The Door Within

Star summary: 

3- likeable characters & settings, solid allegorical value, and mediocre plot & writing.

Aidan is a teenager who has just moved across the country to care for his wheel-chair-bound grandfather "Grampin." And he isn't happy about it. He misses his best friend from Maryland, Robby, and does not look forward to trying to start over making friends. Amidst his fuming, mysterious scrolls appear in his basement, telling an engaging story about life in a parallel world simply called "The Realm." This land and ours were once the same, but after The Schism, the two were separated, with each human in our world having a twin in the other-- not human, but a Glimpse. Aidan reads of a kind, just ruler of the land Alleble, called King Eliam. Many years ago, this king was betrayed by his first lieutenant, Paragor, who decided that being second-in-command is no longer good enough for him. Paragor attempted to seize the throne by rounding up the King's most beloved servants & their families, threatening to burn them alive should King Eliam not let Paragor behead him. King Eliam sacrificed himself for his people (Paragor burned the servants alive anyway- only one child escaped), but at the moment when Paragor believed himself king, he & all his followers were thrown forcibly from Alleble by a mysteriously returned King Eliam. Since then, Paragor and his minions have waged an unlrelenting war on Alleble and its allies. Every Glimpse must side with either Eliam or Paragor, and their choice is shown by the color in their eyes-- red for Paragor's servants, blue for Eliam's. Those who side with Paragor or are taken prisoner by him are promised everlasting torment, but those who serve King Eliam are promised to be reunited with their earth twins in the Sacred Realm Beyond the Sun in everlasting joy. Aidan must decide if this story is actually true, as it claims to be. He finds that his grandfather is a believer in The Realm, and has been for most of his adult life. Under his tutelage, Aidan embraces the reality the Scrolls portray.

At the end of the Scroll, a riddle appears, inviting him into the Realm itself, should he go through the "Door Within," which is belief. Hardly daring to believe his luck, Aidan ventures into the realm, where he finds himself welcomed as the "Twelfth Knight" of Alleble-- the last member of a select group sent on a vital mission against Paragor. He receives training, is knighted, and embarks on his mission. Through many adventures and perils he proves himself as a follower of the King, and comes to deeply love his comrades and his leaders. Instead of being upset and self-consumed as he was before, he is now brave, self-sacrificing and loyal to his King. He even meets the Glimpses of his father & grandfather. He actually tries to persuade his father's Glimpse twin, King Ravelle of Mithegard, to side with King Eliam instead of Paragor. He is especially passionate on this point, as what happens in The Realm is mirrored in our world, and vice-versa. His grandfather's Glimpse, Lord Valithor, takes an arrow meant for Aidan, and when Aidan returns to Earth, he in not surprised to find that Grandpin has died. However, in talking with his father (Grampin) before his death and reading his father's journals, Aidan's own father has come to believe in the Realm as well. The book ends with father and son resolving to try and convince Aidan's mother, as well as Aidan's best friend Robby, of the truths in the Scrolls.

Cautions? There is wartime violence portrayed; plenty of slaying and fighting, however it isn't gratuitous or unedifying. Rather, it represents the life-and-death nature of spiritual battles which most kids don't really think about. The allegory is transparent (I though annoyingly so, but that's me as an adult), and is flawed, as all allegories must be. The Cross wasn't so much God's sacrificing Himself to Satan as a result of Satan's attempting to seize Heaven's throne; rather, it occurred because God Himself demanded punishment for the sins perpetrated by mankind (not angelic beings, who can never be redeemed), and chose to take the sins of His people- not merely their salvation- on Himself. Sure, the Fall of Satan and the Fall of Man are related, but Scripture is so clear that it's the sin of His people that dooms us to God's own righteous wrath, not the power-lust of Satan. A smaller point I'll address is that the Glimpses who are "undecided" in their allegiance have eyes that glint green rather than blue or red, while in real life there is no third party of humanity. We are either rebelling against God, or we are serving Him joyfully. The "undecided" do go to eternal destruction in the allegory, though, so it is a small point. No mention is made of what color children's eyes glint at birth.

Themes:- Obviously, the main theme is that of the unseen spiritual reality of which we are all a part, whether we know it or not. As Josh McDowell put it in his endorsement of the series, "there is more to life than what we see with our eyes." The battle cry of all Alleble warriors is "never alone!," emphasizing the ever-present, ever-hearing nature of our Savior. The centrality of faith in what we cannot now see, but can only read about. Sacrifice vs. Betrayal- King Eliam for his people, Captain Valithor for Aidan. Similarly, Paragor betrayed his King, and one of the other Knights (won't give it away) betrays his patrol.

Bottom line:We all must either side with Christ & His Kingdom or Satan, the Prince of the Age. Each person born in the Image of God has an eternal soul as well as a physical body. This soul participates in spiritual and mental battles which do not involve the body, though body & soul do affect each other.

Talking points:
- Discuss similarities between the story of the Scrolls and the one in Scripture.
- What spiritual battles have you fought? What battles do you face every day?
- What does this mean: "adventures are funny things. Many are merely happy accidents-- a single spark that ignites an unexpected chain of events. But some adventures are meant for you and you alone. And whether you want them or not, they seek you out of a great crowd and take you somewhere you never thought you'd go. Often, these unlooked-for adventures require a sacrifice too great to imagine."

Appropriate audience: middle school and up (5th-9th grade). Younger kids may not enjoy the fighting and training, and older readers may find it too transparent and simple. These aren't bad books; they aren't great, but there is definitely no reason NOT to let your son or daughter read them if they enjoy them! The allegory is quite helpful, especially if you discuss them.

Stars: 3
Characters & Setting- these were mediocre. They were likeable, but not very complex. I think Grampin is the most interesting, and we only see him in the first few chapters. As it's for kids, character development doesn't have to be terribly deep, so a full star here.
Plot-- the plot is very straightforward and simple, yet I found it engaging enough. I think it's pretty implausible in spots (like Aidan being a master swordsman out of nowhere, when in our world he's an uncoordinated nerd, or when he becomes a full-fledged knight with only a week's training), and found the allegory too transparent to my liking (I prefer to have to work to figure out a puzzle; it makes it mean more to me when stuff's a little more veiled). Half a star.
Writing-- apart the opening poem (Adventures are funny things...) of the Scrolls, I didn't really think the writing was anything special. The characters' dialogue downright annoyed me at times; they'd switch between "thee" and "you," and never really sounded distinct from each other, with the exception of Captain Valithor and his strange insults (it seemed like the author just wrote down a bunch of words to create non-offensive insults). Half a star.
Character-building/Eternal perspective The one thing this book has going for it is its allegory. Good & bad are crystal-clear, and the spiritual truths are effectively portrayed. Full star.
No wow factor, unless you count the physical book's "feel." The covers and pages themselves are just really cool.

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