Cover Image: A Door in the Dark

A Door in the Dark

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Disclaimer: I received this e-arc from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own.

Book: A Door in the Dark

Author: Scott Reintgen

Book Series: Standalone

Rating: 3/5

Diversity: POC coded characters

Recommended For...: young adult readers, fantasy, thriller, survival horror, dark fantasy, magic

Publication Date: March 28, 2023

Genre: YA Fantasy

Age Relevance: 16+ (death, parental death, classism, grief, romance, alcohol consumption, child abuse, drugs, drug use, religion, gore, cursing, torture, violence)

Explanation of Above: There is some violence and blood gore shown in this book. There is death and parental death shown and mentioned along with grief. There is one scene with torture shown. There are discussions of classism and prejudice. There are drugs mentioned and shown, some slight drug use, and alcohol consumption by the main cast of characters. There is some romance shown. Religion is mentioned. There is some cursing.

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Pages: 368

Synopsis: Ren Monroe has spent four years proving she’s one of the best wizards in her generation. But top marks at Balmerick University will mean nothing if she fails to get recruited into one of the major houses. Enter Theo Brood. If being rich were a sin, he’d already be halfway to hell. After a failed and disastrous party trick, fate has the two of them crossing paths at the public waxway portal the day before holidays—Theo’s punishment is to travel home with the scholarship kids. Which doesn’t sit well with any of them.

A fight breaks out. In the chaos, the portal spell malfunctions. All six students are snatched from the safety of the school’s campus and set down in the middle of nowhere. And one of them is dead on arrival.

If anyone can get them through the punishing wilderness with limited magical reserves it’s Ren. She’s been in survival mode her entire life. But no magic could prepare her for the tangled secrets the rest of the group is harboring, or for what’s following them through the dark woods…

Review: Overall, I thought this was an interesting read. The book revolves around our MC who is a student at this school and there is some classism at play, especially since she’s a lower class. During an event in which her and a handful of other students are in a classroom, a big burst of magic happens and they’re sent through a portal to the wilderness. The book focuses primarily on their struggles to survive. Throughout the book I compared this to Lord of the Flies or Hatchet but with magic and in a way I was right. We see characters fall to this being that is inhabiting another dead body of a student and their fight to survive in this harsh wilderness. The book even shows the outcome of the events and what the survivors are dealt by the end. Overall, I thought this was a interesting take and I loved how the author used D&D like magic instead of regular literature magic, meaning they kinda have “spell slots” and so much magic they can use instead of just unlimited abilities. I also liked how this was very different than other magical fantasy books I’ve read. In my opinion, this would be an excellent HP alternative read.

However, I did feel like the book was really hard to get into. There’s a bit of an info dump in the beginning and it’s a little difficult to understand at first. I also felt like the pacing was a bit too slow in places and the ending was a bit too long for my liking.

Verdict: It was very interesting and different than other fantasy reads.
Was this review helpful?
A trip through portal transportation goes away, and a group of school friends find themselves  alone in the woods and far from their intended destination. One of them is dead, and the only conclusion is that one of them is the murderer.
On a quest to get back to their city, these classmates must band together and merge their resources in order to get back. 

This was such a fun and engrossing adventure story. Quests can be pretty hit or miss for me, but I really enjoyed they way this one was handled. I had no idea where the story was going, but I was absolutely enjoying the ride. I'm already looking forward to the next installment!

If you like a little bit of fantasy, a bit of dark academia, a touch of survival, and a bit of horror all whilst trying to solve a mystery, you might be in for a treat. 

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
🕯️ Book Recommendation: A DOOR IN THE DARK by Scott Reintgen (spoiler-free thoughts below…)

📖 This YA fantasy had thriller elements that kept me on the edge of my seat! After a slow-ish start with lots of (necessary) worldbuilding, it only took me 2 days to finish the last 75% of this book because I NEEDED to know what was going to happen next.

And the ending… whoa. I need other friends to read this so I can discuss!!!

