If you’ve been around my blog for a while you might have seen my reviews for the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire. The latest installment, In An Absent Dream, was released this January so I re-read the whole series!
I’ve linked to my reviews, so I’ll just give a quick recap of each book.
Every Heart a Doorway – My Edition: Hardcover – 173 pages – 2016 – Tor – ISBN: 9780765385505
The “first” in the series, this is our introduction to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children and those who inhabit it. This is a portal fantasy – so we learn about the doors some of the students have gone through and the worlds they found that seemed more to them like home than anything else. And we also learn they’ve been booted from their worlds and are desperate to get back. There’s also a murder mystery!
I loved this book when I read it – but after my third (or fourth?) reading, I don’t think it’s as strong as the rest of the books in the series. More on that later!
Down Among the Sticks and Bones – My Edition: Hardcover – 187 pages – 2017 – Tor – ISBN: 9780765392039
I’m a fool because this is my favorite of the series and I didn’t do a full review on my blog. Set before the events of Doorway, we follow Jack and Jill – twin sisters – on their adventures to the Moors. This book is so atmospheric and the world-building left me intrigued and desperate for more. It feels like a noir film where Dr. Frankenstein and Dracula have a strange sort of truce. You really get to know the personality of the sisters and understand why, in the first book, they’re ready to return “home.”
Beneath the Sugar Sky – My Edition: Hardcover – 174 pages – 2018 – Tor – ISBN: 9780765393586
This is a direct sequel to Doorway and I wouldn’t recommend reading this out of order. Yet again, we get a deeper look into the worlds of one of the students at Ms. West’s school – a world that makes me think of a twisted version of Candyland meets The Wizard of Oz. There’s quite a bit of magic in this one and a bit of timey-wimey stuff that feels a little too convenient, but I don’t care because this series is gold.
Now, on to the latest installment!
In An Absent Dream – My Edition: Hardcover – 204 pages – 2019 – Tor – ISBN: 9780765399298
Another story set before the events of Doorway, this book follows Katherine Lundy – the girl who later becomes a friend of Eleanor West’s and a teacher/counselor at her school. Lundy finds her door at a young age and enters the Goblin Market – a world with clear rules and a set of values that Katherine finds comforting. The Market is a world that upholds fair value and wants any adventurers to be sure of their choice before becoming citizens. Lundy believes she is sure, but she gets pulled home time and time again. The Market will wait though, at least until her 18th birthday, at which time she must make her final choice.
I think this book has by far the most in-depth world building and I was living for it. I found the Goblin Market most intriguing of the worlds we’ve seen so far and I appreciated the way the rules were both firm and yet hazy. The concept of fair value was really interesting and I loved how much the Market used its magic to enforce it.
Lundy shows a lot of character development as she hops back and forth across the years. I appreciated getting to know her and I wish we’d had a better idea of her character in the first book. Of all the worlds we’ve seen in the series, I think the Goblin Market is the one I’d be able to function in best, though it’s not one I’d want to stay in.
This book is bittersweet, especially knowing the events of Doorway beforehand. I loved it. Absent Dream really gave Sticks and Bones a run for its money for first place in my heart – Sticks and Bones wins out though, because I love the darkness of the Moors and I’m so desperate to learn more about the Master and the Doctor.
In all, this is a fantastic series, both diverse in characters and worlds. Seanan could write endless sequels and spinoffs and, dammit, I hope she does! There are a few illustrations scattered among all the books except Doorway (at least, my edition) and I think they’re underused. They appear at random and I need more of them! I need more of these books too! I don’t want to wait at least another year for more worlds and characters! –Veruca Salt voice- I want it nowwwwww.
Also, I have a suggested reading order that varies from the publication order: Sticks and Bones or Absent Dream first, followed by whichever you didn’t choose (I’m partial to Sticks and Bones if you couldn’t already tell), then Doorway, then Sugar Sky.
Here’s why: You don’t really need to know the events of Doorway before you read the prequels. I think you can read Absent Dream and Sticks and Bones without knowing there’s a school for children who come back from their worlds. Reading one of these first draws you in with magical worlds and the children who inhabit them. Then, if you read Doorway, you see what happens after and I think it would enable you to be more sympathetic to the characters who are trying to get back to their worlds, now that you’ve had a taste of what some of those worlds are like. Doorway is a bit of a kitchen sink book, in that there’s a lot to learn. Much like Nancy, the main character, is overwhelmed when she enters the school, it can be a lot for the reader to take in, especially when you start learning about the types of worlds (High Logic, Wicked, Nonsense, etc.) I think reading the two prequels first also gives you a better understanding of some of the characters in Doorway and their motivations.
But really, however you choose to read them, just read these books! Only don’t read Sugar Sky until after Doorway because otherwise, you’ll spoil some key events!