So many fantasy books are like baby pools—they get your feet wet, but that’s about all. Cupboards promises depth, dives below the surface, and delivers.
Twelve-year-old Henry York enters a world of tumbleweed, baseball and caffeine when his parents are kidnapped and he is sent to stay with relatives in Kansas. There, he meets Uncle Frank, Aunt Dotty, his three cousins, Penelope, Henrietta and Anastasia, and discovers something mysterious about the wall behind his bed: it contains portals to other worlds.
Random example of why I keep reading Wilson: “There were only two people alive who would recognize the wood in that door. One was a man living in a run-down apartment in a bad part of Orlando. He would have recognized it and then tried to find something strong to drink, because he wanted very much to believe that his childhood had not actually happened.”
Life in Kansas is ordinary, and some readers might feel that Wilson takes too long introducing elements of fantasy. They forget—we all do—just how magical ordinary life really is when you come to think of it. We’ve trained ourselves to believe that excitement = haunted ballrooms, evil queens, bloody daggers, and missing damsels. While the story eventually delivers all the above, 100 Cupboards spends quite a bit of time unfurling its petals, reminding readers that every moment of life is miraculous, not just full bloom.
And there’s plenty to keep looking forward to. Unlike Shakespeare's Women, who “die, even when they to perfection grow,” 100 Cupboards is the first of a projected trilogy. 2008 will bring the next installment, Dandelion Fire, and with it, N.D. Wilson promises to dive even deeper.
In the meantime, I'm rereading this one out loud to the CC.