If you like the following, you might like this book:
🌲 The Hunger Games
🪄 Magical school setting
🐍 Dramione vibes
👀 Danger lurking around every corner

Thank you to NetGalley for the e-arc of this book! A Door in the Dark comes out TODAY ✨
Was this review helpful?
“No darkness lasts for long.”
Pick this one up for the  #BeautifulBookCover. Stay for the glorious mashup of murder mystery, magic, an entire floating neighborhood and a mostly sentient university. Set in a magical world where the wealthy created false limitations on magical supply to increase their hold on power and wealth. Ren, a brilliant welfare wizard with complex survival skills and long buried desire for retribution since the death of her father, and a small group of students are headed home for the holidays. When using the magic portal something goes terribly wrong. One student ends up dead. The rest are stranded far from home in the ominous wilderness with nothing but their limited magic and wits to survive. Reintegen’s trademark propulsive action combined with fantastic, accessible world building, tense survival story and compelling characters make this a fun, immersive read. Crossing my fingers for more of this magical, dangerous world. A great new selection for students who want to read Harry Potter, again. Thanks to #Netgalley and @SimonTeen for the opportunity to preview this title. 
CW: reference to drug use, grief
Was this review helpful?
Content warning: necromancy, drinking, drug use, dead parent (father), classism, colonialism, blood, body horror, vomiting, torture, violence against animals (cats, dogs)

Ren Monroe is top of her class at Balmerick University, but in terms of family status, she’s towards the bottom. Hoping to elevate her prospects, she’s interviewing with the city’s top families for a job. Her plans get put on hold, however, when an argument in one of the waxways, travel portals, sends her and a handful of her classmates on an adventure trying to get back to Kathor, despite the deadly magic and fantastic beasts interrupting their journey.

A fun magic system with something to say about class differences between students for whom success is guaranteed by family connections and those who claw their way to the top, this dark academia has all the trappings of a fantasy adventure including kobolds & wyverns as well as an exploration of the opportunities and privileges unevenly doled out

A Door in the Dark is a young adult novel in that the kids feel young, despite being in college and somewhat older on the age range. There’s a worldliness lacking that goes in the way of cooperation, but also some recreational drug use and partying that makes the earlier parts of the story feel very grounded in a school experience that might be familiar to some readers. The added awareness of how students conduct themselves given their positions adds nice nuance to scenes that start frivolous and escalate in seriousness quickly. The fun in this work has a lot of depth to it, and I found myself lost in a fantasy world that has social tensions that feel pulled from the real world.

It seems that in dark academia, when the main character is an outsider to the ivy-covered halls, there’s not much acknowledgement of the otherness aside from its effect on the plot and the character’s abilities to move from beat to beat. While Ren is brilliant, part of her character journey is her stark awareness of how her class affects her opportunities, regardless her proficiency at magic or school. This does influence some of the conflict, but largely serves as a point of tension among Cora, Timmons, Theo, and Avy that simmers as they try to make their way back to Balmerick.

Among fantasy readers and fans, there are discussions of hard and soft magic systems. This one does something really cool in that the magic system is codified but, much like science in the real world, there are spells and cantrips that make sense for those more adept and some that have been lost to history altogether. There’s a discussion of the legality of certain spells in the context of survival, and the way our party navigates who’s allowed to do what is always in conversation with social norms and class privilege. It’s as intricate as the political worldbuilding. Given that the party consists of students with different proficiencies and social strata, there are opportunities for them to discuss execution and theory, especially as they have to ration magic bucks called ockleys. Having this kind of restriction makes the adventure portion feel a bit like a D&D campaign, but in a way that feels organic to a more grounded world.

Though this adventure has an ending, there’s much more that Ren has to do, and I’m so excited to see what she’s up to next.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed this dark, suspenseful, yet still fun novel with a unique hard magic system. 

Ren lives in a world where magic literally has a price. Casting spells costs "ockleys," and the rich and powerful are given more ockelys to work with than everyone else. When a traveling spell goes wrong and leaves Ren and five of her fellow students stranded in the wilderness. To get back home, they must make it through a deadly mountain climate and through forests filled with dangers unknown, all with a limited supply of ockleys and while being stalked by a creature from nightmares.

