Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

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Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

Published by Tor.com


 

An eARC of this book was received by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


 

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is a strange school which is home to stranger students.  These students ceased to be ordinary the moment they discovered doorways into worlds beyond this one – worlds as unlike this one as it is possible to be, places where skeletons dance and smile, places where death rules, places where everything is pure nonsense.  All of these children have found their way “home”, having been rejected or thrust out of their otherworlds.  All of these children have been changed by their time in their otherworlds, and, not fitting into their old lives and families, they are sent to Eleanor West’s Home instead.

In Every Heart a Doorway, McGuire follows an old pathway, but you needn’t worry that you’ll find a tired Narnia or Oz in these pages, or any of the same old children.  These worlds are not mirrors, but truly something other, and are as varied as the children who find their way to them.  Limited by the novella length, we see only glimpses of many of the worlds, and yet all of the worlds feel like vivid, living places – more real than the world outside the Home, that much is certain, and it is easy to understand the almost visceral longing the children have to return to them.

If the concept of otherworlds still has you yawning, then pick this novella up for the characters alone.  Each of them is as vivid as the otherworld they visited, and as diverse – for example,there is an asexual character and a character who has gender dysphoria.  And better, none of these characters suffer pressure within the Home to be anything but what they are.  They are informed in part by these identities, but for none of them is it the whole of what they are.  None of them exist as a hat tip to diversity, or to mark a check on some invisible list – they are all faceted, complex characters, and each of them lives and breathes on the page.  For once, I actually found it extremely difficult to pick out a favourite character, because I fell hard in love with all of them, and all of them for different reasons.

I’ve been a fan of McGuire’s work for some time, writing under both Seanan McGuire and as Mira Grant, and I feel like this work perhaps represents the pinnacle (so far) of her work.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone, no matter whether they’ve read her work before.

This is a story of pure wonder, of acceptance and the longing for a true home.  There is plenty of darkness (after all, there are children who visit lands of death, after all) but in the end, there is also hope.  I hope this novella ends up on All of the Awards, for it truly deserves them.

 

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