magic, where ours runs mainly on technology. At one point in the fourth novel, the protagonist of the four books is stranded at "home" in our world, and must wait to find out for certain if his lover from the other world made it across.

Edit: Oops, I just did find the publication date of the first novel: 2006. Fifteen or so years too late.

At the time of writing, there is only one known crossing between the worlds, located in North East England. The crossing appears as a long causeway and an old stone bridge to a small island - whether approached from the Lyndesfarne world or from our own. There is a considerable amount of trade between the worlds and it is clear that there are economic and political advantages to both sides.

I couldn't find a publication date for these, but I'm certain they've been out for at least fifteen years (the page linked above has a 2006 copyright notice).


Any chance it might be one of the books in the Thomas Covenant series by Stephen R. Donaldson? There are a few, the first of which is Lord Foul's Bane (1977).

It's set in the modern day (or at least the late '70s, when it was written). The titular character is a leper who gets healed by accident when he travels to a fantasy land. Part of one of the books follows him returning to his real life and wanting to go back to the fantasy land.

From Goodreads:

He called himself Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever because he dared not believe in the strange alternate world in which he suddenly found himself.

Yet the Land tempted him. He had been sick; now he seemed better than ever before. Through no fault of his own, he had been outcast, unclean, a pariah. Now he was regarded as a reincarnation of the Land's greatest hero--Berek Halfhand--armed with the mystic power of White Gold. That power alone could protect the Lords of the Land from the ancient evil of Despiser, Lord Foul. Only...Covenant had no idea of how the power could be used!

Thus begins one of the most remarkable epic fantasies ever written...

  • Does Covenant get married and then get trapped in the real world?
    – DavidW
    Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 0:22
  • It's been a while since I've read it, but he has an ex-wife in the real world and has some associations in the fantasy world. I think at the end of the first book he returns to reality and part of the second book is him getting back to the fantasy world. I only read the first and second books, never found the others in my local library at the time Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 1:34
  • Thanks for the edit, LogicDictates - much cleaner now Commented Nov 1, 2021 at 1:34

It's been a while since I read it, and I couldn't find a lot of information online, but I think that what you described might be in Slambash Wangs of a Compo Gormer

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. Can you describe how the book matches the details of the question?
    – DavidW
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 20:53
  • Great start ! Please look at the other answers for a model of the amount of detail required to be a great answer. This is certainly a possibility. You can expand your answer with edit
    – Criggie
    Commented Oct 31, 2021 at 23:57

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