The Door by the Staircase Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-04-19 
Review Score: 5 out of 5 star From 19 user ratings

" Beautiful and suspenseful I loved the message...the power of love. I loved the Russian language woven into the story. I don't want to say too much and risk being a spoiler. But I loved this book enough to actually write a review and I usually don't take the time or make the effort. " said.

" When Mary is adopted by a mysterious lady named Madame Z, she isn't sure what to expect. She's happy to receive a warm meal and new clothes, and excited to explore a nearby town filled with people who make their living by doing magic tricks. But she begins to sense that she might be in danger, and that things aren't what they seem. " said.

" BSBPL | It's possible that I'm being slightly overgenerous with a five-star rating, but I've long been partial to all stories about the character that Madame Z turns out to be (which is what I'd hoped for when I started the book), and the general moral of the tale was particularly enjoyable for me. Not a lot more I can say without spoilers, definitely glad I picked this one up. " said.

"I love Katherine Marsh, beginning with the Night Tourist and Twilight Prisoner (when is the next book coming??) so reading a new book of hers is like settling down with an old friend.

The Door by the Staircase is a fun read in the reimagined fairy tale genre, the characters are lively, and the friendships sparkle. What it is not is a straightforward Hero's Journey, it's more meandering like an actual journey with some feints and a lot of color in the setting and background characters. I was convinced that the setting of Iris was a clone of Lilydale, the actual spiritualist community in NY.

All in all, I enjoyed it and recommended it to my daughters.
" said.

"A twisted fairy tale about the brave and resourceful Mary Hayes, who, after a daring attempted escape from her orphanage, is adopted by a mysterious old Russian woman name Madame Z. Cautious, but hopeful, Mary moves to a the strange tourist town filled with tricksters and illusionists. But Mary starts to notice things that seem like more than sleight of hand. What is the town hiding? What is Madame Z hiding? And who can Mary trust?

I ended up enjoying this story more than I expected. I was totally caught up in the "no one can be trusted" mystery at the beginning. (Those more familiar with Russian folktales may have missed out on some of that tension.)
(view spoiler)" said.

"A fractured fairy tale written with wholeness of heart!
All the features of suspense, who's really the bad guy, and a happy ending (love does conquer evil)) made me forgo my weekend household chores so I could finish it this morning.
I avoid reading the publisher's ad about any book so I can enter it with a totally open mind. I like watching how the author introduces characters, builds the plot and presents the setting as I try to figure out the main storyline and themes. This book was not high in my 'to-read' list due to the title - I might have gone with 4 1/2 or 5 stars with a more intriguing title. I don't think the title connects well to the main point of the book. But once I picked it up, it was like magic and stuck to my hands 'till I could finish it.
Can't wait to get a copy of this to my granddaughter, who loves "The Land of Stories". There are a lot of details that can slow down readers who like to savor their stories.
" said.

"From my old review (February 2016):

I don't know why, but this book got me surprisingly hooked and emotional!


Let's get the un-pleasantries out of the way first, shall we?

The title is not a good title.

I mean, it's a good title in general, but not for this book. I'm not sure who picked it or how many times it was changed/if it was changed, but it doesn't fit the story.

Yes, the door was interesting, but it was not the core of the plot. In fact, our intrepid heroine, Mary, is shown what's behind it (yes, shown) as soon as Baba Yaga reveals herself. It's the storage and chimney exit for the flying mortar and pestle. It's not even the most dramatic moment in the book--though it is one of the most touching.

Yes, this is a tale about Baba Yaga. I love Baba Yaga, so I'm inclined to be partial.

Okay, so that was my major gripe, actually. The title.

Moving on.

Ultimately, I must commend this book's portrayal and development of Mary and Baba Yaga/Madame Z's relationship. It was engaging and natural, never cloying. It felt like the proper way to show development, rather than telling the reader how things are changing.

Also, I must ask, was Ms. Marsh influenced at all by New York's Lily Dale community of spiritualists when she created Iris? If so, I have to commend her for that, too, though no one in Lily Dale would dare call themselves a charlatan.
" said.

"Mary must make herself a home with Madame Z--and hopefully, not get eaten.

Mary Hayes, a resourceful orphan from the Buffalo Asylum for Young Ladies has come up with an escape plan. She almost makes it too, except that a very strange whirlwind bars the way, causing her to get caught. The next morning, she is resigned to a long and dreadful punishment, when Madame Z shows up and actually adopts her! Takes her away that very day. Mary can hardly believe her luck!

In fact, Madame Z takes very good care of her, feeding her lots of delicious meals and providing her with warm clothing and boots that fit. Even Yulik the cat seems to like her, which Madame Z admits is unusual. Her new home is just outside a small town known for its magic acts, and Mary soon makes a friend--a boy named Jacob. Jacob is the son of one of the magicians, and he not only has very quick hands, he can spot a fake every time.

Mary can't let herself completely settle into her new life, though. She just feels there's something a about Madame Z. Hard to pinpoint. Some of it has to do with the door by the staircase. You see, when Mary stuck her finger in the lock it bit her. Also, the oven in the kitchen is very, very large. In fact, large enough to fit a whole person inside it.

As the strange and unexplainable events pile up, Mary comes to believe more and more in magic---real magic. She also realizes that her very life may be in danger, despite the kindness Madame Z has shown her so far. How will she get out of this one?

* * * * *
In this Baba Yaga tale, Mary proves herself to be every bit the heroine: smart, capable, and loyal. She handles challenges admirably, with her sidekick Jacob.

It was more suspenseful than scary. There were some tense moments, but they didn't last too long. I guess kids might get scared by the several mentions of eating children. It comes up several times; a bad habit that Madame Z has gotten into.

I would recommend this one to ages 10+, though it could go younger if your child has already been exposed to these types of fairy tales. It certainly wasn't any scarier than the first Harry Potter, for instance. I actually think my older 2 (ages 8 and 6) would be fine with it, if I read it out loud to them. They're not familiar with the Baba Yaga stories, but they've definitely heard Hansel and Gretel multiple times.

For more sorta scary middle grade books, head over to my blog:
" said.

June 2018 New Book:

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