100 Cupboards #2. Author: N.D. Wilson.
Henry York never dreamed his time in Kansas would open a door to adventure, much less a hundred doors. But a visit to his aunt and uncle’s farm took an amazing turn when cupboard doors, hidden behind Henry’s bedroom wall, revealed themselves to be portals to other worlds. Now, with his time at the farm drawing to a close, Henry makes a bold decision–he must go through the cupboards to find the truth about where he’s from and who his parents are. Following that trail will take him from one world to another, and ultimately into direct conflict with the evil of Endor.
The cupboard series went from 1 to 100 just like that!
In the first book, we have a fun, lighthearted portal fantasy, which starts out with Henry meeting his cousins, exploring Kansas, getting some backstory. Kind of a slow opening. Then we move onto exploring the cupboards that open out into different worlds. I didn’t think it was amazing, but it was nice.
It’s all pretty mysterious, very obviously a setting-up book, but the main villain seems to be an evil witch Henry accidentally wakes up. The main confrontation comes right at the end, when the witch comes for Henry and his family. So we do have this villainous character, and there’s a bit of blood and unconscious there at the end, but it’s not too much; and then she retreats.
Well, in Dandelion Fire, we don’t just crank the notch up; we jump all the way into a full-fledged good versus evil world-saving war. Turns out that evil witch was withdrawing to gather up her power. She’s been sleeping for centuries, one of the most dangerous enemies the portal-world has ever known, and now she’s come to reclaim her throne.
We don’t find this out at once, of course. In fact it’s quite confusing. Henry and Marguerite and their family get split up, and the book switches back and forth between their view-points, and we have no idea what’s going on for a while. This was my least-favorite bit of the book, the way everything got all choppy and disjointed. It’s really hard to keep track of who’s doing what and what all the implications are, especially because we keep finding out about old relationships and secret bloodlines, and we have to keep track of who goes with what.
On that note, I’m also not really a huge fan of the whole ancient bloodlines plot at this point. It’s a well-respected traditional plot line, but there’s still something unsatisfying with Henry getting pulled into this battle because of who his father is. Henry hasn’t done anything. Well, okay, except accidentally wake an ancient sleeping evil and unleash her upon an unsuspecting world! That was awkward. But Henry and Marguerite didn’t steal the artifacts that their great-grandfather did; they didn’t fight in an ancient war; they didn’t volunteer to fight in this war! They basically got kidnapped into this war. It’s strange to find out that so much depends on them because of who their parents are. Especially given that Henry has never met his parents, and so neither have we, the readers. They’re just names. Because of these names, Henry is super important.
As I got into the story, I did begin to enjoy it more. I love the choice of the dandelion motif; it’s a really cool symbol, to choose such a commonly despised weed as a sign of power. I love the aesthetic here, green and gold and flame and life, all tied up in a dandelion. The magic system that it ties him into is really unclear, though. Henry can see magic, which is simple enough, but he can do magic by the end, and there are no rules offered for that. Maybe that’ll be revealed in the next book.
The setting is good, less “generic fantasy countryside” and more solid visible world, from the forested mountains to the sea-side city to the great green mound of the dwarves.
So I was definitely enjoying everything more by the end of the book, where we have this clear picture of a sprawling green country, inhabited by dwarves and men and faeries, and of this absolutely terrifying evil power who literally sucks the life out of the countryside and the animals and the people to feed on. This is an excellent villain. Once all the characters are back together, the connections are clear, and the plot + setting are solid, it was good.
Hopefully, moving into the third book, we’re going to stick to this nice firm foundation.
Sexual Content: None.
Language: 3 d***, 1 exclamation of “God”
Violence: Character stumbles through cupboard into a sea-battle; she sees some dead bodies, wounded men, and brief fighting before retreating. Character is struck blind by magic/lightning, and later goes into painful seizures caused by the same magic. One character shoots another multiple times, knocking him out but not, apparently, seriously injuring him. Two pellets ricochet from gun, hitting a character in the ear and face. One character stabs another in the chest. Several characters are knocked into the sea (presumably to drown). Multiple people are killed by lighting (no description). Character sees many dead animal bodies as they ride through a ravaged countryside. Character starts performing a magical ritual on an unwilling prisoner which involves carving a shallow pattern into the stomach: the prisoner is semi-conscious and aware of pain, there’s no blood seen but he later sees the cuts, then scars.