First off, if you haven’t read Aspect of Winter, don’t read this unless you don’t mind spoilers. It’s hard to write about a sequel and how a theme relates to it without referencing the events and results of Book One at least a little. If you’re all good, read on and enjoy!
I’ve been told that Harmony Ink’s theme for November is “unity,” which is a fitting theme for The Doorway God in a slightly more distressing way than normal. In The Doorway God, Fay and Sam have finally reached Janus University, a place where magic-users from both the world of Earth and the hidden world of Gaia can come together to study magic in peace. At least in theory, but nothing is ever that easy. In truth, Janus University thrives on fostering the sense of competition students had to demonstrate to gain admission in the first place. Any school that requires applicants to magically spar with each other in a coliseum setup isn’t likely to abandon that mindset once the students actually arrive, after all. Instead students are slotted into one of three houses, and then must continually prove themselves in the Arena to keep an acceptable ranking of talent. If they lose too often, they are expelled.
So why stay, then? It’s clear that Janus University, bastion of knowledge though it may be, isn’t a place that treats its students well. And yet people stay, and more continue to apply every year. A lot of this can be attributed to Janus University’s influence in the world, much of which is due to Headmaster Didas’s careful, long-term machinations. Gaia is locked in a very delicate balance of power among several groups, all of which aim to further their own agendas—except, ostensibly, the ever-neutral Janus University. Students who graduate are capable of working as neutral parties in the power struggle of Gaia, and are capable of defending themselves in the process. Competition, in the hands of Janus, isn’t something that works against unity. It’s something that furthers it, if not in the safest of ways.
So now we come to the matter of Fay and Sam, who aren’t from Gaia, as the majority of students are. Earth produces far fewer mages, but those who do pop up are almost always free agents, not tied to any of the important groups that vie for control in Gaia. This means that everyone wants a piece of them, and Fay and Sam have no idea. Fay is concerned with something else entirely: he has the spirit of Winter inside him, and the steps Didas took to contain that spirit are starting to wear off. Fay knows it’s only a matter of time until Winter tries to take control of his body and go on another rampage, and he’ll do anything to stop that. But the plan Didas has in mind to fix the situation is another form of unity altogether, and something that goes far beyond what Fay is prepared for. Unity requires trust. What do you do when there’s no trust to be found, but the need for unity is stronger than ever before?
Sam, meanwhile, is probably the character most allergic to unity that I’ve written. She has less than five people in this world she cares about, and asking her to extend that trust to anyone else is about as easy as pushing a boulder uphill. Still, try as Sam might to keep herself in control and in charge, there are other ties she needs to worry about—namely, the story of her mother, who was far more involved in the world of Gaia than she seemed to be in raising her daughter. How far is Sam willing to go to find out what really happened to her mother? What ties is she willing to endanger to pursue this one?
Then there are the less pressing calls for unity. Characters other than Sam and Fay and the ominous Didas have their own ties to the protagonists. Fay has to try to balance his relationship with Tyler with the challenge of just existing at Janus University, especially when everyone there seems interested in finding new ways to control him. Aiden Ombra, Fay and Sam’s first real… enemy? Rival? Seriously messed-up mentor? Aiden hasn’t gone anywhere, and his interest in Fay and Sam’s unique talents has only increased. Whether his interest in the two is harmful or helpful is something only time will tell, but it’s more than just Didas who want to have a say in what Fay and Sam do next.
And lastly there are the Seasons as a whole, the reason for this series’ name. At the end of Aspect of Winter, it was revealed that when Winter showed itself, the other Seasons noticed and made their return as well. They haven’t done anything yet—at least not so far as anyone knows—but it’s clear they’re out there, and nobody left alive seems to know what they are, or what it is they really want. The only thing the reader knows is that Fay is still playing host to Winter, and it seems unlikely the other Seasons are going to leave him alone.
What’s a guy to do, when faced with all these different calls for unity, some of which he isn’t aware of? If you have an answer, consider telling Fay about it, because right now he’s too overwhelmed to make any sense of it.