Everyone has their favorite authors…whether it’s an author you trust to always give you a good story, or an author who creates wonderful characters that you’d like to meet, or an author who keeps you guessing a mystery right up until the end. There’s so many elements that go into the status of “favorite”, and often no easily explicable reason for that choice; that author’s writing just strikes a chord within you.
When you know the author of a book, it makes reading that book extra-special. And when that author becomes one of your favorites not only because you know her, but because her books feature unforgettable characters like Gargoyle and Hilary from The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series, or Toby and Ivy from The World’s Greatest Detective…because her stories pull you right into the world of those characters, because you don’t know what’s going to happen but you really, really want to figure it out…. Well, it’s magical.
And The Door at the End of the World IS magical. It’s also written by one of my favorite authors, one who I watched grow up from a preschooler coming to Storytimes to an elementary student who I saved the newest Diana Wynne Jones book for, to an professional and eager young woman who worked at the library during high school, to an accomplished and talented writer, who has enriched the lives of many other readers.
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Lucy lives at the end of the world, with the Gatekeeper, who holds the key to the worldgate, the only way to travel between the eight worlds. As you might imagine, travel is highly regulated…the Gatekeeper is the one who unlocks and opens the door, but Lucy is the person who stamps your passport, files all the paperwork, and does a hundred other routine jobs that protect the worldgate. As the person in charge, the Gatekeeper is only one who holds the keys, and in addition to her daily duties, once a year she does the regular maintenance that keeps the worldgate running.
So on one random Thursday, which happens to be Maintenance Day the Gatekeeper goes through to the East to meet Bernard, the Gatekeeper for that side to do some repairs and cleaning and polishing. Lucy goes about her normal routine, keeping one eye out for Emergencies and the other on the worldgate for the return of the Gatekeeper. But when she wakes up the next morning and the Gatekeeper is still gone, Lucy is in panic mode. If the Gatekeeper is missing, shouldn’t Lucy DO something? The spelling bees who guard the worldgate agree that it’s an emergency, and encourage Lucy to find the spare key.
But when Lucy does find the key, and with great trepidation opens the worldgate, there’s no Gatekeeper or Bernard on the other side. There’s simply a boy. A clumsy boy named Arthur who falls through the door, practically on top of her and somehow manages to break the spare key off in the lock. With the key jammed in the lock, the door won’t budge. Lucy decides the best way to handle a broken gate and a missing Gatekeeper is to go to the other end of the world to find Florence, the gatekeeper of door leading to the South.
So Lucy sets off, with Arthur and the spelling bees it tow, to journey to the gate at the other end of the world. She puts a sign on the gatehouse, and hopes for the best. But the best isn’t fated to be. Soon Lucy and her friends are surrounded by danger, and it’s obvious there is someone out there with sinister plans in mind for all of the eight worlds. If Lucy can’t find a way to rescue not only her world, but all of the eight worlds, the fabric of space and time might be damaged beyond repair. What’s an assistant gatekeeper to do? Save the world, of course!
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I loved this book! It’s reminiscent of Diana Wynne Jones–with a big helping of magic, a touch of humor, and a lot of interesting situations all mixed together in a tightly plotted mystery adventure, with lots of twists and turns you don’t see coming. Lucy and Arthur are great characters, as is sneaky Rosemary, who has her own mission. And I absolutely adore the spelling bees!
Readers who like books with magic and dangerous adventures, with a bit of humor, or who are fans of Diana, Jessica Day George, Natalie Lloyd, Kathryn Littlewood, and Caroline’s other books, you’ll enjoy The Door at the End of the World just as much. I hope they turn it into an audio book as well, because it would be a great read-aloud.
Full disclosure–I received the advance reader copy of this back in December from Caroline…so I’ve been sitting on this wonderful story for a few months. I’ve also been treasuring something else about the book–the dedication.
I got teary when I first saw it, and every time I look at it, even now. Thank you Caroline, for your words. I hope that somewhere out there, some librarian is saving this book for a reader who loved Hilary and Gargoyle, so that he or she can be the first person to read it. Then maybe that young reader will go out into the world and write a story that will continue a tradition. You make me very proud to have been a part of your life.
Now that I received my “real” copy, I’m going to go read The Door at the End of the World again. I think it will be even better on the second (and third, and fourth…) time around!