Beyond the Black Door

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 Oct 2019

Member Reviews

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. 

This book was slow to start, but the inviting and dark nature of it kept me intrigued enough until we got deep into the plot. My favorite part about it was the inclusion of LGBTQ+ and that the book treated gender and sexuality as a spectrum, accepting all for who they are. That's pretty much an instant way to my heart right now. The villain was interesting, though as much as I felt the pull to him, the romance seemed a little forced with our main character. Overall, the book was definitely an enjoyable one, though it had its slow moments and flaws.
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IMHO: Beyond the Black Door
Beyond the Black Door is not quite like anything I've ever read before. It's a medieval world with real gods and goddesses based on a creation myth tied with the moon. I love the use of moon phases throughout, especially to illustrate gender and sexuality spectrums. I don't think I'll be look at them the same way again, and makes a lot of witchy apparel all the more meaningful.

The only magic is soul walking, which has its limitations and mysteries throughout.

There's still sexism and discrimination unfortunately.

Sex positive

Sex worker positive

Ace, Aro, Greys inclusive

Trans inclusive

Look, it's slow. I was into everything except the pacing, especially in the beginning. I kept thinking there has to be a way to speed this up and did this have to be included? Well, after finishing it, I can promise you this: It's all explained in the wind up and count down. And yep, I can't think of a single thing I'd change now.

Now, it all makes sense. It's all necessary and SO worth it. Pays off in spades. Plus, you get to read about wonderful characters like my favorite Nikha, drama, amazing dresses, and a dark thrilling rush of romance while the plot unfolds.



Just trust me and keep going while it's slow building. It will pick up and pay off.
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Thank you to NetGalley and to AM Strickland for allowing me to read a copy of this novel.

Kamai is a soulwalker. which means she can visit people's souls while they sleep.  She meets up with her mother in the sleep world and is warned to never open the black door that she sees.  Upon the death of her mother, Kamai seeks comfort in the black door and eventually opens the door.

I was quite intrigued with how this story was told.  There were a couple things I wasn't a huge fan of but overall the story was amazing.  It was full of mystery and a bit creepy at times.  I would recommend everyone add this to their TBR.
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Beyond The Black Door is a dark fantasy that follows an asexual and demi-biromantic protagonist who can walk souls through her journey on seeking revenge for the death of a close one but essentially, about the black door she comes across during her soul-walks because that door is holding someone—or something—that might be the reason for the darkness spreading in her life and her world.

➝ Sum it up in points!

✔ Concept of walking souls (nehym)
✔ Sexually diverse cast
✔ Colored characters
✔ Asexual & demi-biromantic protagonist
✔ Asexual love interest (asexual romance)
✔ Asexual/trans and gay side characters
✔ Genuine support for sex-workers
✔ Dark, evil vibes intertwined with bright motives
✔ Shocking revelations
✔ Secret organizations
✔ Intriguing villain
✔ Intricate world-building
✔ Mystery meets fantasy
✔ Strong female protagonist

⇾ Plot

The complex plot of this story is a strong aspect: the revenge for a close one's death soon becomes a seductive mystery intertwined with an evil element spreading through this world, while the characters are exploring their sexual identities and developing their arcs too. The main protagonist is a 'soulwalker'—she can enter people's souls in the sleeping realm—and witnesses a black door every time she walks a soul. The door is locked and that's how her mother wanted it to be. But curiosity reaches a level when it can no longer be ignored and that sparks an event in this story that brings even more intrigue to the entire plot.

⇾ Setting

The world-building is so intricate and detailed, it brings this fictional world to life. From the scene descriptions to the various outfits, skin colors, and professions being mentioned, the world appears diverse and real enough to imagine the story unfolding in it. Speaking of the vibes, there is a subtle hint of light among the dark clouds evidently floating through the entire story. Some scenes and instances give a spooky feel too and are perfect for readers who prefer to be lightly horrified before the sun rises again. Not only this, secret organizations bring a more hidden world under the light and that creates even more excitement.

⇾ Writing

The writing is another strong aspect of Beyond The Black Door. It lays out the story in a smooth manner and allows the readers to connect with the characters through their dialogues. The voice given to each character, in terms of their speech, is distinct and sits well with their established or growing personalities.

⇾ Characters

The characters are very different from each other but are still tied up together by a string of secrets waiting to be disclosed.

