Doorways Home is the conclusion to the two-book story begun in Doorways to Arkomo, by Jacqueline Dooley. Picking up immediately where the first installment ended, the author immediately throws the reader back into the fray as Grace’s health problems grow, Sorel searches for a cure for her brother, and the dark shadow of the imminent Departure Ceremony spreads. Hope is vanishing as time grows short. But an unexpected talent revealed by Grace may yet save the children of two worlds.
Jacqueline Dooley’s writing is very personal in this tale. She leaves you feeling like she’s let you in on a real story with real people who opened themselves entirely in its telling. She has drawn the kind of rich characters who pull you so completely into their world that you feel a moment of regret when you turn the last page. There are a lot of character points of view in this book, but I’m referring specifically to the two main characters, Sorel and Grace. The Arkomo novels as a whole begin and end with Sorel, but I felt like the story belonged to Grace. And it shows in the writing when Grace is the focus. There are many touching moments, as when Grace bonds with her Blue Herald (a small, magical bird), and when, even though her cancer has taken a bad turn, Grace still feels for a little girl with leukemia.
Equally important (to this reader), the author lets the characters determine the action through both their faults and their strengths. It never feels like anything was crammed into a premeditated outline; no characters make choices that feel unnatural or forced by the need to get to the next plot point. The characters inhabit the world created for them and they react to it and it to them accordingly. I’m not saying the author didn’t follow an outline, but it felt natural.
Finally, without giving anything away, I’d like to discuss the climactic “battle.” This is a fantasy story after all and fantasy stories tend to have climactic battles. But sometimes you get something unexpected. For example, the musical recital in The Name of the Wind, or even the chess match at the end of the movie Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. These are character-driven moments and all the more effective for it. Doorways Home delivers the same kind of climax. I’ll admit that there is a disturbing and violent aspect to the final fight, but the climactic action is not with swords or guns. It’s a surprising turn of events made all the more effective because it’s character-based, letting the protagonists fight the only way they know how. It’s actually an enthralling moment.
Of course, I have to renew my feelings from the first book. I would have liked to have read more from the points of view of Sorel and Grace, and less of just about everyone else. Dr. Meyers and Grace’s mother, Maggie, are well done, but even they could have been pared down in favor of the main characters.
That’s about my only complaint, though. The story moves along at a natural (there’s that word again) pace without ever dragging. The characters are fully developed and provide emotional depth. The action has urgency that’s set up from the very beginning. The author clearly knows her subject matter and uses her knowledge for full effect.
What else can you ask for?