Library Book Sale Finds: The Door into Fire by Diane Duane

Finally! I’ve been reading this book for two months. There’s not even any reason why it’s taken so long except I can’t focus at all right now and so am in the middle of four books (and have six more out from the library like an idiot). Is that one of the stages for dealing with trauma? Inability to focus? It’s driving me mad.

I have high respect for Diane Duane. I found her, I suspect, like a lot of people do: from her Star Trek novels. Two in particular were very influential on me: My Enemy, My Ally; and The Romulan Way. Because of those books, the Romulans are my favorite Trek species to this day, and, when I did Star Trek roleplaying as a teenager, I often played Romulans, either as my main characters, or when side characters were needed.

(You can see me geek out about Star Trek: Picard having them speak Rihannsu–the Romulan language Ms. Duane created–onscreen here.)

That being said, I’d never read any of her original work, just her Star Trek work, so when I came across her very first book at a library book sale, well, it was mine.

Title: The Door into Fire
Author: Diane Duane
Genre: Fantasy
Publication Year: 1979

Pros: Extensive mythology, Sunspark
Cons: Sometimes gets a bit infodumpy

I’m kind of in awe of this book, to be honest. I mean, it reads very much of its time, using conventions that you (unfortunately) can’t get away with in modern fantasy, but the amount of care that went into the worldbuilding, character arcs, and the setting is impressive no matter what.

This is the first book in her Middle Kingdoms series. There are three books and more shorter works; she has a whole website for it. The story takes place in a somewhat standard alternative Europe fantasy setting, and follows Hereweiss, the first man in a thousand years to possess a magic called the Flame, though he cannot access or use said magic.

(I will note that there is a complicated relationship system set up, and that this book features characters of various orientations without calling out any of them as strange or different. I know some people like to look for books that specifically feature non-cishet relationships, so here you are.)

Hereweiss’s quest to access his Flame has consumed him, but no matter what he tries, he seems to be getting no closer to an answer. However, he’s distracted from that because his loved, who is the exiled king of a neighboring country, has gotten into trouble and needs rescuing. (Apparently again.)

The story’s strength is very much in the depths of the world creation. This feels like a fully formed world, with mythology and history and the works. It doesn’t read all too differently in places than some of the other late 70s/early 80s fantasy we’ve discussed here on the blog that tends to be more real-mythology based.

Also, there is Sunspark, who is my favorite in every way. You’ll have to read the book to learn more about it.

So! I enjoyed this and would recommend it. I find first novels to be very interesting, especially from authors who had published a lot of books and have been publishing for a while. And Ms. Duane obviously has a talent for worldbuilding–probably why the Romulans spoke to me so much in those later books.

How are you, squiders? I am still behind on everything, but at least I am catching up.

2 responses to this post.

  1. I never heard of Duane before. But when you have an author you enjoy, you can overlook infodump for the greater picture.

    Reply

    • I think everyone has their own “acceptable” infodump levels anyway. Some people love to know everything about how a world works, and other people can’t stand to know where potentially important furniture is in a room.

      Reply

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