Cassie Andrews is living a quiet life in New York City. She spends her days and evenings working in a bookshop, and when she goes home each night, more often than not, she curls up with a good book. A set of unusual circumstances in the bookstore result in Cassie coming into possession of a strange, unassuming little book that, according to the title page, is The Book of Doors. Inside, the book is inscribed with the title, some mysterious symbols and drawings, and the inscription that “any door is every door.” Cassie ponders the book and wonders what it means. When she unexpectedly opens her hallway door to a location in Italy, she becomes determined to learn more about the book, how it works, and where it can take her. But Cassie isn’t the only person that knows about The Book of Doors, and she is about to find out exactly how badly they want it and what they are willing to do to make it their own.
In his debut novel, Gareth Brown tells a story that seems both familiar and unexpected. Who hasn’t fantasized about being able to open a door to find a place you’ve imagined that is available through the doorway rather than what exists on the other side of the wall? Brown expertly tells the story of Cassie coming into possession of The Book of Doors, and her experiments to learn where she can, and can’t, go using it. Brown provides all of the fantasy characters readers expect in this type of story: a mentor, a sidekick, unexpected allies, and a villain who must be overcome. In every way, The Book of Doors is a successful fantasy novel about a magic book, and this is certainly enough for a satisfying read. Brown, however, doesn’t stop there.
While The Book of Doors is certainly about the titular volume, and Cassie’s adventure with it, the core of the story is something else entirely. The Book of Doors is a meditation on grief. Brown portrays several characters who are grappling with grief and regrets. Brown sensitively portrays their regrets, explores the origins of their grief, and illustrates how grieving is often a process that takes time, sometimes years, to work through. Brown also demonstrates how grief and regret may leave scars with which one must learn to live, actively choosing not to allow it to hold one back. It is also about the cyclical nature of trauma and about how the effects of trauma can be overcome, but also a warning about how they can be transferred to the next generation. Finally, it is also about families, both blood and found. About how it is almost always better to live a shared existence than one that is solitary. We get by, and make it through, with a little help from our friends.
The Book of Doors is a wonderful fantasy adventure that also examines the grief of loss and celebrates the many, many ways we can experience joy.
Read an interview with the author here.