Beyond The Black Door is a dark fantasy that follows an asexual and demi-biromantic protagonist who can walk souls through her journey on seeking revenge for the death of a close one but essentially, about the black door she comes across during her soul-walks because that door is holding someone—or something—that might be the reason for the darkness spreading in her life and her world.
Solar, Lunar, Earthen. Cerebral, subconscious, physical. Spirit, soul, body.
➝ Sum it up in points!
✔ Concept of walking souls (nehym)
✔ Sexually diverse cast
✔ Colored characters
✔ Asexual & demi-biromantic protagonist
✔ Asexual love interest (asexual romance)
✔ Asexual/trans and gay side characters
✔ Genuine support for sex-workers
✔ Dark, evil vibes intertwined with bright motives
✔ Shocking revelations
✔ Secret organizations
✔ Intriguing villain
✔ Intricate world-building
✔ Mystery meets fantasy
✔ Strong female protagonist
“Steel in someone’s hand can be used for food or ill; it is not for the blacksmith to decide. He creates the weapon, not what is done with it.”
➝ Trigger Warnings
⇾ Shying away from one’s sexual identity due to societal call
⇾ Internalized acephobia; later resolved
⇾ Emotionally abusive relationship
⇾ Birth control manipulation by partner, results in pregnancy
⇾ Mother’s death
⇾ House burning up in flames
⇾ Feeling ‘broken’ due to lack of sexual desire
⇾ Men claiming women as ‘mine’
⇾ Father rejecting his daughter
⇾ Ill-statements about pleasure workers
⇾ Exploration of sexual identity through conversation held in a close-knit group
⇾ Brutal stabbing & throat-slicing
The complex plot of this story is a strong aspect: the revenge for a close one’s death soon becomes a seductive mystery intertwined with an evil element spreading through this world, while the characters are exploring their sexual identities and developing their arcs too. The main protagonist is a ‘soulwalker’—she can enter people’s souls in the sleeping realm—and witnesses a black door every time she walks a soul. The door is locked and that’s how her mother wanted it to be. But curiosity reaches a level when it can no longer be ignored and sparks an event in this story that brings even more intrigue to the entire plot.
“Never apologize for who you are. You are a complete soul…”
The world-building is so intricate and detailed, it brings this fictional world to life. From the scene descriptions to the various outfits, skin colors, and professions being mentioned, the world appears diverse and real enough to imagine the story unfolding in it. Speaking of the vibes, there is a subtle hint of light among the dark clouds evidently floating through the entire story. Some scenes and instances give a spooky feel too and are perfect for readers who prefer to be lightly horrified before the sun rises again. Not only this, secret organizations bring a more hidden world under the light and that creates even more excitement.
The writing is another strong aspect of Beyond The Black Door. It lays out the story in a smooth manner and allows the readers to connect with the characters through their dialogues. The voice given to each character, in terms of their speech, is distinct and sits well with their established or growing personalities.
“Sometimes we actually help people sort out their confusion. To come to know themselves better. Find peace with the truth.”
Beyond the Black Door deserves all the praise for a great representation in terms of exploring and concluding one’s sexual identity. Though, I’m not a part of the represented community so my opinions should be considered secondary to an ownvoices reader. The strongest bit about the representation was the metaphorical use of a moon chart to explain the different sexual identities and even the varying degrees to which someone might belong to that particular identity. Not only was it a great way for someone to understand how nothing about sexuality is black and white, it also showcased a great discussion among characters in a fantasy world regarding sexuality.
I simply couldn’t imagine it. I had no desire to run a household, to have children, or to even participate in the act that led to children.
Moving on to the asexual representation, the story definitely shows a great arc of the MC questioning her identity, coming to terms with it, and finally embracing it with all the love she has—and should be having—for herself. In an environment where sex workers are common and is also a potential career choice for her, she discovers her asexuality. The representation of a trans character was also appropriately subtle and smooth with the character’s personality being projected before bringing his/her label to light. However. the trans character does mention at some point that he prefers the male pronouns but is still addressed by she/her by the MC—which has been explained by the author here.
The characters are very different from each other but are still tied up together by a string of secrets waiting to be disclosed.
✹ Kamai: female protagonist, ace + demi-biromantic, soulwalker, hates when men try to ‘claim’ her, emotional but logical, brave enough to walk into unexpected places.
✹ Vehyn: male villain, ace love interest, mysterious and intriguing, doesn’t disclose any secrets and that gets annoying at times but you still love him for the slight smirks and dark aura.
✹ Razim: straight male protagonist, Kamai’s fake step-brother, part of a secret organization, wants to protect the female MC but he needs protection too.
✹ Nikha: asexual and trans side character. addresses switching pronouns, fighter and great with blades, Kamai’s best friend, will kill you if try to hurt her loved ones.
“Take it back. Say it isn’t true, that I’m not yours.” I paused. ” And then godsdamned apologize.”
Overall, Beyond The Black Door is perfect for fans of YA dark fantasy who are interested in a strong female MC and an intriguing villain set in a world of secrets, mythology-derived rivalry, and sexual diversity.
Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this via my participation in a blog tour but that, in no way, affects my rating and/or review. Thank you, FFBC tours, Imprint, and A.M. Strickland.
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Author: A.M. Strickland
Release Date: October 29, 2019
Everyone has a soul. Some are beautiful gardens, others are frightening dungeons. Soulwalkers—like Kamai and her mother—can journey into other people’s souls while they sleep.
But no matter where Kamai visits, she sees the black door. It follows her into every soul, and her mother has told her to never, ever open it.
When Kamai touches the door, it is warm and beating, like it has a pulse. When she puts her ear to it, she hears her own name whispered from the other side. And when tragedy strikes, Kamai does the unthinkable: she opens the door.
AdriAnne Strickland was a bibliophile who wanted to be an author before she knew what either of those words meant. She shares a home base in Alaska with her husband, her pugs, and her piles and piles of books. She loves travelling, dancing, vests, tattoos, and every shade of teal in existence, but especially the darker ones.She is the coauthor of SHADOW RUN and SHADOW CALL (Delacorte/PenguinRandom House) and author of the forthcoming BEYOND THE BLACK DOOR (Imprint/Macmillan).
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