Review: ‘The Doorknob Society’ by MJ Fletcher

The Doorknob SocietyI had a weird yet recurring thought while I was reading this book: I sure miss Harry Potter. That parallel universe sort of world where certain parts were everyday and familiar, but even better, many parts were not. People dress differently, there are otherworldly creatures, they have their own school and there is magic. Lots of magic. The thing is, you could really see that world from JK Rowling’s descriptions and immerse yourself until you felt like you could live there. On occasion, I got glimpses of an similarly interesting world while reading The Doorknob Society. Now, don’t get your wands in a twist – this book is a far cry from the tales of our beloved Mr. Potter. I will say this, though: having read over 100 books in the past year, the vast majority of them in the young adult genre, I just realized that I miss a good made-up story where the unusual is the norm.

Chloe Masters is the daughter of a magician. She and her parents have been traveling around the world her whole life while her parents perform their magic show. Unfortunately, Chloe’s Mom leaves with no explanation when Chloe is six. Now 16, Chloe is about to have her world turned upside down when she finds out that her father, Elijah, is no amateur magician. Chloe decides to help when she and her dad are forbidden to leave France and their passports are confiscated. Trying to retrieve them, she accidentally activates an unknown power, which propels her through a portal and back into her hotel room. Promising to explain everything when they get home, that promise gets put on hold  when a evil-looking man emerges into their hotel room…from another portal. Elijah escapes with Chloe to their family home in Cape May, New Jersey.

Though Chloe has innumerable questions, her father remains tight-lipped for the most part. What he does say, however, stuns Chloe: they are staying in Cape May, there is something called the Doorknob Society and she is to attend Paladin Academy. In addition, there are more groups like the Society: The Skeleton Key Guild, the Mapmakers Union, the Impossible Engineers, and the Honorable and Venerable Order of Detective Inspectors who are known collectively as the Old Kind. Not all factions get along, but they are required to at the Academy. Chloe soon meets Michael Slade, a cute boy who seems to already like her. Her group of friends grows to include Edgar Manus, a student who has declared for the Mapmaker’s Union. Their adventures begin immediately, when Chloe begins to hear rumors about her parents and her father’s banishment from the Doorknob Society. She is determined to find out the truth, which also could possibly lead to figuring out why her mother left.

She soon meets her match in James Nightshade, a member of the Skeleton Key Guild and fellow student. He’s a snarky and irritating person, with whom, against her wishes, she feels a connection. The last member of their group is James’ friend, Jessica. After a rough beginning, she and Chloe discover that they are more than enemies – they are cousins. United when their grandmother is attacked, they swear to get whomever is behind it.

This story is a whirlwind; as Chloe knows nothing of her family history, the Old Kind or her powers, she gets dumped, completely clueless, in the center of a fight that started well before she was born. Despite her inexperience, and due to her stubbornness, she is immediately catapulted into an unfamiliar word with real-world consequences. To top it off, Michael is pursuing her affections. Is there time for that? Does she want it? For now, her father is missing, his nemesis is demanding her full cooperation, and a detective inspector is on her tail. Who can she trust?

My main issue with this book is my pettest of peeves: bad grammar! The most perplexing, of all things, was the author’s use (misuse, to be precise) of the question mark. I thought most people had that one down? (See how I used it in that previous sentence.) For some reason, Mr. Fletcher put question marks at the end of sentences that weren’t questions at all. It was seriously annoying, as they were quite plentiful. I started reading the sentences like questions in my head. In addition, the sentence structure was poor. There were many run-on sentences that were begging for some form of punctuation, as well as a few spelling mishaps (to/too; past/passed). Lastly, word usage. I don’t know what a “mouthy smile” is, for example. A good editor can help with these issues.

The story itself is interesting and I do like the world that was created. I think Chloe’s repetitive chant of “I’m broken” is a little heavy-handed, mainly because it seems to only be a device to keep her from being with Michael. When she does kiss Michael, she seems to wholeheartedly like him. In addition, her relationship with James is a little confusing. I get it that she doesn’t know why she has a connection with him; it just makes her “submissions” to Michael ring false. As a reader, it could eventually alienate me since Michael has done nothing except, well, everything Chloe has asked him to do. It seems like drama is being inserted in the wrong place. Obviously, I don’t know where either relationship is headed, but there is going to have to be some kind of resolution before Chloe starts to have feelings for her own cousin to boot.

The animosity between the groups of the Old Kind isn’t sufficiently explained, either. I think that would make the relationships and the drama more understandable and believable. And where are Jessica’s parents? Yes, you should save some of the information/drama for future volumes, but you have to answer the obvious ones, even if only obtusely. Give the reader something.

In spite of the grammatical issues, I am giving the story 3 stars. I am very intrigued. I would love for the next book to be a little bit more leisurely in its pacing so the characters can take a breath every now and then and so I, as the reader, can immerse myself more fully into their world. I hope that makes sense? Sorry. Had to.

3 of 5 Stars

The Doorknob Society by MJ Fletcher was published February 9, 2012 by Smashwords. A free copy of this book was given to Ink and Page in return for an honest review.

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