After the death of his dad, Martin and his mum move into an enormous stately home where they encounter a mysterious being called the Keeper of Portals, who claims to control every portal on the planet, except for the door at the end of Martin’s bedroom, which has been sealed for 400 years.
One morning, Martin wakes to discover the Keeper of Portals is missing and the door at the end of his bedroom has been opened. Martin steps through the door to find himself in the 17th century where he meets Isabel, the house’s maid. Martin and Isabel quickly learn that everything on earth, from time and causality, to pleasantries and buttons, is controlled by its own keeper. After discovering two imprisoned keepers, Martin and Isabel receive the ability to jump between doorways and change their time, but they soon become entangled in a battle against the master of the house, the Keeper of Questions.
The Keeper of Portals follows Martin and Isabel as they alternate between the present day and the 17th century, often returning to a time they have already been to and nearly running into past versions of themselves. They fight hordes of murderous villagers, escape from the Keeper of Questions by hiding in a sea cave for 400 years and confront the powerful Keeper of Causality. But there is something wrong with time itself as items from the present day begin to bleed into Isabel’s time. After driving an off-road 4×4 through the peaceful countryside of the 17th century, Martin and Isabel confront the Keeper of Questions in the city of London. But when they arrive they find it deserted – the Keeper of Questions has control of everyone in London and it won’t be long until Martin and Isabel are next.
A big thank you to V.S. Nelson to reaching out to me and providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review!
Nelson’s The Keeper of Portals is a unique tale, but ultimately not a book that I would end up reaching for again.
Don’t get me wrong. There are many things that make The Keeper of Portals a very cool book. The main thing that comes to my mind is the entire concept of having ‘keepers’ for everything in the world. It’s a fun notion and Nelson does a great job at fleshing out the idea.
Martin and Isabel are likable characters and Nelson does a good job fleshing them out. I felt that the epilogue was an especially poignant moment of final character development and closure. One thing that bugged me was that Martin seemed to just accept things a bit too readily, from the Keeper of Portals appearing in his bedroom to the adventure that results. There is definitely humorous banter between the Keeper of Portals and Martin because of this, but it continues to carry on through the novel and struck me as odd and a bit unrealistic.
The time-slip aspect is also very cool and Nelson does a great job at explaining the consequences of causality in a way that younger readers can understand.
The book had a confusing beginning for me; I wanted it to slow down and speed up at the same time. I feel like there could have been a bit more exposition before Martin’s first encounter with the Keeper of Portals and I also wish the book had gotten to the flesh of the plot sooner. I know there’s been a bit of confusion as to what level of reading this book fits into, but in my opinion, it reads like a middle-grade novel. The violence is what pushes it into YA territory, but I feel like a younger reader would appreciate this more than an older one would.
One of my main issues with this book was the romance. I’m not against romance categorically – my love for Sarah J. Maas’ books is proof enough of that – but in The Keeper of Portals the romance was totally unnecessary and ended up detracting from my enjoyment of the book. It felt clichéd at best and forced at worst, and the tale would have been better without it. Especially in a work aimed at a younger audience, this would have been a great chance to show the strength of friendship and not fall prey to the boy-meets-girl trope. This book would have been at least 0.5 stars better without the romance.
Overall, this was not a bad book, but it was not for me. I appreciate V. S. Nelson’s skill and look forward to seeing what she publishes next!
“It’s a good job you’re imagining all of this,” said the Keeper of Portals, “because it wouldn’t be much fun to clean up.”