✹ Kamai: female protagonist, ace + demi-biromantic, soulwalker, hates when men try to 'claim' her, emotional but logical, brave enough to walk into unexpected places.
✹ Vehyn: male villain, ace love interest, mysterious and intriguing, doesn't disclose any secrets and that gets annoying at times but you still love him for the slight smirks and dark aura.
✹ Razim: straight male protagonist, Kamai's fake step-brother, part of a secret organization, wants to protect the female MC but he needs protection too.
✹ Nikha: asexual and trans side character. addresses switching pronouns, fighter and great with blades, Kamai's best friend, will kill you if try to hurt her loved ones.

⇾ Representation

Beyond the Black Door deserves all the praise for a great representation in terms of exploring and concluding one's sexual identity. Though, I'm not a part of the represented community so my opinions should be considered secondary to an ownvoices reader. The strongest bit about the representation was the metaphorical use of a moon chart to explain the different sexual identities and even the varying degrees to which someone might belong to that particular identity. Not only was it a great way for someone to understand how nothing about sexuality is black and white, but it also showcased a great discussion among characters in a fantasy world regarding sexuality.

Moving on to the asexual representation, the story definitely shows a great arc of the MC questioning her identity, coming to terms with it, and finally embracing it with all the love she has—and should be having—for herself. In an environment where sex workers are common and is also a potential career choice for her, she discovers her asexuality. The representation of a trans character was also appropriately subtle and smooth with the character's personality being projected before bringing his/her label to light. However. the trans character does mention at some point that he prefers the male pronouns but is still addressed by she/her by the MC—which has been explained by the author here [link to one of author's tweet]

Overall, Beyond The Black Door is perfect for fans of YA dark fantasy who are interested in a strong female MC and an intriguing villain set in a world of secrets, mythology-derived rivalry, and sexual diversity.

{This book was reviewed as part of a blog tour. The review has been posted on Goodreads and the blog on October 29, 2019. A photo of the book along with the review in the caption will be posted on Instagram on October 30, 2019—link to which will be added then.}
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Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Netgalley, Imprint and Fantastic Flying Book Club for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.

Whoa.

This one a difficult one to read, especially in the beginning. I won’t spoil much about it, but there were some aspects about the family dynamic of Kamai and her “step brother” that were really skivvy to me, and even to her Kamai and her mother. Basically, it’s the idea that a man believes that he can have any woman he wants, whether or not she even wants him as well. I don’t like that power dynamic, especially because Razim (Kamai’s “step brother”) pretty much pushes his sexual advances on her from a semi young age, to the point that Kamai’s mom is even like “stay away from him.” I don’t know if the Razim’s father ever noticed, but I’m glad that Kamai’s mother did, and tried her best to keep her daughter away from him because he gave me some sexual predator vibes and that was just not okay with me.

I really liked the concept of the plot, with Kamai and her mother (I want to say her name is Nuala, but correct me here if I’m wrong. I don’t have the book in front of me) being able to travel through other people’s souls. They basically get to see what’s inside a person’s soul, and that soul somehow creates a house with different hallways and all that. It’s super interesting, and apparently being able to do this was outlawed back in the day because people would take advantage of that kind of power and actually end up making permanent and damaging changes to a person’s soul. So Kamai and Nuala had to keep this a secret from everyone, even their family. Also, something very early on that was mentioned was that Kamai doesn’t seem to have a soul, and if she does, it’s so hidden that even she can’t seem to see it. Nobody can visit her Nehym (soul house) because it’s like she doesn’t have one, and that seems to make Kamai feel like something is wrong with her.

The journey that Kamai has to go through in this book – not only physically but psychologically and internally – was really great to see. I love that Kamai was asexual, and the author made it very obvious that she was like this, without there being anything wrong with how she feels. Kamai may have felt like something was wrong with her because unlike her brother, she just didn’t seem to have any sexual feelings for anyone in the beginning – male or female – and going through her thought process with this was insightful to see.

I definitely recommend this book, not only for the ace and POC coded rep, but also for Kamai herself. I really liked her as a main character, and I feel like she’s a pretty three dimensional character that went through great character growth, and was someone that I wanted to support and cheer on through this book. I’m kind of bummed that it’s a standalone, but who knows? Maybe there may be more mini adventures of Kamai, like when she was younger and would explore different Nehym with Nuala.
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Beyond the Black Door started off great but at about the 40% mark I really had to push myself to finish it.  The characters are very bland and I just didn't care for them. Could have edited a fourth of this book out and may have had a better flow story wise.
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While on one hand, I really liked the diversity of this book. Asexuality is not something taht is prevalent in books, especially fantasy books, so to have that representation is amazing. On the other hand, this book never fully caught my attention. I wasn't invested in the characters or the plot and thought teh author did more telling rather than showing. I am interested to see what else this author comes out with though because I think she has potential. This book just didn't work for me.
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Hands down, Beyond the Black Door is among the most unique books I have read. Dark fantasy, spooky vibes (so perfect for this month!) and a dark fantasy plot, unique concept called Soulwalking which is rooted more or less in the mythology of the fantasy world, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the ace + demi-biromantic MC. WOW.