The standout elements of this novel for me were the magic system and atmosphere. Reintgen has crafted a unique magic system that has rules and limitations. In order to use a spell, one has to master it and store it in their vessel as well as have enough ockleys to cast it. I liked that not all of the characters' problems could be solved by magic, and there were clear reasons that were explained why they couldn't just use magic to travel home or complete other tasks. 

The atmosphere in the woods was chilling. I truly felt like there were spooky creatures and trials waiting around every corner. I was on the edge of my seat for a lot of it. Unfortunately, as the book went on, the trials seemed to become rather formulaic, to the point where I could predict what was going to happen. Props to Reintgen's writing though, because I still felt the tension of the moment. 

While I didn't connect to any of the characters, their motivations and actions felt true. Ren is a complicated main character. She is a confident know-it-all and ruthless in going after what she wants, but you see the reasons for all of this, which make her more sympathetic. 

Going in, I was under the impression that this was a standalone, but the further I got in the story, the more it seemed like a series opener. Doing some digging after finishing, it does seem like there is set to be at least one more book. However, it doesn't end on a cliffhanger, and while there are definitely threads that remain open, it wraps a lot up nicely.

I'd give this a 4.25/5 stars, and I'm looking forward to reading the next book when it comes out.

Read if you like:
-Hard magic systems
-Survival stories
-Horrible creatures
-Capable main characters
Was this review helpful?
Review will be posted on Forever Young Adult blog closer to publication date.

Cover Story: Is This A City For Ants?!

Another book that caught my eye and then the synopsis drew me in. I love a good miniature model and this looked so spooky and cool. I wasn’t sure beforehand what it meant (is it like a floating city?), but bonus points to the illustrator because after reading I now know it’s something directly from the book.

The Deal:

Growing up in the poor sector of Kathor, Ren knew when she started Balmerick University on scholarship that she’d never be truly welcome at the exclusive private school for the magical elite. But she’s spent four long years soaking in the knowledge and becoming an expert in detecting complicated spells, determined to get sponsored by one of the most powerful families in the city to further her ambitions—and her vengeance.

After a party trick gone wrong, Ren finds herself taking the public waxways (a type of magical transportation) with a motley group of students, including rich bros Theo and Clyde, her best friend, and two other Lower City misfits. With tensions running high, the group’s trip goes disastrously wrong, and they are somehow transported out into the middle of nowhere. But unfortunately…they didn’t all make it out there alive.

It’s going to be a fight for their lives to get home…if they don’t turn on each other first.

BFF Charm: Caution

Ren is brilliant and calculating, and I’d worry if I freely gave her a BFF charm if I wouldn’t become some kind of collateral damage in her climb to the top. She’s not wrong in her righteous anger (her father was murdered for unionizing), but it can be a slippery slope to becoming a monster yourself. Still, I am rooting for her and hope she knows what she’s doing.

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

This isn’t a romance, although Ren does see when she can press an advantage to get a sponsorship with a certain rich boy. Is it conniving? Yes…and she does feel a bit bad about it, but not enough to stop.

Talky Talk: Leave ‘Em Wanting More

This book isn’t overly long, so we get enough set-up for the world and then it’s straight to the main action. It’s part disaster survival, part mystery, part fantasy and magic politics. Reintgen’s writing was easy to fall into and kept up brisk pace—in fact, I almost wish there was space for more; more about the magic system and digging deeper into the politics, and what came after the major plot ended. A good chunk of the book focuses on their journey and how they can survive the harsh climate and predators after them, and while that was fine, there was so much also going on being hinted at back at home. Currently there doesn’t seem to be a sequel, and while the story wraps up in a way that you don’t NEED a continuation, I would’ve liked to have seen what comes next for Ren because I’m sure it’s going to be a wild ride.

