Thursday, May 18, 2023

Today's read... A Door in the Dark by Scott Reintgen

I've been super excited to dive into today's read. It released the end of March, and I've been keeping my fingers from grabbing it up early from my reading pile. (That's been happening a lot, lately) This is a gorgeous book, by the way. The cover in real life is even more amazing than the digital image. 

Now, does the book hold up to its promises? Let's find out!

Waxways #1
by Scott Reintgen
Margaret K. McElderry Books
YA Fantasy
368 pages

One of Us is Lying meets A Deadly Education in this fantasy thriller that follows six teenage wizards as they fight to make it home alive after a malfunctioning spell leaves them stranded in the wilderness.

Ren Monroe has spent four years proving she’s one of the best wizards in her generation. But top marks at Balmerick University will mean nothing if she fails to get recruited into one of the major houses. Enter Theo Brood. If being rich were a sin, he’d already be halfway to hell. After a failed and disastrous party trick, fate has the two of them crossing paths at the public waxway portal the day before holidays—Theo’s punishment is to travel home with the scholarship kids. Which doesn’t sit well with any of them.

A fight breaks out. In the chaos, the portal spell malfunctions. All six students are snatched from the safety of the school’s campus and set down in the middle of nowhere. And one of them is dead on arrival.

If anyone can get them through the punishing wilderness with limited magical reserves it’s Ren. She’s been in survival mode her entire life. But no magic could prepare her for the tangled secrets the rest of the group is harboring, or for what’s following them through the dark woods…

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Magic meets horror and romance for an exciting read, which holds until the very last page.

Ren's a top student at the Balmerick University and has to wake the interest of one of the major families/houses, which govern their world, in order to achieve her goals. It should be an easy task with her talents but, so far, she's been ignored. Giving in to her best friend, she attends a party only to witness a disaster, which not only strengthens her dislike for the elite families, but also sets off a devastating chain of events. Thanks to a terrible mishap, her and a handful of other students land in the far depths of the wild forests, where dangerous, deadly creatures hunt everything that moves. With no way to contact civilization, limited magic, and even more limited supplies, she and the others must find a way to survive the journey home. But none of them are aware of the true danger. Landing in the wilderness might have been an accident, but now, one of them is thirsty for blood.

Rich story telling hits high tension and stakes, and that with more than a little magic. It's an intoxicating mix, which promises an exciting tale...and it delivers. The first chapters are extremely well-woven. The author has developed a thorough, magical realm and provides the background and logic to back to up. While that might sound as if the information will bog down, it doesn't. The opening chapters are rich, allowing character depth to develop (on Ren's end), the world to grow vivid, and the tale to take firm root. It was a delight to sit back and sink into it.

Then, the second half of the book hits, and this changes in setting, characters, and atmosphere. Where the first part slides into a story about the magic, families, fighting for positions, and school, this second half jumps into survival, terrifying moments, and dangerous situations. It's definitely exciting and gripping, just not in the same direction...and because it takes on more of a horror and race-against-time vibe (with several characters we don't really know up until that point), the depth that was gained weakens and loses quite a bit of importance. I'm assuming that this will switch back in the original direction with book two, but the switch-a-roo was a little strange for one book. Not to say it was bad. It's not. Just unexpected and makes the brain do a little shift. The second half is also very gripping and keeps the reader on the edge of the seat. Granted, a little more character depth would have been helpful for several reasons. But, in general, it works. There were more than a few unexpected twists and turns, and it was very hard to put the book down. (I might have read this one in a single sitting because of that).
As a quick note, this is sold as a young adult read and is a young adult read. The university setting did throw me for a loop, but there was no need to worry. There's gore and violence, some drug use, but nothing extreme. 

I'm definitely looking forward to book two because this world and Ren carry so much potential. Book one does tie off well at the end. So this isn't a cliff-hanger, and yet, there is plenty of room for the tale to grow into so much more. And I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes from here.

And here he is...

Scott Reintgen is a former public school teacher and still spends summers teaching middle schoolers dark fiction and fantasy at Duke Young Writers Camp. The birth of his children has convinced him that magic is actually real. He lives in North Carolina, surviving mostly on cookie dough and the love of his wife, Katie. Scott is the author of the Nyxia Triad and Ashlords series and A Door in the Dark for young adults, as well as the Talespinners series and the Celia Cleary series for middle graders. You can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at @Scott_Thought.

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