Book Web site: http://www.thedoorwithin.com
Published by Tommy Nelson
Take one awkward, shunted youth, mix in ancient prophecy, add those elements to a kingdom ruled by a benevolent and trusting king and the shape of Thomas Wayne Batson’s debut novel, The Door Within, which also kicks off the trilogy of the same name, begins to form. Aidan Thomas is the youth at the center of the story, which begins as his parents move the family from Maryland to Colorado in order to take care of Aidan’s ailing grandfather. Of course Aidan isn’t the least bit happy about the situation because he will be leaving his friend, Robby, in Maryland. Aidan is overweight, introverted and never had many friends in school until Robby’s family moved to Aidan’s town and the two became fast friends. This worked wonders for Aidan, because Robby was athletic and popular; he was cool, which in turn lent an air of ‘coolness’ to Aidan. In moving to Colorado, Aidan feels he will be the social outcast once again and harbors some resentment towards his family.
Once in Colorado, the summer days are boring until Aidan eventually searches through his grandfather’s basement and finds mysterious jars filled with ornate scrolls, telling the story of a fantasy land ruled by the powerful, almost god-like King Eliam. Paragal, ‘one of pure light,’ the highest ranking knight and second in only wisdom to King Eliam grows jealous and envious of the love King receives as well as his power and wisdom. Cast out and renamed Paragor, which means ‘one of pure darkness,’ the once high knight of pure light now schemes to take over the land from his dark cavernous land. It turns out the world in which Aidan is reading about, The Realm, is more real than fantasy. In order for Aidan to travel there, he must have faith and believe. When Aidan arrives in the Realm, specifically the kingdom of Alleble, he is soon told he is the Twelfth Knight, sworn to protect King Eliam.
There are definite parallels to Christian myth throughout the story. The blurb on the dust jacket compares Mr. Batson’s story to another popular Christian Fantasy saga, C.S. Lewis Narnia books, but that may be somewhat unfair. The Narnia books are world-renowned and beloved by nearly as many, and to hold any writer, let alone a writer’s first novel, up to those standards is quite high.
That said, Batson provides a relatively easy reading experience and despite some short, staccato-like sentences early on, the story does move fairly quickly. Readers who have read any amount of fantasy will be familiar with the story Batson tells, so there is some air of predictability. This book is being marketed as both a Young Adult Fantasy and since the publisher, Thomas Nelson, has as strong reputation for Christian publishing, it is being marketed to that sector as well. With the target markets in mind; however, young readers should enjoy the story and feel a sense of strength through the novels messages of faith, belief, and trust in others.
I also think something must be said about the physical book itself. The publishers did an excellent job with the beautiful packaging, as well as the blue-off color pages and print. This really gave the book a special feel, that it was something out of the ordinary. With those two substantial markets to reach, Batson should see a wide audience with this easily-accessible fantasy saga. At the very least, I would suggest readers feeling unsatisfied after reading Paolini’s novels should give Batson’s story a try.
© 2006 Rob H. Bedford