Visibility – a review of Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland

It’s Pride Month here in New Zealand. And one thing I have been wanting to do this year was understand more about where I stood within the LGBTQIA+ spectrum. Within that, I am asexual. But to what degree I am still learning.

This book helped me out with understanding that part of me a little more.

Kamai was born with the ability to walk through people’s souls when they sleep, just like her mother. And when she does, she sees a black door. She is warned to never open it despite the temptations and the way it draws her in. As her training in her soulwalking abilities takes a turn and her life turns on itself, she finally opens it and has to deal with protecting the secrets behind it.

What drew me into this book was the combination of a coming out and sexual discovery with dark fantasy. I’m not a fan of these stories being the forefront as there is so much more to a queer character than what makes them queer, and this novel worked that very well. Kamai’s exploration of her asexuality in a fantasy setting felt so natural and relevant without stealing from the story and the main conflict. this made me truly resonate with her a lot. And let me tell you, it feels so good to be visible. I am so glad that books exist that feature asexuals in the spotlight.

The worldbuilding in this was so good and very easily to visualise. The magic system was especially unique and vivid, with the soulwalking representing houses and homes and each being unique to their persons. The world outside dreams was great too, with Southern European influences in the architecture and a very nice religion system. Everything was very easily to follow and visualise.

I loved the way the characters were written. Strickland was able to make many characters unique in mannerisms and the way they talked, which many authors can fail or struggle to do. The diverse range of characters was a highlight for me too.

However, it falls victim to a trope I really don’t like, even when it was a subversion of it. The main character is attracted to one of villains romantically and is still in love with them in their defeat. I hated not knowing while reading if this love interest was a villain or the good guy because it did not settle with me well. How was Kamai attracted to them after knowing all the bad things they had done? How was this not a turnoff?

It is so unfortunate that it marked down an otherwise fantastic book. But just as well it is my headcanon that Kamai ends up with someone else who she deserves a lot better. They’re way cuter and I rooted for them from the start, and with the ambiguous ending I will say that they did get together.

Beyond the Black Door gets a score of 4/5.

Yours in writing


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