Some secrets weren’t meant to be discovered. Some doors not meant to be opened.
Beyond the Black Door by A. M. Strickland
Kamai was warned never to open the black door, but she didn’t listen …
Everyone has a soul. Some are beautiful gardens, others are frightening dungeons. Soulwalkers―like Kamai and her mother―can journey into other people’s souls while they sleep.
But no matter where Kamai visits, she sees the black door. It follows her into every soul, and her mother has told her to never, ever open it.
When Kamai touches the door, it is warm and beating, like it has a pulse. When she puts her ear to it, she hears her own name whispered from the other side. And when tragedy strikes, Kamai does the unthinkable: she opens the door.
A.M. Strickland’s imaginative dark fantasy features court intrigue and romance, a main character coming to terms with her asexuality, and twists and turns as a seductive mystery unfolds that endangers not just Kamai’s own soul, but the entire kingdom …
Thank you Imprint & The FFBC for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
Trigger Warning: Attempted self-harm/suicide, birth control manipulation of a partner, emotionally abusive/manipulative romantic relationships, internalized acephobia, misgendering of a trans, physical violence
what is it about?
The story started with Kamai, and the rare ability that she inherited from her mother to explore the souls of other people while they’re asleep, commonly known as “soulwalking”. The soul of each person takes a different shape of houses, ranging from a cold, dark, small shack to a grand, vibrant, warm palace. Despite of these differences, one thing always remained the same when Kamai visited a soul. There was always a black door lurking on her as if it was a breathing and living creature. Although her mother keeps reminded her to not open the black door, after a life-changing incident, will Kamai be able to still resist the urge?
what do I think about it?
Don’t you just love it when you’re being able to read a story which exactly promised on its blurb, even better than what you’re expected in the first place? That’s exactly the case with this mesmerizing book of Strickland. Starting the book, I love how we are immediately thrown into the two main plots that built this story without getting overwhelmed about them. First, the magical yet dark concept of soulwalking, an ability that Kamai and her mother owned. I completely adore the explanation behind this concept and how it works. The reasoning behind why everyone has different soul houses called Nehym, the boundaries of what soulwalker can or can’t do when they’re exploring someone’s soul, and the description of how the souls should look like was incredibly vivid to me.
Second, the coming-of-age journey of Kamai ever since she was a child and how she tried to understand herself, and as she grew older, it evolved to an attempt to understand her sexuality. This second plot was extremely important and inclusive, and again, Strickland did a wonderful job at writing Kamai’s character arc and her struggles to fit in, especially by combining the mythology with gods based on the sun, the moon, and the earth as a metaphor to narrates the asexual spectrum. I truly appreciated this part of the book, especially since I’ve been trying to grasp the actual concept of asexuality and not just I’ve learn a lot from it, but I also managed to peek at Kamai’s feelings and study her internal monologues.
But while Razim seemed unenthusiastic about the particular people at hand, I was uninterested in… any of it. With anyone.
And while we’re still talking about the matter of representation within this book, how could I not mention Nikha? Her struggle as a female warrior described painfully real, but one moment that really stung my heart was when she finally came out as a gender that she always felt at heart, not a gender that she physically lived in. She reminded me of Brienne of Tarth from Game of Thrones ever since her first appearance in this story, both physical-wise and attitude-wise.
She didn’t want to be treated better. She wanted everyine to be treated the same.
The other major plot that started to rise in once Kamai grew older, is how she fell into a romantic relationship. Not just any romantic relationship, but a manipulative one. I personally found the addition of the gray character in this story as Kamai’s partner and also a villain to be gripping. I kept guessing whether to trust this gray character or not as if I was there following Kamai’s journey for real. Obviously, this isn’t a light issue, and therefore, I appreciated the warnings that the author facilitated for her readers, and might I quoted her, “If this strikes you as too much, I understand; it’s not going to be for everyone. […] So, despite all the content warnings, I hope the book helps, not hurts—or at least entertains!—but first and foremost, please take care of yourselves.” proving her deep concern regarding the mental state of her readers.
Beyond the Black Door is an evocative dark fantasy mix with a gripping mystery. The diversified characters, inclusive representation, and twisted plot will leave you craving for more.
what’s the verdict?
about the author
AdriAnne Strickland was a bibliophile who wanted to be an author before she knew what either of those words meant. She shares a home base in Alaska with her husband, her pugs, and her piles and piles of books. She loves traveling, dancing, vests, tattoos, and every shade of teal in existence, but especially the darker ones. She is the coauthor of SHADOW RUN and SHADOW CALL (Delacorte/Penguin Random House) and author of the forthcoming BEYOND THE BLACK DOOR (Imprint/Macmillan).
what did others say about this book?
Ashley @ Part Time Book Nerd said: “I knew vaguely what ace was going into this but the detail and how well it was explained made the book an amazing learning experience for anyone (including myself) who is not totally familiar with the term. We learn alongside Kamai on her self discovery and acceptance journey.”
Justin, Nikole, and Stacy @ A Court of Coffee and Books said: “Beyond the Black Door has an atmosphere that’s captivating yet peppered with darkness and mystery, and that’s what truly drove this story home for me.”
Tay & Missy @ Frayed Books said: ” The world-building was so fantastic and it didn’t feel like there were any strings left untouched. I appreciated that because it appears to be a standalone but I could totally see more books in this world!”
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IT’S TIME. Pre-order BEYOND THE BLACK DOOR before 10/29 & submit proof of purchase to receive:
🌹2 character cards (by the amazing Nicole Deal!) 🌘a signed bookplate 🖤gratitude