T.J. Klune has been on my to-read list for some time, ever since seeing one of the B&N special editions of his books with the sprayed edges, but I’d been missing him for quite a while for some unknown reason. When I saw this one pop up in the available audiobooks on Spotify, though, I thought no better time than the present and dove right in. Right out the gate, it seemed like exactly what I was in the mood for, but a google search of just the title keyed me into something I’d consider considerably spoilery. I read it and thought “but how?” Perhaps it’s not as spoilery as I’m feeling it is, but considering it’s part of the book’s end-game, I would think you wouldn’t want to lead with that, right?
Anywho, Under the Whispering Door is another in a long line of stories about a curmudgeon who simultaneously softens and is revealed to be not as hardened as we’re first led to believe, where it simply takes the right people and circumstances to push them in the right ways. It’s often death that does it for them, and that’s no different here, but I won’t fault Klune for sticking to the tried and true; if anything is going to scare somebody straight, it’s death. And the mechanics of death and the afterlife are interesting and unique enough for me to give him a pass.
That being said, it gives me hints of Pixar’s Soul, where I wish they had committed to the character’s eventual sacrifice, rather than giving them a convenient out so everybody still gets to have their happy ending at the same time as that character gets their dramatic moment. I get in this case there’s greater stakes involved, as their continued existence (or whatever you want to refer to it as) is important to more than just them, but still.
So, to sum up, I was a little bummed out that one of the big plot developments was ruined for me by a pull-quote on a Google search page, I felt it was a bit safe but did enough to set itself apart, I was iffy on the ending because it felt too neat and convenient… but whenever it was just Hugo and Wallace talking, I forgot all about any nitpicks or bigger issues I had with the story. Klune did that very right, and it kinds outweighs everything else.