Bonus Factor: Magic

In Ren’s world, the magic is mined from the ground, so anyone could conceivably do magic if they have enough ockleys (a measurement of magic) stored into a personal vessel attuned to them and know the spells to use. There are basic spells that may only cost an ockley or two, but if you want something with layers and finesse, it will cost more. Of course the wealthier families of the city hoard more of the magic to themselves while brilliant spellcasters like Ren must make due with a smaller supply. It was an different system of magic that I enjoyed.

Bonus Factor: Whodunnit?

Did someone deliberately mess with the spell that would have transported the students safely to their homes? Or was it simply a case of too many spells at once causing a misfire?

Bonus Factor: Dragons

Well, dragon carcasses at least. The magic of Ren’s world comes from veins deep in the ground, and they’re living on the lands of the once great and fearsome dragons that died out hundreds of years before Ren’s time. (Not gonna lie, I kept expecting a dragon to show up.) One of the more interesting and unique things was the drug Breath, which is a mind-altering substance harvested from the corpses of deceased dragons (because apparently they decay but very slowly?!).

Relationship Status: Call Me Maybe

You really intrigued me during our short but intense time together, Book. I want to know what else is going on in that twisted mind of yours, but I have no idea if you’re into starting something more serious. Give me a call if you want to talk, okay?

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Margaret K. McElderry Books. I received neither money nor peanut butter cups in exchange for this review. A Door in the Dark is available March 28, 2023.
Was this review helpful?
I received an ARC of A Door in the Dark from Netgalley for free and am leaving this review voluntarily.

I love a good murder mystery, and A Door in the Dark fits the bill, though perhaps murder mystery is a relative term, as we don't know if it was a murder.

This book started off particularly slow. I don't need constant action, but I need to feel like the situations we're reading are moving the plot. I think that, in the end, all of the scenes had their place, but it made the story difficult to get into at first. However, I couldn't put it down once the students wound up in the woods. The pacing picked up once that happened, and I was excited to see how they would get out of there and if they would get out alive.

While I struggled with the pacing, my two biggest issues were essentially intertwined, and it all comes down to one thing: Ren. I wish I liked her. But I didn't. She was so self-centered that I had a difficult time rooting for her at all. And what's worse is that she didn't really change. I thought it would get better as the story went on, but I couldn't get behind her decisions, especially when something huge was revealed at the end. On top of not enjoying her as a main character, she was hard to understand. Ren is the person that likes being the smartest in the room and likes it when other people know it. Therefore, she said many things using a lot of big words specific to how the magic worked that other characters in the world would understand, but I couldn't follow for the life of me.

Despite this, I enjoyed the plot and thought the writing style was fantastic. If this ends up being a series, I'll likely pick up the next book. However, if it doesn't, though the end wasn't particularly satisfying, I would be okay with not returning to Ren.
Was this review helpful?
Thanks NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC of this novel. 4/5 stars. 

Once I got into this, I really couldn't put it down. Labeled as One of Us is Lying meets A Deadly Education (like, two of my fav books) I was already interested...and it did not reallllly disappoint (but alas, there are some reasons why this isn't 5/5 stars). To be fair, I also don't tend to like when books are marketed as "meets so and so and is so and so" because I think it taints the perspective of the book...but this was pretty accurate. 

In a magical world with magic mined and stored in vessels (objects), Ren is a student at the premier magical college on scholarship. The country (?) city (?) she lives in is "ruled" e.g. the upper class of the 5 founding families who discovered magic underground, and, naturally, hoard most of it for themselves. Ren finds herself with the son of one of the families who she also has a grudge against (the family, and thus the son) and 4 the wilderness after a portal spell (using legit candles) backfires. 

I LOVED how there was a lot of work done into the academic and theoretical side of magic. There were theorems and history and the details into how spells are created...I loved it. It had that dark academia, nerdy side of magic stuff that I really really enjoy. It did have somewhat of a murder mystery (since one of the group is portaled and ends up dead...) but I feel like the "someone caused someone to be murdered" is ignored after more threats appear as they all hike back to civilization...and more of the group ends up dead (obviously). 

