Since my fantasy series—starting with A Darker Shade of Magic—features not one version of London but four, and a magician who moves between them, I thought it might be fun to talk about my favorite stories involving magical doors. Whether the portal is the primary focus or a side detail, a door to a second world or a shortcut through our own, there’s something entrancing about this breed of fantasy.
Doors can take so many shapes, literal and metaphorical, physical and metaphysical; as a writer, it’s a device I love to play with, and as a reader it’s one of my favorite tropes. There’s no question, it can be abused, leaned on like a crutch, but in the hands of a skilled author, the world of the book multiplies, unfolding like hidden pages of a map. Choosing five(…ish) favorites was no easy task, but instead of focusing on all-time favorites, I’ve tried to mix it up, and choose titles across the board, from the well-known to the new discovery.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Gaiman’s work, and no post on books with magical doors would be complete without a mention of Neverwhere, which takes place in a second, underground London and features a girl NAMED Door. There are also terrifying villains and incredible details, and it’s no surprise this book is firmly seated on my favorites shelf.
Abhorsen series by Garth Nix
I discovered Sabriel on audio (read by Tim Curry) last year, and it became one of my favorite audiobooks, not only because Tim Curry, but also bells! Talking cats! Magical doors that lead between the world of the living and the realms of the dead! If you haven’t found your way to this wonderful series, do so now.
All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness
Harkness’s trilogy ticks my all reading boxes. Witchcraft, romance, and history. So much delicious history. One of my favorite things is when fantasy is interwoven with our world and its timeline (from Forest Gump to Life After Life) and I became enchanted by the witches and enthralled by the vampires in this sweeping series. Here the magical doors lead not between places, but times, and following the adventures of Diana Bishop and Matthew de Clermont was a joy.
Chronicle of The Unhewn Throne series by Brian Staveley
I first discovered The Emperor’s Blades earlier this year. Within minutes of finishing the first installment, I bought the second, Providence of Fire. This is delicious fantasy, and on top of a fabulous cast, a luscious world, and a lot of action, it’s got, you guessed it, magical doors! While they aren’t the centerpiece of the plot, they’re still a delightful garnish, adding yet another layer to an already fabulous book.
The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey
I had the incredible pleasure of reading this debut last month, and it was marvelous. Reminiscent of Laini Taylor and Leigh Bardugo and entirely original at the same time. With a feisty heroine named Echo moving between the warring worlds of dragon warriors and bird magicians, as well as the streets of London, Paris, and New York, there’s so much to love in this promising new series.
Bonus Round: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, because no list of wonderful books with magical doors will ever be complete without this timeless tale.
V.E. Schwab is the author of YA novels The Near Witch, The Archived, and The Unbound. Schwab’s first adult novel, Vicious, debuted to critical praise and reader accolades. Her latest novel, A Darker Shade of Magic, takes us on a journey through parallel Londons—available now in the US from Tor Books and in the UK from Titan.