11 March 2024

Review: The Book of Doors by Gareth Brown

The Book of Doors by Gareth Brown book cover

* Copy courtesy of Penguin Random House *

The Book of Doors by Gareth Brown has the potential to take out 'best cover design' for 2024 as determined here at Carpe Librum. Let's just take a minute to soak in the beauty that is the dark blue Victorian damask wallpaper background, punctuated by the inviting bookish staircase made from gorgeous looking leather bound books with subtle gold detailing, echoed around the corners of the front cover.

In the design, the door is a book and this is The Book of Doors, what's not to love?

Astonishingly well written and structured for a debut, The Book of Doors immediately grabbed my attention with settings to tempt, tease and tantalise any book lover:
"Just like the store, the house was full of books - no shelf was bare, no book alone and seeking company - but it was more than that. The house was full of warm corners and quiet places, pleasantly creaking floorboards and draughts of air coming from unseen gaps. The lighting was soft, and the colours muted and warm, interrupted only by the shimmering dark green of the trees outside when glimpsed through windows in passing. It was a building that welcomed people who wanted comfort and silence, who wanted space to contemplate. It had an air of formality, but not stiffness, like a smartly dressed grandfather telling a rude joke." Page 135-136
Our characters fall in love with the house and I did too! Cassie works as a bookseller at a bookshop in New York and the story begins when a regular customer gives her a book with an inscription inside. Cassie is over the moon when she learns the book is a one of a kind with the ability to turn any door into a door to anywhere. Cassie then discovers there are more books with differing powers, actively being sought by eccentric collectors, nefarious actors and scary people who travel the world hunting the books for their own dark purposes.

You should know, this is a fantasy novel and there is time travel. In fact, in the words of Drummond Fox (one of the novel's characters), there is a little 'time-travel jiggery-pokery' to untangle but thankfully the author breaks it down by cleverly providing a detailed explanation of two types of time travel. There is the open model and the closed model, and they're explained to the reader in a conversation flashback as follows:
"In the open model, you can travel into the past and change events so that your present is consequently changed also. This is what you see in science-fiction stories. You go back and do something and history changes." Page 153
Yes! Reading this I was instantly reminded of 11.22.63 by Stephen King, where the main character (MC) goes back in time in an attempt to prevent the assassination of JFK. The flashback sequence in The Book of Doors continues to explain the closed model:
"You cannot change events from what has already happened. If you go back and do something in the past, then that already happened in the past and is part of history. It is part of what made your present be the present that it is, the present that you departed from when you went into the past." Page 153
It's the latter form of time travel experienced by the characters in The Book of Doors, and thankfully I wasn't too lost as it seemed the author maintained a tight grip on the reins of time-travel lore. The writing is rich and evocative and I loved learning about the other special books, the powers they held and the motives of those seeking them. The book of pain was the most intriguing as it has the power to cause and remove pain. I was most entertained during Cassie's early exploration using the book of doors and managed to keep up with the narrative when it otherwise could have been a tad timey-wimey. My only sticking point was the origin story for the books was a little too much for this book lover.

The Book of Doors by Gareth Brown is an impressive debut and the first possible contender for my Top 5 Books of 2024. Highly recommended for book lovers and readers who enjoyed The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow or believe books are magic portals, even when they're not.

Not sure? Read a free extract or listen to a free 5 minute sample of the audiobook on the publisher's website.

My Rating:

Would you like to comment?

  1. Great review, I'll definitely be hunting this one down sometime.

  2. I'm curious about this one. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


Thanks for your comment, Carpe Librum!