Fiction Reviews


The Book of Doors

(2024) Gareth Brown, Bantam, 16.99, hrdbk, 406pp, ISBN 978-1-787-63724-5

 

Cassie Andrews lives in New York City with her flatmate Izzy, working quietly yet happily at Kellner Books as a bookshop worker. When regular customer Mr. Webber dies in the store, she finds that she is left his notebook.

This book has special powers, as we later discover that it is The Book of Doors. Namely, it will allow the user to travel through a door, any door, providing that the user has seen what is on the other side before. As Cassie and Izzy have fun exploring the possibilities that the book provides, they also find themselves in a dangerous situation. Owning the book means that they're being hunted by a group of booksellers who wants the book's powers and will stop at nothing to get it.

This situation also leads them to meet Drummond Fox, the librarian in charge of the Fox Library. Drummond has the Book of Shadows, which allows him to become invisible and keep the library hidden from other Book owners. Cassie finds that the library has other books and that there are more held in secret around the world, each of them have names that describe their function or power such as The Book of Joy, The Book of Matter, The Book of Despair, The Book of Pain, The Book of Speed, The Book of Faces, The Book of Control, The Book of Light and The Book of Water.

The Book of Doors seems particularly useful in that it would allow access to other books and other places, and so Cassie, Izzy and Drummond spend much of the middle of the novel avoiding those wishing to obtain the The Book of Doors. In particular they come across The Woman, a psychotic killer who wants to not only collect the books, but enjoys killing people to get them.

When an auction is held for the Book of Pain, the consequences are fatal for some and has consequences for our main characters. The solution is that Cassie, using the The Book of Doors, can travel through time to solve the problem and deal once and for all with The Woman.

The Book of Doors is a novel that begins in the realm of magic realism and ends up as a time travel novel. The initial setting is delightful and will be valued by anyone with a love of books, book shops, and book collecting, although the time travel element may be divisive. Generally it is nicely done, except in one aspect when the unnecessary death of a character seems to serve little use but for an attempt to introduce a twist into the plot.

On the whole, though, the main characters are rather well done. Cassie and Izzy are wonderful characters, whose friendship seems genuine and realistic, without descending into boring platitudes. Fox Drummond adds an element of dark complexity to the plot, in part due to his previous dealings with The Woman. He is haunted by this and the book shows him still trying to resolve his previous traumas. There is also a minor touch of possible romance hinted at here, although the situation remains unresolved.

Of the minor characters, some of the other Book owners are a little bit more clichéd, yet serviceable, and their quirky and rather unpleasant natures are telegraphed by some rather gruesome deaths, which keeps the peril within the plot a constant.

In short, this one begins well and rattles along nicely, carried by the characterisation and the setting, more than enough to reduce the areas of minor irritation. There is an ending of sorts which closes things nicely, whilst also leaving the possibility of further books should this be found to be popular.

Mark Yon

 


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