The sudden romance was also kind of meh, but I understand how it potentially builds up to other books for a series. I also think the world building was done well within the constraints of the book, and it helped that the students attended some classes and Ren is the resident bookworm/walking encyclopediabut there were still a lot of things I had questions about. 

Overall though...amazing. Really good academic magical survival thriller.
Was this review helpful?
The book opens with an interesting hook. Not only the mysterious prologue, but it being at a magic school with unique magic systems and a confident and smart main character. The world building is strong, I really liked the setting but at the same time there were cliches that didn’t quite work for me. 

I liked there was a sense of adventure in this book, even if it was focused more on survival. I’m not entirely certain a certain character died and also that the last two who survived were the most obvious to not die. However I understand the direction the author is taking for the sequel so I get it. Which also makes me a little unsure about the ending, I feel the potential of the main character and I would love to see a certain character arc so I’m curious if it’s inline with the author’s vision for the character. 

Overall this was a solid book, A good opening to the story, adventurous and tense middle, and a good hook in the ending for a sequel, I think it was really well written, just personal preference kind of issues for me, but I still enjoyed the story as a whole. I am also hoping to get more of the magic school setting in the next book, that’s always a plus for me.
Was this review helpful?
A Door in the Dark by Scott Reintgen is a tale of two stories. There are the first two-thirds of the story, entertaining but not memorable or engaging. I didn't hate it enough to set it aside, and it did entertain me. Then there is the book's last third, wherein we learn some intriguing information and get a plot twist that changes everything. Suddenly, I want to read more and discover how this new information will play out given what we already know. It is not a writing style I generally recommend - leaving all the exciting reveals until the end - but it works for Mr. Reintgen.

A Door in the Dark has an intriguing premise with its locked room murder mystery set in a magical world. Then, it morphs into an adventure story wherein our hapless students must traverse uncharted territory to reach safety. Finally, Mr. Reintgen adds a revenge plot to the mix. None of these trajectories are boring or poorly written, but neither are they stellar. It is only when a last-minute plot twist becomes something of a game-changer that I became fully vested in the story, a fault I attribute to the fact that there is no blend of the plotlines. There is the murder, then there is the adventure. Mr. Reintgen mentions the revenge plot several times throughout the story but only abstractly. Only towards the end does it start to take shape, and that's where A Door in the Dark starts to get interesting.

I had a similar reaction to the main character. Ren appears to be one thing during the murder mystery portion. She is a bit fusty, like one of those know-it-alls you avoid at social functions. Then Ren adapts to become something else while in the wilderness. While she still manages to spout oodles of knowledge, she tones down her approach and lets herself be somewhat human for these scenes. Still, she feels very basic until the end of the book, that is. Something happens that proves Ren is much more complicated than you think through most of the story.

Combine a newly intriguing Ren with that plot twist, and it completely changes how I think of A Door in the Dark. In fact, those changes increase the chances of me reading the sequel. Despite a fairly ho-hum start, Mr. Reintgen redeems himself in the end, and that is all that matters.
Was this review helpful?
5/5 stars.
Thank you to the publisher for the early copy via netgalley.

Okay I really just want to gush about this book. And I'd love to give more information, but I went in pretty blind to what was going to happen and I loved it.

This book is packed full of action, magic, danger, unlikely friendships, and more. I never would have guessed the turns this story took us through. The antagonist showed up at all the right times.

The world and magic system were pretty well built and explained without bogging down the story. The differences between the poor and the wealthy in the way of magic is a huge divide. The world obviously has a big chasm between the classes that paints how they see the world.

Ren's poor and barely has enough to get by both in her home life and in her school life. She works extremely hard and is one of the top students in her class, yet she hasn't been chosen to work with one of the big houses. Her character was a know it all, but also very likable at the same time.

All of the other characters bring important knowledge to the storyline as they help each other travel through the middle of nowhere.

