Friday, March 5, 2010

The Door in the Tree

I took a day off of work today and, of course, couldn't manage to sleep in nearly as much as I planned, so I took the opportunity to read the last 60 or so pages of The Door in the Tree, the second book of "The Magician's House Quartet" by William Corlett.  The first book in the series, The Steps Up the Chimney, took place during Christmas and now we follow the adventures of the same three school children, William, Mary, and the youngest, Alice, during their spring vacation.  They return to their Uncle Jack's Golden House at the edge of the forest, intent upon further discoveries involving the mysterious magician.

I found this book to be a step up from the first one.  The children this time are much more tolerable, less whiney, and frankly, a bit smarter with how they deal with the unexplained.  They meet an old woman who lives in the forest, Meg, who is a self-appointed guardian of nature.  The major plot line involves her badger friends' plight at the hands of "badger baiters", a group of men who operate a nasty dog fighting ring where the viscious dogs fight the badgers.  As in the first book, the children, after putting aside their propensity to disbelieve, are able to inhabit the bodies of certain animals of the forest, allowing them to further their adventures. 

I thought the story itself was more compelling than the first volume in the series, especially the build up of the suspense, the mystery of the origins of the magician, and the central messages and themes the author brought out in the novel.  There were still a few jarring scenes which seemed odd to be included; i.e. I'm not sure what the point was of the scene where Phoebe, Uncle Jack's girlfriend, breast feeds her baby in full view, an act that completely offends the children.  There is no follow-on nor any sort of enlightenment or character growth there.  But to his credit, the author does do a good job at dealing with anger and loss of temper among the characters.  This seems to be an on-going theme of the series and should be helpful to parents who have to deal with that issue.  He also delves into the idea that you can't rely on magic (or grownups) to solve your problems but must find courage within yourself to tackle life's difficult choices.  He manages to involve these issues in the narrative without sounding preachy or talking down in any way to his target audience, the young readers.

I look forward to the final two volumes of this series as I hope to discover the secrets of the history behind the Golden House, the full nature of the magician, as well as the other animal friends that we've come to know.

Next up: Steve Weber's The Home-Based Bookstore, which I hope will be useful as I make a decision about doing just that in the near future.


  1. Hey, my Google Alerts just hit your site. I'm thrilled to find I'm the 2003 Annual Award winner! Do you need an address to send the plaque and check to?

    Seriously, I'm delighted that you have enjoyed my books. We share a love of the written word.


    James L. Nelson

  2. Wow, Mr James L. Nelson!

    I've got "Glory in the Name" bubbling up on my historical fiction to-be-read stack. But are there ever going to be any more Revolution at Sea novels?


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  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
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