Kamai was warned never to open the black door, but she didn’t listen…
Everyone has a soul. Some are beautiful gardens, others are frightening dungeons.
Soulwalkers―like Kamai and her mother―can journey into other people’s souls while they sleep.
But no matter where Kamai visits, she sees the black door. It follows her into every soul, and her mother has told her to never, ever open it.
When Kamai touches the door, it is warm and beating, like it has a pulse. When she puts her ear to it, she hears her own name whispered from the other side. And when tragedy strikes, Kamai does the unthinkable: she opens the door.
A.M. Strickland’s imaginative dark fantasy features court intrigue and romance, a main character coming to terms with her asexuality, and twists and turns as a seductive mystery unfolds that endangers not just Kamai’s own soul, but the entire kingdom…
Are you kidding? A spooky, LGBTQ+, fantasy read that just happens to fall in the spoooooky month of October? I was SO in.
Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland was a fun read. It was dark and moody, gothic and spooky, fantastic and magical, and just complex enough to keep me reading all the way until the end. More than anything about this book, I was just– interested: to see how it ended, to see what happened next, to see what would happen to Kamai in the end.
The magic in this system is completely new and original, which I loved. The concept of “soul walkers” was wild and a little esoteric, but what I found so wonderful about this book was the way that the system and the explanations of this form of magic were written so well. Her concepts are complex, but the way Strickland writes about them was accessible, relatable, and dare I say- magical.
I loved the representation in this book most of all, I was so excited to see a book (especially a fantasy book) lean into a character who falls into the Aromantic/Asexual spectrum. Especially given that the character, internally, struggles with these feelings and perspectives, which I found wholly and utterly relatable. This book uses many metaphors to show how asexuality is a grey area where many people fall along a wide spectrum. I loved the use of moon phases, which also tied into the magic in this story, to examine gender identity and the character’s conflicts with sex and her work.
I rooted for Kamai throughout this book. I wanted her to succeed and find what she was looking for, even when things became murky and it looked like that might be unlikely. Kamai is impulsive, flawed, stubborn, and has her own internal conflicts aplenty, but all of this combines to make a immensely human character inside an already fantastical world.
I hesitate to talk too much about to romance or “romance,” depending on your POV, because I don’t want to give anything away. Needless to say, it was refreshing to see a dark, villainous love interest actually— you know, stay dark and villainous. So often in YA novels, when an author is trying to write an abusive or manipulative or dark romantic plot like, these edges can be somewhat rounded off and instead we get a villain that is sympathetic and understandable. I enjoyed the fact that this was not the point of the romance in Beyond the Black Door. The fact that this relationship in the book is unhealthy, manipulative, and dangerous is never argued, ignored, or glossed over. I am always so grateful when an author can acknowledge these dark truths, especially in a romantic plot line, because as much as we enjoy these stories, it also reminds us that this is not how romance ‘should’ be.
I will say one thing: I want more. I have so many questions left and I go back and forth over whether or not that’s a great thing or a frustrating thing. I just want to know more. So here’s hoping!
Overall, this was a strong debut for Strickland into the crowded field of YA and I will be keeping my eye out for what comes next from this author.
Check it out for yourselves and I hope you enjoy!
AdriAnne Strickland was a bibliophile who wanted to be an author before she knew what either of those words meant. She shares a home base in Alaska with her husband, her pugs, and her piles and piles of books. She loves traveling, dancing, vests, tattoos, and every shade of teal in existence, but especially the darker ones. She is the coauthor of SHADOW RUN and SHADOW CALL (Delacorte/Penguin Random House) and author of the forthcoming BEYOND THE BLACK DOOR (Imprint/Macmillan).
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