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Buzzy Book Review: Under the Whispering Door

Title: Under the Whispering Door
Author: T. J. Klune
Genre: Fantasy
Page Count: 384
Published by: Tor Books
Date Published: September 21, 2021
You can find it here: Bookshop.org

Goodreads Synopsis:

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.


Blast. In a word: Unsurprising. 

Between very little happening beyond what we are given in the synopsis and the already well trodden canon of “there is more to life than riches” thanks to Charles Dickens and the vein he tapped, nothing new is added here. Instead we have an entirely too predictable, unexciting narrative that failed to materialize into an investing and, dare I say it, interesting read. 

There are pockets of Klune’s humour and charm here and the characters themselves are fine, but we only know them on the surface and never delve deep within their thought process, which is critical to the central conversation that Klune is trying to develop here: our lives are more than the monies we accumulate and the status we achieve.

While I agree to some extent with other reviewers that Under the Whispering Door isn’t like House in the Cerulean Sea, when I step back and look at both reads, they are actually remarkably similar – both are putting a paranormal spin on central topics of importance, acceptance and a life well lived spun in a comforting yarn and happy endings. But, for me, this formula doesn’t work for the central conversation in Under the Whispering Door: grief. So when a happy narrative is layered atop of it … it doesn’t ring true. Overall, very little meat is spread way too thin over too many pages with nothing to compel the reader onward. I believe people will enjoy Under the Whispering Door, but for most it will not match their love for The House in the Cerulean Sea … do with that what you will and decide on your own merit. For me, Under the Whispering Door was a miss. 

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