In an Absent Dream, by Seanan McGuire ★★★★½

Read 1/26/20 – 1/27/20

Let’s be clear, Seanan McGuire is perfect in all ways; she can do no wrong. I think anything and everything I’ve said about the Wayward Children’s series (Books 1, 2, and 3) pretty much apply here. Not since Harry Potter have I felt such a strong connection to a world. I said something similar about Scythe by Neal Shusterman, which will almost certainly be in my top books of the year (I should do that for 2019…). However, McGuire’s Wayward Children series is something different. It connects to me and my my fantastical imagination in a way that Scythe just can’t. That is why I will forever love this series and lament the day we have to see it end.

Seanan McGuire continues the series by taking us on yet another fantastical tell of longing to belong. In this tale, we follow a young girl who travels to a goblin market where fair trade is everything. There, she befriends a young girl. What follows is her attempt to learn the rules of the road. All the while, it seems there is a tug-a-war between the goblin market and earth. This is a story about fairness, and when we think about that, we have to think about what traveling does to our family. Children are young and impressionable; we don’t know what we want. When faced with the facts of reality we come to realize sometimes life isn’t fair. Sometimes life means making hard choices that don’t end well either way.

I am now one away from being caught up with this series. Book five has only just come out, and I will probably read it in March (February is black history month; spoilers for February TBR post). Once I do that, I’ll probably start the series over again. Ever since I started reading one of these a month, the highlight of my month has always the Wayward Children series. I want to be forever lost in this world. Except, I don’t really, because as great as it sounds, it is still so full of sad endings. Nevertheless, I read this, and I feel like I am a part of the story. I write about what these characters do, and my instinct is to talk as if I was a part of the journey with “we”, “us”, and “our.” I realized that and was amazed that I was talking as if this was my story too. That speaks to how engaging these stories are. I feel like I am a part of this story; every action they make is my own.

Do I need to say it? I highly recommend this book and series. 4.5/5 stars

Rating Break Down
Writing Style: 10/10
Plot: 8/10
Characters: 9/10
Ending: 9/10
Engagement: 9/10
Enjoyment: 10/10
Comprehension: 10/10
Pacing: 8/10
Desire to Reread: 10/10
Special: 7/10
Final Rating: 4.65/5
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance.

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire ★★★★★

Read 12/12/19

After finishing the first three books in McGuire’s Wayward Children series, I feel pretty confident McGuire could do just about anything in this world and I’ll love it. I’ve discussed in my reviews of books one and two how much I love the world shes crafted. Added on that is her beautiful writing that effortlessly sets just the right tone of love, mysticism, and loss.

In Beneath the Sugar Sky, we get our first glimpse of the Nonsense World alluded to in the first book of the series. Cause and effect contradict each other as the consequences of the previous stories propigate into the Nonsense World. What follows is a quest through various world as our characters seek to fix the mess they’ve found themselves in.

The quest itself isn’t what makes this story stands out. In fact, I would argue it is the least compelling plot of the series so far. The story shines at how it uses the scope to convey a new level of understanding and appreciation of how the Wayward Children’s Universe works. McGuire takes us into worlds that we’ve only ever dreamed of in a way that embodies the full potential of what McGuire has created.

Perhaps what this story does best is set us up for a future of neverending Wayward Children stories. If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably already invested in the world, so this story will probably work for you. I know it worked for me. I absolutely adored it. 5/5 stars.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire ★★★★★

Finished 11/14/19

This is book two of the Wayward Children series, and I may even have enjoyed it more than the first. The series follows a group of children and their experiences entering these fantastical worlds much like the wardrobe in the Chronicles of Narnia. Doors appear to children in need and take them to a world that best suits them. This is important because they are not all a realm of happy ever after. There are world that bend the human psyche and worlds that are more dangerous than we know.

If you read the first book (if you haven’t, you should!), you will be familiar with our main characters, Jack (Jacqueline ) and Jill (Jillian). In the first book, they are just minor characters, and in Sticks and Bones, we get to see their story. In Every Heart, I loved it for the concept and the “world” more than the story itself. It played with the idea of how children are to cope in the real world once they’ve left the worlds of magic. Here, I love the story because of the world we are in.

I’ve never read Jekyll & Hyde, but I can’t help but think of it. Our two central other-world characters aren’t the same person (spoilers), but they represent two distinctly different mindsets in the world. For the rest of this paragraph, I am going to do a slight overview of the world with only as much detail as we got from the first book. We have a “good” doctor and a much darker “Master.” The master is, very obviously to us, a vampire, and he has control over the town.

This wasn’t a horror story, but it was deliciously dark. I love the idea of dark worlds existing alongside the good. I had this terrible idea of the Hellraiser Cenobite dimension existing in this world. Of course, that doesn’t belong in a child’s world, but the whole concept behind Hellraiser is about an underlying desire that may get you more than you really wanted. There is just so much freedom in this world McGuire has made, and I can’t help but love it.

the Cenobites featured in Hellraiser

The story itself follows the two twins, Jack and Jill. From the start, we get a great picture of the type of parents they have, and that is a great way to introduce us to what this story really is. It isn’t just a fantastical tale. It is a story about how life shapes a young child, and it is how life can warp an innocent mind and turn it so very dark. Hinting at this, isn’t a spoiler because it’s discussed in the first novel. We know the broad strokes just not the finer details.

I loved the book for all of it. This was a story set in one of my new favorite fictional “worlds.” It is unique and dark, and it explores the nature of people. I can’t wait to read the next one! 5/5 stars.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire ★★★★★ (Wayward Children #1)

Started 10/30/19

I was reviewing my TBR for October, and I realized a week or so ago I added Every Heart a Doorway. I immediately thought, there’s no way I can do this; I just don’t have the time. Fast forward to now (next day), and dear god was I wrong. This story is utter perfection. I came into this fresh off the Wizard of Earthsea, and it is just what I need. It is everything I want in a story. It may be my favorite of the year.

We all know the classic story of Narnia. A child steps through a doorway to far away magical land and experiences something previously only ever dreamed of. Fast forward and the story is over. They’re back in their old world, forced to live separate but forever knowing. Imagine what that must be like. Imagine the pain and heart ache you would feel to step into that world then be ripped away from it. Never before has an author (I know of) so perfectly explored the sad reality that must accompany this classic tale of magic and whimsy. It is devastating and all too real.

I still have a small piece of the book left, but I’m confident this will earn its place as one of the best I’ve read all year. Where Earthsea felt traditional (it is half a century old to be fair), Every Heart a Doorway is fresh and poignant.

Finished 10/31/19

There isn’t much more to say beyond what I’ve already said. I love this story. The plot of this novella approaches fairly abruptly, but it all wraps up cleanly and nicely. This might be my favorite book of the year not only for the concept but also the style. The concept for this series is fairly dark, and McGuire does not shy away from that, and the writing feels natural and more mature than what I am used to in YA stories. Maybe I have a misconception of what YA has to offer. I’ll definitely be giving this series more of my time and probably more YA too. Highly recommended 5/5 Stars.