Main character Kamai is a Soulwalker who can enter people’s souls, or Nehyn. Kamai is taught this skill by her mother, who has always warned her against opening the black door that follows her when she enters souls. Of course, its not just any door but it seems to be a warm, breathing thing and like any good fictional character, the more you tell her not to do something, the more she wants to do it. To be completely honest, I did find the book a little rough-going in the beginning. We are being introduced to Kamai’s fantasy world, plus her routine of soul walking, so there were two huge fantastical concepts battling for my attention at the same time. However, once things got rolling about 25% of the way in, once more characters were introduced, once the plot started to get a little deeper and a little darker I was hooked!
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Oh, this was so so good. Pick this one up because I couldn't put it down.

Kamai is a soulwalker like her mother. This means that she can visit the souls of those asleep, revealing their nehyms (soul houses) and their innermost thoughts. Kamai's mother tells Kamai that she's different though-- she has no soul house. And she must not, under any circumstances, open the foreboding black door that haunts her lucid dreams. When her mother is killed and her home destroyed under violent and mysterious circumstances, Kamai turns the handle of the door for the first time and unleashes a force she never could have expected.

This was mesmerizing. Kamai's world is complex and nuanced. I particularly liked the foundation of a mythology that carries into the present day and how sex work is portrayed as a skilled trade. The secondary characters are full-fleshed with their own motivations and faults. There's much welcome diversity, including asexual/biromantic, transgender, and gay characters. I found it, as a cis-gender reader, a thoughtfully written and educational experience. I'm curious what non-cis-gender readers think. Note: The author's review on GoodReads lists specifics about possible triggers.

This is also distinct from your average YA/new adult book with a romantic element. The negative, problematic side of the dark, mysterious love interest is subtle at first but grows stronger and stronger. No spoilers, but Kamai is a strong, inspiring character that doesn't put up with what would make your average heroine swoon. It's a lovely tale of self-discovery on several levels.

Highly recommended. I pre-ordered a hardcopy for myself immediately.
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When we sleep, it is said that our souls roam to a realm beyond our own.

Phantasmagoria images flash like undeveloped film to which we retain little recollection. We wander through our dreams like Alice’s slow descend into Wonderland until we reach a place where we ground ourselves for the evening’s voyage.

 

There are many safe doors we unknowingly unlock while we dream. Yet there is something so alluring about that black door that you can see just out of the corner of your eye. You know that it must remain locked at all times but even so, temptation and curiosity causes fingers to twitch and hearts to race. Before you know it, you’re once again tracing that cold metal doorknob of the black door. Behind this door, lies the corridors to our own self; it is undoubtedly the most frightful and undeniable siren call that beacons forth from the other side.

 

Now that your hand is wrapped around the knob, will you venture forth beyond the black door?

 

Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland is such a unique dark fantasy unlike any other read of 2019.  There was an exemplary, diversified cast of characters and I particularly enjoyed the LGBTI+ representation through the main protagonist, Kamai. I enjoyed how the premise of the story centered on how Kamai came to terms with her own identity and how it strengthened as she dealt with what lay beyond the black door. Strickland’s latest work will fill the dark corners of your imagination where you will be swept away by darkness incarnate and journey alongside a soulwalker.
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This is such an interesting premise! The entire idea of dreamwalkers/sleepwalkers is so cool, and I loved getting to learn about it right beside our main character. It was intriguing and gripping, and I really appreciated the writing. I liked the representation of asexuality, as well. It's refreshing to see such rep in fantasy novels, too.

The ebook format kind of didn't work for me very well, but that's not really the book's fault. It's more of a me-thing.
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Beyond the Black Door is a serious page-turner that combines thrilling fantasy and dark romance with a beautiful approach to understanding gender and sexuality and a nuanced consideration of love, friendship, and potentially destructive relationships. Perhaps we cannot choose who we love, but we can choose how to act on it. I could not get enough of it and wanted read it all in one sitting! (alas, life got in the way of that) While there are a lot of differences, I suspect many fans of the Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo would be very into this book.

Kamai, like her mother, is a soul-walker with the ability to uncover people's secrets while they sleep. Her mother is a pleasure-artist, which allows her to get close to people while they sleep, but Kamai is uninterested in sex and must find her own path to soul-walking. Kamai's soul is hidden, but in the soul-realm there is a mysterious black door that always follows her. Her mother warns her never to open the black door, and for many years she obeys. Until the day she doesn't....

