The Book of Doors by Gareth Brown

20/03/2024
The Book of Doors by Gareth Brown

Fantasy writers have many go to objects and images but two stand out – books and doors. For fantasy books involving books it is hard to go past the many magical books referenced in the Harry Potter Series (including of course Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) but there are also, more recently Garth Nix’s Left Handed Booksellers of London and Sunyi Dean’s The Book Eaters. And fantasy is replete with doorways and portals from the wardrobe entrance to Narnia through more recently to Alix E Harrow’s Ten-Thousand Doors of January and Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway. Fantasy author Gareth Brown takes these two tropes and mashes them together in his debut The Book of Doors.

Cassie works in a bookshop and has a friendship with Mr Webber who comes in to read and drink hot chocolate. When Mr Webber dies in the shop he leaves Cassie a strange small book called the Book of Doors with the inscription: “Hold it in your hand, and any door is every door”. Cassie, with the help of her flatmate and friend Izzy, soon finds that this is in fact the case and using the book she can turn the doors in her apartment into any door in the world. But the Book of Doors is only one of many books of power (each has a different effect) and the appearance of that book puts Cassie in some very dangerous crosshairs. Fortunately she is found first by Scotsman Drummond Fox, keeper of a secret library who can help her understand the book and navigate the shadowy world that she has fallen into.

The Book of Doors starts with a fairly standard fantasy premise – an ordinary person obtains eldritch powers and in doing so finds that the world is much stranger than she first thought. She then has to come to terms with that new understanding of the world and her place in it and use those new powers to survive. But the opening section does seed a number of puzzles that take much of the book to resolve. That resolution depends on a fairly hard swerve somewhere around the middle when Brown throws time travel into the mix. After which The Book of Doors has to play out a series of bootstrap paradoxes. While the action after this point, including a kind of heist element, is enough to keep the pages turning, readers who worry too much about the time travel shenanigans are likely to be less impressed. All that said, The Book of Doors is fantasy. So that while Brown does set up and stick to a series of “rules” they are not scientific rules.

And, for all the swearing, violence and smattering of body-horror, it is very much fantasy in Young-Adult mode – a sort of coming of age story of a young woman, and a cast of side characters who are either good, neutral (but good) or moustache-twirlingly bad. All of which makes The Book of Doors a mostly fun but slight fantasy debut from an author who shows plenty of promise.

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The Book of Doors by Gareth Brown

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