October 6, 2023
Review for the Water Door
Aggie L. Jae
This fun epic fantasy sends adolescent brothers Jeremy and Josh first to their grandparents’ mysterious farm, where the boys enjoy the food, hate getting up early, suspect the adults are keeping secrets, and get warned never to enter the springhouse. Then, after Jeremy experiences watery nightmares and the family learns that the boys’ parents have been kidnapped, the stranger journey begins: Jeremy and Josh, along with their grandmother, plunge through the springhouse portal suggested by the novel’s title, emerging on another planet where their great-great grandfather reigns as king … and where Jeremy is recognized as somehow “special,” deeply connected to the Water Door and water itself. There, the boys join a young version of their grandmother and other alternate versions of relatives on a classic quest: travel a realm riven by occupations and political wrangling to recover a diamond of legend that, in our world, is the price to save their parents.
Jae conjures tantalizing mysteries, buoyant humor, and a potent current of suspense as the brothers face their family’s weird secrets and the dangers of planet Tetherae, which boasts a menagerie of dino-like creatures, plus occupying soldiers and near-relations with sneaky agendas. Most intriguing of these is the brothers’ second cousin, the willful Princess Chozan, whose tart tongue and questionable loyalty offer welcome intrigue.
The novel’s length is notably hefty, and Jae tends to let characters offer each other protracted explanations of developments readers already have tracked. The brothers’ dialogue (“Flipp’n frog legs!! I got the goosebumps!”) can be hard to credit for Zelda-playing kids of the present, but their hearts and souls are, like the magic of “nudges” and the connections between our world and Tetherae, well developed and engaging. Like many portal fantasy heroes, Jeremy is lauded as “special” everywhere he goes, and Jae nicely plumbs his brother Josh’s mixed feelings about this—when the brothers’ connection powers a new ability shared by both of them, readers will feel real relief.
Takeaway: Fantasy epic of brothers and their grandma with a strong current and much heart.
Comparable Titles: Estelle Grace Tudor’s Octavia Bloom and the Missing Key, Kate Milford’s Greenglass House series.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-
David Rambo, playwright, screenwriter, producer
“To venture into a world from the imagination of Aggie L Jae is always a journey worth taking. She finds magic everywhere around us and makes us believe in it.”
Online Book Club Review
“I adored how this journey encompassed the whole family. Grandparents, uncles, aunts, and grandchildren were all involved. The story was also suspenseful. I never knew what would happen next! The spectacular adventures the family underwent kept me glued to the novel.”