I won't spoil the book because part of the thrill is discovering what IS beyond the black door, and what happens when Kamai opens it. This is a twisty book full of intrigue, dangerous romance, and world overseen by gods and goddesses. I loved everything about it, but beware that it is definitely on the darker side and there are going to be some content warnings associated with it.

Further into the book, the world-building includes this truly beautiful approach to understanding gender and sexuality, including the concept of the "soul-crossed" where someone's soul and body don't match in terms of gender. (This is related to a trans side character and it's fantastic) It also offers a wonderful distinction between attraction, romance, & sex unpacking the fact that just because someone is uninterested in sex doesn't necessarily mean they are uninterested in romance, and vice versa (i.e. asexual & aromantic are two different things) and that all of these things lie on a spectrum. This is laid out in such a simple yet elegant way, I wish we could use this to help everyone trying to understand themselves and other people, all without necessarily having to use labels to do it! It's only one small part of the book, but one I really loved. In case anyone is wondering, Kamai comes to realize (although she does not use these specific words or labels in the book) that she is a cis-woman, asexual, bi-romantic, and demi-romantic.

I don't want to say too much more about the plot for fear of spoiling it, but I adored this book and would love to see more people reading it! I received an advance copy for review via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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This dark romance (not your typical run of the mill kind) immediately captivated me with its many twists and turns and the concept of “soul walking” was a new one for me. The worldbuilding was rather intriguing and I simply had a difficult time putting this book down. Unfortunately, adult life kept me busy and it took me longer than necessary to read through this book. If you like dark fantasy then this book is for you. Did I mention just how much I love this cover too?!?!

{I requested a review copy via NetGalley and made no guarantee of a favorable review. The opinions contained herein are unbiased and my own.}

*A special thank you to TFFBC and A.M. Strickland for affording us the opportunity to participate in the blog tour!
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The description of this book really drew me in, and, initially, the plot was fascinating. The idea that people can traverse sleeping souls; the mysterious forbidden black door; the non-information Kamai's mother gives as warning. But then it just went on and on and on, and dragged a bit, if I'm honest. Once Kamai's mother dies I just sort of lost interest in the kingdom-intrigue segment of the book, preferring to stay in the soul-walking part of the story. But the back and forth and double plot just didn't feel seamless to me, and made it a chore to return to. Disappointing, since the premise was so interesting.
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Self-discovery is often a topic that is avoided especially at the grades I teach but I believe this is the toughest time that students have in doing that. So having a book that focuses a lot on that is absolutely amazing and riveting in and of itself. It is so hard to find books that are written well in character development, plot, and world building. The character design in this book is and was great. I enjoyed reading all the descriptions, development, and love put into the characters from the very beginning. Many of the characters have found their way in the world that is so important to that character that I can’t help but love them. Kamai finds herself in such an interesting situation that would have called to anyone who happened upon it—and she opened the door that whispered her name.

There are many themes and ideas that come into this novel such as determination, joy, fear, and much more. I really loved delving into the world that the author created as it is such a magnificent creature in and of itself. The many traditions and customs that she created was great and I really enjoyed seeing that in a book—we don’t see that written so great often. The characters in this book caught my attention so much and I believe that students would be able to connect to the different characters as well (there is someone for everyone). This can be utilized for many grades and many different groups of people—it would be a great book club book.

I enjoyed the setting which was extremely fun and imaginative. There is a lot of backstory that can help you understand what is happening cover to cover. I would suggest this book for a book club or even independent reading as it is not a difficult read and definitely has the high interest aspect to it that all students can get with. The characters that rush into danger is immediately something that my students would gravitate to and love to read—because who doesn’t love action in every form? Especially with a determined female at its helm.
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I am a reader who enjoys the plot of the story rather than romance.

This book was a beautiful tale with an intricate worldbuilding which gave me Kamai, a Soul Walker who could enter souls, Nehyn, and get all the secrets

Every time Kamai entered a soul, there was a black door following her. She had been warned never to open that door by her mother. Circumstances changed when her mother was killed and she had to live with an unknown father. Curiosity and boredom killed the cat, and she did. Life changed for her both in her reality and behind the black door. Secrets piled on, and soon it was time to take action.

My first book by author A. M. Strickland, I was pulled into this dark world by the strange rhythm in the lines, they were complex and breathtaking. Each facet was well thought of. The descriptions kept the story alive.

The story moved at a steady pace. Kamai was trained and indoctrinated in secret society. As the main character, she was too naive or too intelligent. I was quite ambivalent about herdwn the book. But in the last few chapters, she grew up.