Seriously, I am obsessed with this book. There is nothing I would change.
Was this review helpful?
I love Scott and his writing, unfortunately I cannot get into this. I was unable to download it and send to my kindle, so I’ve been forced to read on my phone in the Netgalley app and it’s just difficult. I will try to come back and edit this review once I read the finished copy, since it’s on my radar to get.
Was this review helpful?
One of Us is Lying meets A Deadly Education in this fantasy thriller that follows six teenage wizards as they fight to make it home alive after a malfunctioning spell leaves them stranded in the wilderness.

This book was everything it should be. It was suspenseful and full of action. There are angry beasts, undead humans and drug lords at every turns. Our characters must battle their fears and use their strengths to find their way home. 

But oh the twist at the end, I did not see coming. Mind blown! This is a big recommendation for fans of magic and fast paced adventure. 

Thank you to @netgalley and @simonkids for letting me preview this ARC.  Congratulations to @reintgen on a wonderful start to the Waxway series.
Was this review helpful?
I'm going to read every Reintgen release, it is what it is! I've been a fan since Nyxia and we were fortunate to have Scott visit our school district at the release of the Talespinners series, so he has a big following in our area! However, what keeps me coming back each time, MG or YA, is the guarantee of basically a masterclass in storytelling.

A Door in the Dark is pitched as One of Us is Lying meets A Deadly Education - neither of which are my typical reads, but I was still eager to jump in and see what Scott's latest would deliver. Set in a world with fantastic elements, it doesn't take much work on the reader's part to imagine such a place because of the clear, descriptive world-building Reintgen provides. But also running beneath is an echo of our own world; a look at how class, race, and social-status cast divisions and desparation. While magical systems are familiar to Fantasy readers, there's enough unique aspects and wildly creative components to make it fresh to genre readers. Magical school? Yes - but also, a wilderness survival adventure as well!

The protagonist, Ren, is a complicated and complex character. The backstory of who she is, and what she believes and why, unfolds beautifully as the story develops, revealing layers that explains what motivates her, but also, makes the reader *think* they can guess her next moves and reactions, but you'll be left surprised all throughout the book!

"Dark and twisty, with stakes that keep getting raised at each turn" is how I've described this book to fellow librarians who I know will have eager readers, looking for stories that keep them on edge. While written for YA audience, A Door in the Dark appeals to anyone looking for a suspenseful, surprising, and highly imaginative fantasy thriller. I'm hopeful there's more to Ren's story...
Was this review helpful?
I would like to thank NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Children's Publishing for providing me with an eARC of this book to give my honest review. All opinions are my own.
This is a book a read the blurb of many times but kept passing on it as I wasn't sure it was one I really would like. Then I was contacted by the publisher and asked if I would like to review it and decided there was some type of fate in that email and told myself I should take a shot. I'm really glad I did.
This is my first title by Scott Reintgen so I had no idea what to expect with the writing. Boy was I happy after just the first page. The prologue truly sets your intentions for the book and this helps draw you into the story because you're wondering when that particular scene will pop up and why it even happens. This author truly has a grasp of how to make his words flow easily off the page and how to keep his reader interested in his subject matter. I rarely wanted to put this one down and  was even upset I had to.
And can we talk about the cover? Artistically, it's very beautiful. But once you read the story and then go back to look at it, it takes on a completely different meaning to your eye. It incorporates elements of the story line really well.
The idea of magic existing but people having to actually have a currency in order to use it is so interesting. It never occurred to me that magic could be controlled as such. And that it gets divided unevenly based on where you fall in society is just a reflection on so many things we see in our current society.
I enjoyed all the characters in the book though I think Cora was my favorite. She was quite but fierce and I love that in a female character in a book. The main character and story teller, Ren, definitely through me for a loop. Her revelation at the end was not one I saw coming. I loved her narration and how she was able to desribe things in such detail as to make you feel you were right there with her. Timmons was sweet but I needed a bit more from her. I feel like she could have been fleshed out more. We don't get much of Clyde, either. A little more background about him may have made the story a little more intense (though it was already pretty intense). Avy was a sweet kid, funny, and seemed very kind but had an underlying temper. And from his description I would not want to caught in a dark alley with him as he'd scare me! Theo was hard to really understand. What he does at the beginning of the book makes him seem like a rich brat but that turns out to not be so true. However, I feel like there could have been more from him. 
The world building was good. I was given the background to understand most of what the world was like. I would have liked more background on the magic in the book, though. 
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I would pick up another title from this author to see if his writing is as good in those books, as well.
Was this review helpful?
A Door in the Dark was a fast paced, magic filled adventure. This story is mainly plot driven, and we learn a little about the characters motivations along the way. We start off at a magical school which has student rivalries like any other, but we are quickly transported to the wilderness after some magic has gone wrong. An unlikely group of students have to work together to survive. This book was pretty dark for YA but not in an off putting way. I feel like I was just dropped into the story and left to piece together information. I think it was meant to be that way because of the plot twist at the end. I have really enjoyed most of the author’s writing, but something is missing from this one. If this was the start to a series, I could understand, but from what I can tell this is a standalone. It was still very good and engaging, I just felt like there could be more to the story.
Was this review helpful?
Ren Monroe is a scholarship wizard at the elite Balmerick University where she's known for her textbook smarts, but top marks doesn't mean immediate acceptance into the major houses, a necessity if Ren's going to succeed in her ultimate goal. Only one house is off-limits for her: the Broods, whose heir, Theo, is forced to use the public portal to get home after a party trick gone awry. When the portal spell malfunctions, sending six students--including Ren and Theo--into the middle of nowhere, they have to work together to make it back home. But each member of the group is hiding secrets, and there are monsters in the forest that will do everything they can to stop the students in their tracks.

