The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones
Jamie Hamilton’s a bit of a wild kid, skipping school and running about town, until the day that he runs into Them. They seem to hang around in a building called “The Old Fort”, doing something with remarkable machines. Frustrated by not being able to find out what goes on, Jamie breaks in and confronts Them, only to find that They are playing a giant game with others in . . . well, someplace else. Jamie’s introduction as a random factor may threaten the game, so they send him off to walk the Bounds, warning him that he can come home, if he can find the way . . .
Then Jamie finds himself in another world. And shortly he is pulled back to the Boundary where he entered that world and sent on to another. This continues, as Jamie accumulates knowledge, and eventually companions. He even meets a demon hunter.
If I had any complaints, they would revolve around characters like the Flying Dutchman, and the way Jamie refers to Helen as his “enemy” when she doesn’t ever act like anything of the kind. Rival, maybe. But a good friend throughout, from what I could see. Anyway, those are small things. Recommended.
Sequel to Dragon Bones. In that book, as you may recall (all right, I’ll wait while you go buy a copy and read it), Ward becomes ruler of Hurog, his family keep. But he has been playing simpleton all his life, and the King sends for him to lock him away in the Asylum he has built to house embarrassments to the great noble families. So Ward runs off to become a hero, too noticeable to be disposed of quietly.
In this book, a few years have passed since then, and Ward is rebuilding Hurog. Tisala, the woman warrior he fell for in the first book, has gotten involved in the rebellion against the King, and has been captured and tortured. Luckily for her, she is not being held in the Palace, so she kills her torturer and escapes to Hurog. Coincidentally, the King decides enough time has passed that the general public has forgotten Ward’s heroism, so he sends for him, intending to lock him up for real, this time (and if he gets to do a bit of torturing along the way, so much the better). But Ward has friends and allies the King hasn’t figured on, and if he can escape he may find himself driven to join the rebellion.
Trying not to spoil both books is hard. Go read ’em!