Review: Original tale let down by characters

THE BOOK OF DOORS, Gareth Brown, Penguin Random House
THE BOOK OF DOORS, Gareth Brown, Penguin Random House
Single and in her mid-30s, Cassie Andrews’ life has no real direction or excitement.

Not that she minds; she loves her job at the second-hand book shop, and the apartment she shares with her best friend Izzy may be far from luxurious, but it works for them.

Then her favourite customer, an elderly man called Mr Webber, dies and leaves her a book that can transform any door into one any where she desires.

Nor, as she soon discovers, is it the only one of its kind. Scattered across the world are others with a variety of magics. Some affect the physical world, some people’s internal state, while others bestow superpowers.

Most mysterious of all are books like Cassie’s that alter the laws of the universe. Nobody knows how many exist, nor how they came to be, and people who know of their existence dedicate their lives to tracking and acquiring them.

Some collectors value books for love and wonder, but many seek them for their power and will do anything to acquire more.

Cassie’s Book of Doors makes her the target of every book hunter in the business.

Time-travel novels are a tricky proposition at the best of times, and it is impressive that Gareth Brown has managed to produce an original, internally consistent, and coherent narrative on his debut.

Unfortunately, his character development does not work nearly so well. Although we are provided with a variety of perspectives they lack depth and dimension.

Even Cassie, about whom we know the most in terms of motivations and backstory, is hard to connect with at an emotional level. And while I appreciate writers giving female characters centre stage, there is nothing about her experiences that suggests she sees or feels anything any differently to a man in the same situation, leaving me wondering if it was worth it.

That said, the story is cleverly plotted and entertaining and, despite there being causal connections and sub-plots I would like to have seen explored more fully, The Book of Doors is a fun diversion for a dim autumnal day.


Cushla McKinney is a Dunedin scientist