Book Review | A Door in the Dark (ARC)

I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of A Door in the Dark by Scott Reintgen. Since this version is just a proof and not the final version, I won’t quote directly and will keep my comments general.

In A Door in the Dark, Ren Monroe is used to being underestimated at her school for people with magical abilities. Not only because she’s a girl, but also because she’s young and from a poorer part of town. And in this rather elitist, hierarchical society, those are serious deterrents to her success. But Ren is determined to land a position with one of the powerful families, and she knows she has the skills. One day, just as a break between school terms is beginning, she and five classmates are in a freak accident: they are sucked through a magical portal and spat out in the middle of Dires, a wilderness no human has ever survived before. Now, proving herself in front of her richer and more influential classmates has a new element—they have to survive. But something is hunting them, they all have secrets, and time is running out.

Yes, I keep starting to read new series (in this case, a duology). At this point, I might as well stop pretending I’m going to seek out mainly standalones; obviously, that never works and I might as well own up to it. There are just a lot of cool series out there, okay.

Speaking of cool, this book has such a cool premise and world. The lore of this world, a country filled with magic that was founded by several families whose descendents still run most of the day to day, was great. I got the sense that there is a lot of rich history that the first book only scratched the surface of, and the idea of magic being commodified and snatched by the rich upper classes is not only definitely how it would go, but also makes for a quite compelling setting.

The characters are fun too. I liked Ren as the protagonist a lot—she’s clever and tough, but has a softer side. However, it’s her fierceness that makes her really interesting. She makes some difficult choices, and it’s great to see a protagonist who doesn’t necessarily see herself as the hero, just as someone with a goal. It’s a righteous goal for her, but not really a kind one. I don’t think I’m making any sense, but if I get into specifics, it’ll be spoilers. Just read the book, and hopefully then my comments will make sense.

The other characters are great as well. They all have such different personalities, skills, and backgrounds, and seeing them thrown together in this survival situation was wonderful. The magic each can wield was so cool to see—I don’t fully understand how it works, particularly the waxways that they use to travel, but this mild confusion didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the story. There are also plenty of magical creatures that the characters encounter. However, as is becoming the theme of my life, there were not enough dragons (or in this case, not enough wyverns). Maybe in book two.

Also, the action and scary stuff was amazing! The main threat they face is not one I was expecting, but Reintgen did a good job instilling fear about it. There’s such an eerie presence whenever this thing is around, and it’s a very cool monster. The suspenseful scenes weren’t perfectly paced for me, but they were still good. I don’t know that a certain small(ish) twist at the end entirely worked; there didn’t seem like enough foreshadowing for it, because it kind of came out of left field for me. That or I need to do a closer reading of an early scene to see if I missed something maybe.

In the end, though, A Door in the Dark was a fantastic novel. The world is rich, the characters excellently written, the magic is great (albeit slightly puzzling at times). I think fans of books like The Hunger Games will like this book. And personally, I loved Ren’s personal journey, and it ends on a note that promise, a delightful second book in the duology, which I’ll definitely be reading!

Content note: This book is probably best suited for older teens and adults. There are a couple of references to sex, mild alcohol and recreational drug use (it’s magic, but still basically a drug-like substance), violence, an instance of torture, and a couple fairly grisly deaths. I wanted to mention all that in case you prefer not to engage with that kind of content.A Door in the Dark will be published on March 28th, 2023!

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