Title: 100 Cupboards
Author: N. D. Wilson
After his parents were kidnapped, Henry York goes to live with his aunt and uncle in Henry, Kansas. Henry has lived a very sheltered life, and this first time away from his extremely overprotective parents offers more adventure than he could ever imagine. And then he finds the cupboards in his attic room, and the adventure of an unfettered life becomes another kind of adventure entirely. For the cupboards are gateways to other worlds. Places of magic. And an evil he cannot imagine wants to use him to escape . . .
The whole book is mostly a setup of the premise introduced in the title: 100 cupboards with a magical history and purpose are uncovered by a boy ignorant of their true nature. The beginning is a solid introduction of Henry York, his new family, and the small town where he’s going to live. In that respect it reads very much like a fiction novel for a good while. Henry’s parents were criminally overprotective and did their best to stamp out any hint of imagination or wonder in him, and although he has some inkling they were, he’s confronted by how much so when he has to deal with the rough-and-tumble country lifestyle enjoyed by his cousins, who are allowed to do such dangerous things as climb ladders or play baseball.
Once the cupboards are uncovered, the magic starts to pick up. Henry and his cousin Henrietta (yes, really) are the ones digging out all the mysteries. Unfortunately, that’s where this being a first novel falls down a bit. Although some resolution is provided to the struggle between the family and the evil Henry and Henrietta have unleashed, Henry has only pushed it aside and made it worse. And there really isn’t a whole lot of exploration into the other worlds just yet; Henry gets a few small glimpses but mostly wants to avoid trouble, so there isn’t much yet beyond a small look into the worlds he does see.
This is not a bad book, but I found myself more invested in the fiction aspects than the fantasy. I liked Frank, who is Henry’s uncle and the main proponent of him moving out of his shell (he has a particularly apt description of Henry as the grass that has been smothered underneath a board, deprived of sunlight until it’s withered and weak). I liked the way Henry is being daring, if only to himself, as he actually plays baseball and finds to his surprise he’s not half bad, and that playing baseball doesn’t immediately result in life-threatening injuries. Henry’s timidity hampers most of the adventure, though there are signs this is changing by the end.
So this is another story that is best read with the trilogy in hand, as the first book is one big introduction to everything that is to come. I don’t generally have a problem with that structure but the initial hook has to be good to make me want to invest in more than just the first one, and I’m not all that excited about picking up the second book. I rate this book Neutral.