The Door That Led To Where by Sally Gardner

Challenge 14 ~ “A book with one of the five W’s or H in the title.”


★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

For some reason or another, this book spent years making its way onto the various book displays in my local library, and time after time I dismissed it. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but the hardback cover is infinitely less attractive than this one, so despite its persistence of my to-read list (sold by its blurb), I’d take one look and go ‘maybe next time.’ The Door That Led To Where is definitely one of the case studies that proves you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover.

When you consider the typical story about a magic portal of somesort (however juvenile the plotline seems), there is a predictable format of discovery, travel through, adventure and return. Gardner deviates from this pattern, simultaneously balancing complex and realistic storylines in both the present dimension, and the past, yet avoids the pitfall of creating a novel where the reader loses track of who is who, their inter-relations and which dimension they originally come from. Combined with the mature issues addressed by the novel, Gardner manages to take a magic portal and spin a narrative that has a greater level of maturity than the setting would originally suggest.

She complements these with a terrific literary base, offering strong and realistic characters, as well as a confident and competent writing style. Contemporary London springs to life from the pages, with its dull city grey but also its quirks and lively character. At no point did the reader feel either lost or bored, and yet there was a sudden enlightenment as Gardner began to draw all the sub-plots together in the concluding chapters.

That being said, there was a distinct element of predictability to the story, and the ending was as open and ambiguous as most similar stories. When Gardner had managed so well to defy the slightly childish stereotypes around a time-travel doorway, this indefinite ending felt like a disappointment (and a little bit of a cop-out.) My only other qualm, however, would be the title of the door. The Door That Led To Where implies that there is either an uncertainty to the destination, or a location known as Where, yet neither is the case. Sporadically the door is referred to by this name throughout the novel, yet this is the one theme Gardner fails to really develop. Once going through the door, AJ is always aware he is in a historic London, and he never spends significant amounts of time debating the place that could be through the door. I enjoy the title as a title in itself, but I’m not sure it was entirely appropriate for the story told in the pages.

If somebody handed you this book and told you it was a story about a door that allows time travel, you’d think it aimed at a child audience, and there’d be the typical plotlines that would immediately spring to mind. Gardner’s tale is different, albeit predictable in other elements, and combines more complex themes and ideas to make it suitable for a maturer audience. This is assisted well by strong literary finesse, crafting an enticing and enjoyable read.

Recommended for fans of:

  • Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
  • The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
  • Whose Side Are You On? by Alan Gibbons



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