Goodreads: The Door Before
Series: 100 Cupboards 0.5
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Hyacinth Smith possesses a touch that allows her to tame wild dogs and call forth green things. But when her parents drop her off at the home of a previously unknown relative, Hyacinth learns that she is not the only one with unusual powers. Her aunt has been opening pathways between the worlds and out tumble two boys along with the undying witch who seeks their deaths. Hyacinth knows she must help the boys imprison the witch and save their world. But, in doing so, she might lose her own.
N. D. Wilson is one of the finest children’s fantasy writers today and I am always surprised that he receives as little attention as he does. The word “lyrical” has been overused on book covers to the point where it has become a bit of a joke. But Wilson’s books really are songs. And with their emphasis on sacrifice, love, and loyalty, they are songs that have the ring of truth. The Door Before, like the other books in the 100 Cupboards series, possesses that rare, almost ineffable quality that raises the book above fantasy to make it feel real and beautiful.
Of course, many fans are celebrating not only a new installment in the bestselling 100 Cupboards series, but also the fact that this book ties the world of 100 Cupboards into the world of Wilson’s Ashtown Burials series. It’s been a long wait for the final installment in Cyrus and Antigone Smith’s adventures. While I maintain that the Ashtown Burials books are by far Wilson’s best works, it’s still a welcome treat to have a story featuring the Smith siblings’ ancestors–as well as a young Rupert Greeves!
While the tie-ins would have been enough to make this book interesting to me, Wilson does more than provide a cute little crossover to satiate fans. Rather, he brings back his signature attributes–his love of words, his unflinching look at the costs of virtue, and his belief that children need not be sheltered from the dark. Wilson’s books hurt because he refuses to protect his characters. And that raises them to a level few children’s books achieve.
The Door Before is a solid fantasy that stands well enough on its own, though it will probably hold the most interest for fans of either the 100 Cupboards or the Ashtown Burials series. But if it gets readers interested in continuing either series, I suspect it will have done its work.