I was very excited to get an arc copy of A Door in the Dark via Netgalley. I enjoyed Reintgen's debut Nyxia and purchased his more recent Ashlords (but unfortunately have not yet read it, though it has moved up higher on my TBR). I was eager to read this book, which is pitched as a cross between One of Us Is Lying and a recent favorite of mine, A Deadly Education. This book does not disappoint. 4 stars.

The basic setup for this book has quite a few similarities to A Deadly Education, with a magic school whose members are often from elite and wealthy families. For Ren, her only hope to living a life of relative comfort is to be offered a place with one of the major houses, which is harder than she expected it to be, despite her innate smarts. It differs, though, when Ren and the others are sent into a wild, unmapped forest full of magical monsters.

The first 25% of the book is mostly world-building and character set-up, which sounds like it would be tedious but was very enjoyable for me. I liked seeing the world Reintgen has built, and liked that readers were introduced to the main cast outside of the main storyline. It helps quite a bit, actually, since relationships between these characters will be forged and broken across the remainder of the novel.

The remaining 75% of the book can be fit into a thriller or adventure genre. The group has limited magical reserves, a passing knowledge of what to expect and how to get home, and a creature that is actively hunting them. I found myself losing a little bit of interest as the story continued, as it took on some typical horror movie aspects that I'm generally disinclined to. But overall, the story is made stronger by the character arc of the lead, Ren, and what she's willing to do to achieve her goal. Some may not like her character (I was on the fence) but others will definitely enjoy Reintgen's version of an anti-heroine.

An excellent entry into dark fantasy, A Door in the Dark could be a set-up for a series (at this time, it doesn't appear to be) or could be an open-ended novel where the rest is left up to the reader's imagination. I think this will definitely be a popular book with YA and adult readers alike.

Posted to Goodreads February 28, 2023.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review,

Well. That was a little...darker than I was expecting (no pun intended). I don't know why I wasn't expecting so much to happen, because this book is literally, at its heart, a survivalist story (with magic). It is a fun ride, just try not to get too attached to anyone (which is hard, because the characters can be pretty likable).

And the twist at the end? I genuinely did not see it coming (but maybe I should have?).  Definitely a strong. dark fantasy adventure that will appeal to older students. And it's really, ultimately, about revenge! What's not to enjoy?
Was this review helpful?
I didn't enjoy this one as much as I had hoped. I guess I'm not a fan of people walking around woods. I didn't feel like there was any danger for them for like the first half. I didn't enjoy the romance. This book just wasn't for me.
Was this review helpful?