Review: Steen Jones, The Lost Door

About a year ago, I reviewed Steen Jones’s debut novel, The Door Keeper. There was a lot to love about it: the characters were great, the plot was tight, and the story kept me engaged from the very first line. So I was pretty excited when, a few weeks ago, she released the sequel with little-to-no-fanfare.

The new book, The Lost Door, picks up seven years after the end of The Door Keeper. Life for Eden and her family – both the one she’s made for herself on Earth and the one she rediscovered in the first book on the world of Caelum – is good.

Then mysterious things start to happen with the doors, and Eden rushes off to solve the mystery. Instead, she’s kidnapped by a new foe who wants to use her unique gifts to open up other worlds to allow him to conquer them. Together with her family – especially her daughter, Gabby, who discovers her own gifts this time around – Eden must protect the doors and save the day.

I’m not doing the plot justice. It’s both more complex and much simpler than how I’d describing it. Steen Jones remains an excellent plotter; the action comes quickly but isn’t rushed, and the only lulls in the action are of the “calm before the storm” variety.

Steen splits the first-person point of view between Eden, the protagonist from the first book, and her daughter Gabby. Both characters have distinctive, separate voices, and the trading off of POV doesn’t distract as it can often do. It’s never easy to pull off the multiple POV trick, but it’s to Steen Jones’s credit that she makes it look effortless.

In addition to the main characters carried over from the first novel, there’s a whole host of new protagonists and a new antagonist. Steen manages to set up the new antagonist, Aslek, as both a sympathetic individual and an evil, dastardly villain. She walks a fine line, but sticks the landing on it. I was a bit surprised when his character seemed to disappear about halfway through the book, to be replaced by a secondary antagonist left over from the first book, but Aslek does manage to loom over the proceedings despite receiving very little actual time in front of the reader.

I do have a few points of criticism, though most of them have nothing to do with the story or its characters. I love those things. But it feels like the book needed another round of editing to be ready. Really obvious mistakes – consistently misspelling lightning as lightening, misplaced apostrophes in plural possessive words (making the words singular possessive instead), rod iron instead of wrought iron – cropped up every few pages. Lord knows my own novels have typos in them (there’s probably at least two just in this review, I betcha), but a good editor should have caught these. Most of them are consistent, recurring mistakes, especially the lightning/lightening thing. The errors rarely impeded my ability to understand what the author was trying to say, but it did happen on occasion and I did sometimes have to go back and re-read sentences to make sure I understood what they were trying to say.

Overall, The Lost Door is a fun, adventurous sequel to Steen Jones’s The Door Keeper. It’s fun, fast-paced, and enjoyable. It’s nice seeing characters who make an effort to understand one another, whose relationships are driven by character and genuine emotions rather than what would be narratively convenient. Everyone’s actions make sense, their choices feel genuine, and the story leaves me wanting more. I can’t wait for the final act in the trilogy.

Steen Jones’ The Door Keeper

When I’m not busy writing, or drawing, or playing music, I’m busy reading.  Or sleeping.  There’s only so many hours in a day, after all, and I love to take naps.

But the book I’m here to tell you about!  I read fellow Royal James Publishing author Steen Jones’s contemporary fantasy book The Door Keeper last week, and I’m gonna tell you all about it.

First and foremost, you should read it.  The Door Keeper is a pleasant, heartwarming novel, filled with believable characters, an intriguing mystery, and clever fantasy elements.  It never feels trite or cliche, even when dealing with well-worn tropes of the genre (the main character has a mysterious past she knows nothing about and a great destiny!  Here’s a brooding man who starts off somewhat combative but comes around and becomes a boon companion and love interest!).  It’s a testament to Ms. Jones’ abilities that the character don’t feel flat or their arcs unearned.  She excels at the little character moments that make their feel real: the way the protagonist’s daughter, Gabby, goes on and on about filming Youtube videos with her best friend, or the way Eden, the protagonist herself, decides to hide information from her daughter to protect her.  It feels natural, as do almost all the character interactions and moments.

I’m not going to go too deep into the plot, as revealing too much does give away some of the twisty surprises Steen Jones has cooked up for her reader.  Folks in this book have ulterior motives sometimes, and not everyone is on the up and up like they pretend to be.

What I enjoyed most about The Door Keeper was the way Ms. Jones played with developing exciting and unique worlds for her characters to visit.  See, there are all these doors scattered across the earth that act as portals to other worlds, if you happen to have a key to the doors.  We see three other worlds in this novel, though the next two books (it’s a planned trilogy) promise visits to other worlds, I hope, because Steen is pretty creative when it comes to these exotic locales.

All of this isn’t to say I didn’t have a couple of issues with the novel.  Ms. Jones has a habit of creating a potential obstacle for Eden, then immediately removing that obstacle without any effort on Eden’s part.  The not-too-conflicting-conflict makes for some resolutions that are a bit too pat, a little unearned.  Eden has all of this internal struggle that we get to see because she’s our narrator, but we don’t really have any external conflict because as soon as she thinks about something being a problem, someone ambles into her path and provides the exact solution she was looking for.  There’s also a few bits where the prose isn’t as polished as it could be, though I’m certainly willing to forgive a typo here and there (lord knows I’ve made plenty of my own).

All in all, The Door Keeper is a solid start to a series.  Steen Jones creates a wonderful world full of sparkling details and then goes on to create several more worlds with even more details.  Her world building is excellent, her character moments are spot on, and the book resolves its central plot in a fairly satisfying way while also setting up the next book in the series.  I’m looking forward to whatever is in store for Eden and company next!