Review: Under the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune

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ARC received from the publisher (Tor) in exchange for an honest review.

The House in the Cerulean Sea was one of my favourite books of 2020. So naturally, I jumped at the chance to read Under the Whispering Door as well. Unlike Cerulean Sea, this wasn’t an instant hit with me – but it won me over completely before the halfway point and that’s vanishingly rare. It counts for something.

Wallace, a cold-hearted asshole of a lawyer, suddenly finds himself dead. From his own funeral, attended by few and mourned by no one, a reaper leads him to a quaint little teashop, where Hugo, a ferryman, serves tea to both the living and the dead who need to cross over.

Just like in Cerulean Sea, Klune manages to handle some heavy topics like death and redemption in a very light, readable, and heartwarming way. I loved the slow character development and the compassion, the found family vibes, how slice of life it was. If there’s a list of tropes that can make me love a book, that would be it.

The one thing I didn’t like all the way through was the humour. At the beginning, it relied too much on Wallace ending up in embarrassing situations or being frustrated for my liking. Sure, he wasn’t a great person before he died. But that doesn’t really matter to me – if I have a least favourite type of humour, that would be it. I was getting worried whether it might be a dealbreaker. Luckily, it got infinitely better at some point after the first third or so, and the rest was smooth sailing. Which surprised me. 

In fact, Under the Whispering Door is one of the very few books that managed to win me over completely after some initial doubts. That alone makes it something special.

Recommended, and make yourself a cup of tea while you’re at it.

Enjoyment: 4.5/5
Execution: 4.5/5

Recommended to: fans of The House in the Cerulean Sea, those looking for slice of life, mlm romance subplots (between a gay and a bi man), and heavy themes handled lightly
Not recommended to: those who like fast-paced books

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