A black wax version of a city with certain towers and buildings lit like candles hovers over a gray mist.

About the Book

Title: A Door in the Dark
Published: 2023
Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Cover Story: Is This A City For Ants?!
BFF Charm: Caution
Talky Talk: Leave ‘Em Wanting More
Bonus Factors: Magic, Whodunnit?, Dragons
Relationship Status: Call Me Maybe

Cover Story: Is This A City For Ants?!

Another book that caught my eye and then the synopsis drew me in. I love a good miniature model and this looked so spooky and cool. I wasn’t sure beforehand what it meant (is it like a floating city?), but bonus points to the illustrator because after reading I now know it’s something directly from the book.

The Deal:

Growing up in the poor sector of Kathor, Ren knew when she started Balmerick University on scholarship that she’d never be truly welcome at the exclusive private school for the magical elite. But she’s spent four long years soaking in the knowledge and becoming an expert in detecting complicated spells, determined to get sponsored by one of the most powerful families in the city to further her ambitions—and her vengeance.

After a party trick gone wrong, Ren finds herself taking the public waxways (a type of magical transportation) with a motley group of students, including rich bros Theo and Clyde, her best friend, and two other Lower City misfits. With tensions running high, the group’s trip goes disastrously wrong, and they are somehow transported out into the middle of nowhere. But unfortunately…they didn’t all make it out there alive.

It’s going to be a fight for their lives to get home…if they don’t turn on each other first.

BFF Charm: Caution

BFF charm wrapped in yellow "Caution" tape

Ren is brilliant and calculating, but I’d worry by freely giving her a BFF charm if I wouldn’t become some kind of collateral damage in her climb to the top. She’s not wrong in her righteous anger (her father was murdered for unionizing), but it can be a slippery slope to becoming a monster yourself. Still, I am rooting for her…I just hope she knows what she’s doing.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

This isn’t a romance, although Ren does see when she can press an advantage to get a sponsorship with a certain rich boy. Is it conniving? Yes…and she does feel a bit bad about it, but not enough to stop.

Talky Talk: Leave ‘Em Wanting More

This book isn’t overly long, so we get enough set-up for the world and then it’s straight to the main action. It’s part disaster survival, part mystery, part fantasy and magic politics. Reintgen’s writing was easy to fall into and kept up a brisk pace—in fact, I almost wish there was space for more; more about the magic system and digging deeper into the politics, and what came after the major plot ended. A good chunk of the book focuses on their journey and how they can survive the harsh climate and predators after them, and while that was fine, there was so much also going on being hinted at back at home. Currently there doesn’t seem to be a sequel, and while the story wraps up in a way that you don’t NEED a continuation, I would’ve liked to have seen what comes next for Ren because I’m sure it’s going to be a wild ride.

Bonus Factor: Magic

Open book with moving pages in front of a glowing blue sphere and twinkle lights

In Ren’s world, the magic is mined from the ground, so anyone could conceivably do magic if they have enough ockleys (a measurement of magic) stored into a personal vessel attuned to them and know the spells to use. There are basic spells that may only cost an ockley or two, but if you want something with layers and finesse, it will cost more. Of course the wealthier families of the city hoard more of the magic to themselves while brilliant spellcasters like Ren must make due with a smaller supply. It was an different system of magic that I enjoyed.

Bonus Factor: Whodunnit?

Cast of the movie Clue gathered in doorway

Did someone deliberately mess with the spell that would have transported the students safely to their homes? Or was it simply a case of too many spells at once causing a misfire?

Bonus Factor: Dragons

A dragon perched on a mountain top with his wings spread with the sun setting in the background

Well, dragon carcasses at least. The magic of Ren’s world comes from veins deep in the ground, and they’re living on the lands of the once great and fearsome dragons that died out hundreds of years before Ren’s time. (Not gonna lie, I kept expecting a dragon to show up.) One of the more interesting and unique things was the drug Breath, which is a mind-altering substance harvested from the corpses of deceased dragons (because apparently they decay but very slowly?!).

Relationship Status: Call Me Maybe

You really intrigued me during our short but intense time together, Book. I want to know what else is going on in that twisted mind of yours, but I have no idea if you’re into starting something more serious. Give me a call if you want to talk, okay?

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Margaret K. McElderry Books. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. A Door in the Dark is available now.

Stephanie (she/her) is an avid reader who moonlights at a college and calls Orlando home. Stephanie loves watching television, reading DIY blogs, planning awesome parties, Halloween decorating, and playing live-action escape games.