Paperback: 474 pages
Publisher: Orbit Book Co. (January 30, 2005)
The first Tom Holt book I read was Expecting Someone Taller, an enormously enjoyable and above all fresh work from a writer I'd never heard of before. Then came a second, and a third, and after a while, people could be heard saying that it was worth reading two of his books, but no more. Somehow, he'd become samey, formulaic. I still enjoyed them all, but it was almost a guilty pleasure. There was no character building, no continuity in what he wrote, and it was a little like the stereotypical chinese meal — you immediately felt empty again.
Then came The portable Door. In this, Paul Carpenter, a typically Holt hero ends up working for John Wellington Wells, the eponymous Sorcerer of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, and after much adventure, he achieves love and a small pay rise.
This volume is the second of the trilogy, and continues pretty much from where the first left off. Paul learns more, but he is still somewhat in the dark as to what is going on. But he also becomes more heroic. Sadly, he also turns out to be following the Norse heroic tradition, and with increasing courage comes increasing loss. It's this development which provides greater depth that Holt achieves in his stand-alone books. And Holt has always been an educated writer, a good cut or two above the wannabe humour hacks that need a Kirbyesque cover.
So, Holt's best for some time, though it suffers a little from middle-book syndrome.