But it was Vehyn who lit up the prose. His entry into the world was electric. A gray character with a charisma and charm, he carried darkness around him and made it attractive. Who is Vehyn, you ask? READ THE BOOK!! I enjoyed his chapters in the story more than the rest.

The plot twists were interweaved, slowly unfurling at the right moment. My niggles too caught up with me. The story had more of narration which slowed the read. The dialogues too needed to be powerful.

The build up of momentum came later, and the last few chapters raised the suspense when the secrets came to light about the master of darkness. Overall, quite a captivating finish.
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DNF

I was not aware fully about what this book was about when I picked it up.  The beginning was extremely uncomfortable for me with the "work" of the parents- sexual favors for information they could sell.  I would not allow my YA to read this book.  While the black door and being able to wander other souls was compelling, it was not enough for me to read on.  Just my own personal feelings on it.
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Have you ever had someone tell you about a book they just read? Like a quick retelling of the entire story start to finish? That's what this book felt like. There was no emotional connection between me and any of the characters. There actually felt like there was no connection between the characters themselves either. I was told more than shown and it was actually really annoying. 

When I picked up this book I had no idea that it featured an MC from the LGBTIQA+ community. Kamai's soul is hidden or she doesn't have one? I didn't get far enough to figure out which, but this was told to the reader in the first chapter. We are then told how while she finds both boys and girls appealing she doesn't actually want to hook up with either. I was so stupid and thought she was a dull and colorless character with no sexual interest because she didn't have a soul. She's still boring and dull as hell, but the no sexual interest had nothing to do with the whole soul issue. So I'm apparently a tad out of touch with the world and while I may not have liked the story, this was a great introduction to asexual orientation. In fact, I'd go as far to say that there really wasn't a story at all beyond Kamai exploring what it means to be asexual. Still fine, but I wish the synopsis had stated that rather than sell me on some tale of soul walking and this mysterious black door that follows her around. 

Beyond the Black Door had potential to be a great LGBTIQA+ novel and really explore asexuality which most people know nothing about while still telling this interesting and unique story. It let the plot slip though and told me way too much. It fell flat for me and I just couldn't push through it.
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Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for sending me a copy of this book. I sadly didn't get into it. The writing and characters felt to much like every other YA book I have read. It just doesn't stand out. I will not be purchasing it for the library.
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I feel like at its center, this book is the power of a mother’s love, but it also so much more than that. Kamai has always seen the black door when Soulwalking with her mother, but her mom warned her never to open it because it wanted her to open the door. When her world is destroyed, in a fit of anger and sadness Kamai opens the black door and secrets are revealed while truths are hidden from her.

This book means so much to me, and when I decided to read it I didn’t expect it to. I’m always on the lookout for more books with asexual protagonists, and the rep in this story is absolutely incredible. Kamai’s mother, Marin, is a sex worker and a spy, and Kamai wants to follow in her footsteps, but she’s never felt sexual attraction. For a while she feels broken because it seems like everyone else feels that way and she just…doesn’t, but finding words, validation, and community changes that for Kamai. That experience of feeling broken, trying to force those feelings, is so familiar and the relief to learn the absence of sexual attraction is it’s own kind of normal, those scenes made me cry because they’re so relatable.

This book is also a story of strong friendships. I love Kihan from the moment I met him and the way he cares for Kamai is so wonderful. They have such a strong bond, and the trust they develop between each other warmed my heart. I’ll admit, I hoped for romance to end up between Kamai and Kihan, but that isn’t the case, and I think in the end I’m happier that they stay platonically in love rather than things becoming romantic.

And the plot!! Holy crap, the twists and turns the climax took were incredible and all the ways it was built up to was so well done. The beginning was a little slow-going for me, though I was immediately intrigued by the mythology of Tain, Heshara, and Ranta as well as the concept of soulwalking. The magic of the world is so interesting and the way politics are tied to their belief system was fascinating. Plus, I love that a card game is so central and I feel like the attention to that seemingly mundane detail really adds depth to the worldbuilding. Then there’s the different powers at play and the myriad truths and secrets being kept hidden or twisted to further different factions’ end goals.

This book blew me away. I was not prepared for the way the last third was unputdownable and I would recommend this on asexual rep alone. The romance was well done and heartbreaking in many ways (do not come into this expecting a HEA) but I especially appreciated that Vehyn’s toxic behaviors were always colored as such. I love the friendships and I would absolutely love to read more in this world, especially if it meant getting more of Kihan’s story.

Strongly recommend for asexual grey-aromantic protagonist, asexual side characters, strong friendships, twisty plot, and fantastic world building.
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