The Doorway and the Deep – K. E. Ormsbee

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Hardcover, 480 pages
Expected publication: October 4th 2016 by Chronicle Books
Source: Raincoast Books

Cue rather hysterical laughter as Nafiza tries to get over that ending.

*weeps*

*regains composure*

I’m okay. I think. As okay as you can be while dangling from a cliffhanger. Sniff.

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Deep breath.

Let’s talk about The Doorway and the Deep.  But before we do, if you haven’t yet read The Water and the Wild, stop reading this review because there will be spoilers to the first one and this series is too good for you to want to be spoiled.

Janet and I both adored The Water and the Wild so I am happy to report that The Doorway and the Deep more than lives up to its predecessor. The official sequel states:

Even after escaping from the Southerly Kingdom, Lottie Fiske and her best friend Eliot have returned to the magical Albion Isle, despite the fact that she is a wanted criminal there, because she is seeking answers about her abilities, and her parents–but war is threatening Limn, and the answers she needs seem to lie in the Northerly Kingdom, along a road full of dangers.

I have often noticed that the middle books in trilogies (which is what I think this will be though I could very well be wrong) sometimes flounder as the characters change in ways that readers are not able to accept. I am happy to say that this is not the case in The Doorway and the Deep. Lottie still remains endearingly herself even as she grows as a person and learns more about her ‘sharpening.’ The journey she undertakes as she grows is not in isolation–the reader is fully beside her and as she changes and comes to see things, people, and her surroundings in a different, perhaps richer, way, so do we.

Lottie has been taking refuge in Wisp territory where Ollie and Adelaide’s father has accepted a position as a Healer. Only King Starkling of the Southern sprites is readying for war and his new captain of the guards, a terrifying creature named Iolanthe, is destroying apple trees which connect Limn to the human world. Eliot who has to be near Lottie to ensure continuing remission of his illness needs to return home to his father but with the apple tree in the Wisp territory destroyed, Lottie and her friends have no choice but to heed the summons of Rebel Gem, the leader of the Northern Sprites. There is an apple tree in the North that Lottie and Eliot can use to travel back to the human world. They are guided to the North by Dorian, the spy who helped them escape the king in the first book but well, things happen and the group gets separated before they reach their destination.

Watching Lottie meet people who know far more about her parents and her extended maternal family with their many accomplishments is interesting because her sense of worth begins to recalibrate and she often has to weather the discord between other peoples’ expectations of her and the reality. The landscape is enchanting and I continue to be impressed by the way Ormsbee builds the world of Limn which has both monstrous and beautiful facets to it. Limn, the land of the sprites, is peopled by intensely alive and individuated characters who bring colour and movement to the narrative.

One of the more compelling developments in The Doorway and the Deep is the emergence of definite feelings in the friendships of the main group of characters. The addition of Eliot to their group has markedly shifted things. Adelaide is nursing a crush on Eliot who, as of yet, seems to be unaware of that development. He, in turn, is starting to resent his dependence on Lottie for his continued health. Fife, who may be my favourite character, has his own troubles what with Ollie and Eliot becoming fast friends–though I have a feeling Eliot and Lottie’s friendship may be causing him grief too.

Ormsbee explores these burgeoning feelings in a refreshing manner without trivializing them or making them melodramatic. Ollie remains a rather shadowy character in this installment–I wanted to know more about him but it wasn’t his turn to shine. Adelaide and her prickly friendship with Lottie continues being one of the best things ever. But it is Fife and Lottie’s tempestuous friendship that won my heart. Fife is such an easy character to sympathize with. I mean, just look at this:

Fife sighed. “I don’t know what to say. Usually I’m very good at that.”

“It’s okay,” whispered Lottie.

Them arms wrapped around her and held her close. Fife was hugging her. She felt his cool chest and the brush of his downy black hair, ducked against his neck. For a quite moment, they stayed just like that.

Fife made a mumbling sound. A few mumbles later, his words became audible.

“Ummm, Lottie? I’ve never hugged anyone before. So I don’t quite know, um, how to stop.”

Lottie remained still. “You’ve never hugged anyone?”

“Well, the immediate family isn’t exactly the warmest bunch, in case you hadn’t noticed. And as for Ollie..Well.

Slowly, Lottie slipped out of the embrace.”

“There. That’s how you stop one. More or less.”

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Okay, whew. Right.

So yeah, the relationships are good. As I said earlier, Lottie changes gradually and she realizes that sometimes to protect people she will have to do things that are definitely in the grey territory. I’m betting it is the human who will have issue with that but we’ll see.

The Doorway and the Deep is a fantastic installment to the story that was begun in The Water and the Wild. The poetry, the folk tales, the adventure, and the friendships that made the first book so beloved are all present in this one. I can’t wait for you guys to read this too so we can commiserate about that ending.