I recently borrowed N.D. Wilson's novel 100 Cupboards from the library after a group of folks at NarniaWeb read through the series. It had been on my radar for some time, but the recent surge of interest in my circle of friends gave me a push to finally check it out.
100 Cupboards is the story of Henry York, sent to live with his aunt, uncle, and cousins in Kansas after his parents are kidnapped on an anthropological trip out of the country (an event which serves as mere background and doesn't figure into the story beyond getting Henry to Kansas). While living in the attic bedroom, he discovers a series of cupboards built into the wall that lead to other places -- many of them not of this world. Together, he and his cousin Henrietta try to solve the mystery of the cupboards -- and get into more than a little trouble along the way.
The premise of the story makes it sound very exciting, but for about half the book it's anything but. There's a lot of atmospheric Kansas flavor in the first few chapters that makes it feel as though Wilson is setting the stage and preparing the reader for what's coming; the problem is that the "setting up" stage keeps going. Henry and Henrietta, despite the latter's innate sense of magic and excitement, take far too long to dig into the cupboards, spending whole chapters doing anything but ponder the immense mystery filling Henry's bedroom wall.
However, once the action gets going (about halfway through the book), the action keeps up and the story really shines. Wilson has a good eye for human nature and a good ear for words. He does a fine job of allowing his readers to infer backstory and motive without leaving things too thin for the story to hold. There are even a few moments of true terror and creeping horror in the book that lend the book's somewhat happy ending a bit of unease that teases the reader about what's to come.
I recommend trying 100 Cupboards if you like books that don't feel the need to spell out all the details in print or if you just like middle grade fantasy.
Has anyone out there read this series? What did you think?
(Note: The remnants of Hurricane Irma are set to come through our area tonight, so there's a chance Watercolor Wednesday will be delayed by a power outage, but ideally it will be here on schedule.)