The Door to the Lost by Jaleigh Johnson: A Dual Review with Marilla

Posted December 31, 2019 by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction in Dual Reviews, Reviews / 2 Comments

(No actual dueling—or even arm-twisting—was involved. This is a dual review, not a duel review. Sorry if you’re disappointed.)

Marilla was a recent winner of my Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up “Make Me Read It” giveaway, and she chose to make me read The Door to the Lost by Jaleigh Johnson. I got this book as a gift at an event I went to featuring Johnson’s agent, Sara Megibow (I learned LOTS about the business side of publishing from her). I’m so glad Marilla made me read this book!

Read on to see what we thought of the book…

The Door to the Lost by Jaleigh Johnson: A Dual Review with MarillaThe Door to the Lost by Jaleigh Johnson
Published by Delacorte Press on July 3, 2018
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Pages: 304
Source: Gift
Cover Artist: Hannah Christenson
My rating:
4 Stars

There was no warning the day magic died in Talhaven. It happened with a giant explosion and the arrival of a skyship full of children, all with magic running through their veins and no memory of home.

Rook and Drift are two of those children, and ever since that day, they've been on the run, magical refugees in a world that doesn't trust magic. Because magic doesn't die right away--it decays, twists, and poisons all that it touches. And now it's beginning to poison people.

Try as they might, Rook and Drift can't remember anything about their lives before Talhaven. But it's beginning to look like they're the only ones who can save their adopted world . . . if that world doesn't destroy them first.


An engrossing middle grade fantasy that explores themes of friendship and belonging.

What Fed Our Addiction:


I loved the strong friendship between Drift and Rook and later how they formed a relationship with Fox, and I love the found family aspect of both the three of them and then later on with Danna, Heath, and the rest of the children at the sanctuary.


I totally agree! The friendships and found family aspects of the book were probably my favorite parts. And I loved that Drift and Rook had some complications that made them worry about their friendship because that felt very real to me. The relationships between these characters are what kept me turning the pages—I wanted them to get a happily ever after together.  🙂


The world was super unique! I just wish we had more development of it. I did really love the unique magic abilities of the exiles, though!

I was thoroughly enchanted by this world right from the start, and I really enjoyed the magical aspects. Rook’s ability to open doors to anywhere was especially intriguing, and I liked how her gift developed throughout the book as she (and we) learned more about it.


I appreciated how the book touched on some heavier and more serious things, like immigration and being displaced from your home and unable to return while feeling like you don’t quite belong where you’ve ended up. I really felt Rook’s longing to go home and the difficulty she had reconciling with the fact that she can’t, or at least shouldn’t because her home is something they had escaped for a reason and they were actually lucky to be away from. She knew this, but she couldn’t help but miss it anyway. I ached when grown adults spit at the exiles and call them monsters when they’re just scared, lost kids who have no choice in the matter and don’t even remember anything about the cause of this prejudice against them.

I honestly hadn’t put a lot of thought into how this story could be related to real-life immigration, but you are absolutely right! I agree that Rook’s struggle with wanting to return to a place where she believes she might “belong” is compelling. She has to make some tough choices in this book and make sacrifices for those she loves—and she has to let go of many of her fantasies about returning to somewhere she can truly call home. And, yes, the way that people treated them was horrific and made me want to scream at them!

What Left Us Hungry for More:


As I mentioned above, I wish there was more development of the world! It was super unique, but I was a little sketchy on many of the details with using magic (especially towards the end, with pooling magic to open the doors or whatever, and with the flying ship and pirates). The magic decaying and corrupting people also confused me a little and was a little vague (like how someone was affected by corrupted magic at the beginning when Rook was at the market).

I think that worldbuilding can be a tricky thing in middle grade. On the one hand, you want to give the readers plenty of information so they’re not confused. But, at the same time, middle grade readers typically don’t want TONS of backstory or elaborate worldbuilding. I actually felt like this book skated that line pretty well, but I do see what you mean about a few explanations being vague. For me, that was definitely outweighed by my enjoyment of the magical elements in the book, though.


I also thought that the antagonist, once revealed, was a very black-and-white evil-villain and lacked nuance that could have given the story another layer. Don’t get me wrong – it was fine as is, but I felt it could have brought more to the table? But maybe I’m just too picky 🙂 I wished for a little more development of the side characters as well, but hey, the book did a great job for the length it is and as jam-packed with action as it is.

Yeah, length can affect the ability to truly develop the secondary characters, especially when you have a book that also has to pack in worldbuilding and (fantastical) action. I agree that the antagonist could have been a bit more nuanced.


I also had a hard time conceptualizing a lot of the action, especially towards the end with the ‘final showdown–type scene, but I generally have a hard time conceptualizing movement (especially in action scenes with unfamiliar, created settings), so that could just be me.

How interesting—this is one of the reasons I’m never as fond of battle scenes in books. I always have such a hard time picturing what’s actually happening, and I just end up not worrying about it. I didn’t notice it in this book, but that could be because I’ve literally stopped thinking about this in action scenes. I wonder if others have this issue too?

So, that wraps it up. I had so much fun doing a dual review with Marilla, and I truly hope we have the opportunity to do it again sometime!!


About the Author

Jaleigh Johnson is a fantasy novelist living and writing in the wilds of the Midwest.  Her middle grade debut novel The Mark of the Dragonfly is a New York Times bestseller, was chosen for the ABA Spring Indie Next list, and was named one of Amazon’s Top 20 Children’s Books of 2014.  Her other books from Delacorte Press include The Secrets of Solace, The Quest to the Uncharted Lands, and the forthcoming The Door to the Lost.  She has also written several novels and short stories for the Dungeons and Dragons Forgotten Realms fiction line published by Wizards of the Coast.  Johnson is an avid gamer and lifelong geek, and in her spare time she also enjoys traveling, reading, baking, and going to movies with her husband.


Author Links:


Have you read this one? What did you think? We want to know!



2 responses to “The Door to the Lost by Jaleigh Johnson: A Dual Review with Marilla

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