Cover Image: Beyond the Black Door

Beyond the Black Door

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Member Reviews

Disclaimer: I received an Advance Reader Copy at no cost from the publisher/author. All opinions in my review are my own. 

I am greatly impressed with this book. The young adult world needs more dark fantasy stories like this one. 

The premise of this book was outstanding. I loved every single piece of this story. The whole idea of Soulwalkers excites me. I did feel that some areas of the book had more telling than showing, but the overall world-building for this book is fantastic. There are so many pieces that come togethe to create the whole of this world. I loved the mythology and the vivid descriptions. I thought that the houses that represent the souls was very creative. 

I loved the the story represents an asexual protagonist. This is something that I haven't seen a whole lot in young adult fiction, but it always warms my heart and excites me when I see this kind of representation for young readers. There are also some other LGBT representation in the book that I loved. 

The characters in the story were well developed. I felt such a connection with Kamai and I loved her journey. I really liked Vehyn's character as well. He was very convincing. I also loved all of the secondary characters in the story. 

Overall, this is a dark fantasy story that you won't want to miss out on. The author weaves a bittersweet tale and the twists in the story will keep you hooked to the pages. I can't wait to read what's next from this author!
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Another book I am kicking myself for not reading it sooner. It's a pretty unique dark fantasy with some great representation.
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'Beyond the Black Door' is a dark and twisting young adult fantasy novel that will sweep readers off their feet. To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect after reading the description. It sounded awesome and I was excited to see an asexual main character in the mix. After finishing the book though, I'm not exactly sure how I feel or where I stand. I definitely think it's going to need a re-read to help me really pin down my thoughts and feelings, but I'll try to write a somewhat coherent review now.

The characters were all very interesting and rounded, especially our main character, Kamai. She was a great protagonist for the book - easy to connect with and incredibly realistic. There were obviously some aspects of her character that I couldn't personally identify with, mainly the asexual aspect, but the way that it made her feel - broken, alone, hating herself, wondering what's wrong with her - those are things that everyone has experienced in their lives. The LGBT aspect of the novel was a big part of the story - almost overdone, in my personal opinion. Don't get me wrong, I love diverse characters and I'm all about giving everyone a voice - but sometimes it felt like that's all Kamai thought about. Granted, it's a big part of yourself and when you're trying to figure out who that is, it's going to be confusing enough. The author wrote the story in the first person point of view (which is by far my favorite), so we really get to now Kamai on a deeply personal level. We're inside her mind and are privy to her innermost thoughts and feelings, her hopes and dreams, fears and nightmares, memories, and everything in between. I loved getting to know her so well. By the end of the book it felt like I had been right beside Kamai throughout the entire book experiencing everything alongside her.

The world building was amazing, but did take quite a bit of time to accomplish. The setting is interesting, but what really fascinated me was the mythology, lore, and belief systems that these people integrated into their society. And the soulwalking! That had me hooked as soon as the author mentioned it. I loved learning everything about it - how Kamai was a soulwalker like her mother and could go into other people's souls while they're sleeping. I found it fascinating that each person's soul was like a house - it could be big or small, rich or poor - it varied from person to person. I loved walking around inside these other souls and exploring alongside Kamai. Another part of Kamai's world that I loved learning about was the whole court scene with all the secrets and political intrigue. I absolutely loved learning about all of these things but it did feel like it slowed the pace down a bit, at least in the beginning. I know the author is giving us a history and background, as well as setting up Kamai's world for us, but it felt really slow and nothing happened.

I don't do spoilers in my reviews, so I can't really go into the plot much more without giving anything away. I can say that there's lots of twists and turns, mysteries to be unraveled - mainly the black door! - and things you won't see coming. I thought that all the different elements of the book added up to an original story with diverse characters and one heck of a plot. I do want to mention that the author has trigger warnings up to give readers a heads up about what they might run across in the book, so please be aware of these if you're affected by certain topics. All in all, this wasn't really anything like I thought or hoped it would be - but it was beautiful in it's own way and an unique read for the genre.
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Reviews are mediocre books are always the hardest to write. And this, of course, is one of those reviews. Beyond the Black Door was equally beautiful and boring. It had a complex magic system but lacked in the characters. I couldn't feel any connection or empathy to the world yet I was fascinated by the idea of it. It was vague at times and overly detailed at others. The story was mediocre at best and didn't hold my attention much.

Honestly, I think the only thing I actually enjoyed in this book was the magic. The system of sleepwalkers and Nyhm was fascinating and unique. I've never read any story with a world like this and I loved getting to explore a hidden sleep realm.

Otherwise, there wasn't much about this story I enjoyed. The characters and world lacked a depth of development that made it difficult to care about what was happening. It felt shallow and incomplete most of the time.

This story is the type of story that I'll forgot in time. The names, plots, and details will all eventually slip from my mind (as they already have begun to already) and I may even get to the point where I can't remember if I've even read the book. It was just mediocre and I am forever sad that this book wasn't as amazing as I expected it to be (really, my expectations were so high! Queer rep! interesting premise! but alas, I'm here and disappointed now).
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I really wanted to love this book. I found my self not finishing it about 1/3 of the way through. I just wasn't interested in what was going on. I am going to try to pick it up at a later date to see if it was just timing or if I really just don't care for this book.
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Gave this 4 stars 
Thanks to the publisher for sending me this E-ARC. 
I really enjoyed this story. This story is so fresh and original I can’t wait to see what Strickland will come out with next. 
Can we make this into a movie lol I’m just saying it would be fantastic.
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—☽.。* Quick recap!
☆ Short synopsis: A girl with the ability to soul walking break her promise to her mother to not open a mysterious forbidden door.
☆ Read this book if you're: Fan of dark magic concept meets multidimensional characters.
☆ You might want to consider it because: A manipulative romantic relationship is the center of this book.

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.

—☽.。* Full review!
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 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?

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.

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.

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.

Thank you The FFBC and Imprint for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
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This book wasn't for me. The first couple chapters put me to sleep. I wasn't a fan of the authors writing style and the plot wasn't hooking me like I needed it to to continue.
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Kamai was warned never to open the black door, but she didn't listen…

This book blew my mind. I loved the courage and fearlessness of Kamai as a character and her friend Nehza. The author does a good job in implying Kamai’s asexual orientation without blatantly coming out and declaring it as a fact. The buildup of Kamai, Vehyn, and Razim’s connected storylines worked well and the climax brought about a visually stunning scene that only the words of a good book and create. I almost wish there was a sequel, but the lack of cliffhanger at the end of this book soothes my inner reader.
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This story was not quite what I was expecting, but it was still certainly enjoyable. It reminded me a bit of Leigh Bardugo's "Shadow and Bone" in certain ways that disturbed me at the time, and still disturb me now. Except those ideas that disturbed me were much more intentional in this one.

But still, I enjoyed the discussion and acceptance of some of the rarer LGBTQIA+ communities. This was certainly an example of a land where everything is messed up-- yet they were far ahead of us in this one specific area.
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I really wanted to like this book, it really had the dark and ominous vibe that I find so appealing in a Fantasy novel. However, somehow, this book failed to grip me the way I thought it could. Firstly, it's extremely slow at the outset, it took me forever to be invested in the story and even then, I had a hard time concentrating with were the story was heading. Additionally, I didn't like the characters and didn't particularly enjoy the relationship that existed between them. IDK they kind of felt flat for me and failed to make me care for them.

On the upside, I did love the asexual representation in the story and obviously, the writing is beautiful. The world building too felt fresh and I guess if it weren't for the slowness of the plot, this would have been a decent read for me.
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Sadly, I had to DNF this book at about 40%.
I was really excited to read it. I liked it in the beginning, but as I was getting further into it I started not liking it and I decided to not waste my time anymore.

The writing style didn't work for me from the beginning. It's a style that never works with me for some reason, which I can't really explain. I was ready to get over my pretentions problem with the writing because I was so excited about the book. But nothing was happening with the plot and the main character was just flat to me. Don't even get me started on the dark, the mysterious and handsome villain/love interest I didn't sign up for! The romance was just creeping me out.
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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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