April 29, 2016

Turning Pages Reads: EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire

Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!

Synopsis: The story of children vanishing isn't new; they slip between worlds even when they're safely at home. Mostly girls, because they're quieter, and not as quickly missed when they're taken Underhill. At times, a changeling is left, made of mud and sticks... and, not much hue and cry is made. But when they're sucked into Fairyland, or dropped down a rabbit hole into Nonsense, or emerge into the Moors, or end up via the wardrobe in some Virtuous world where all is sunshine and unicorn and rainbows, it's not the disappearing that matters... The worst thing on earth is the bump when you land coming back.

And, what then?

Then you end up at Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children. On the surface of things, it's a reform school where your parents send you when you need straightening up. Once the front door closes, and they're safely back at home, there you find your tribe.

Nancy was the Princess-in-Waiting to the Lord of Death. Her black-and-white hair, habit of stillness, and grayscale color scheme bespeak her the world in which she once lived in a state of cool, bloodless peace with no haste. But, the world she's landed back in is colorful, cacophonous, and her parents don't know her anymore. Desperate, they steal her black clothes and send her away with a dreadful pink suitcase stuffed with rainbow-brights. Nancy's desperate with longing to find her door, and go back to where she feels she belongs. But, there is no going back. That's what the child-sized psychologist at her new school, Dr. Lundy, says. Restless, tree-climbing Sumi, Nancy's new roommate, agrees, stating that hope is the worst of the four-letter-words no one should say. Eleanor, the sixty-ish woman who runs the home, says that's not true - that some doors reappear for some kids. She knows exactly where her door is located, after all. She's only waiting to go home when it's the right time.

But, for some of the children, it won't ever be the right time. Tragedy stalks this tiny boarding school-cum-sanitarium and strikes just after Nancy's arrival. Suddenly all eyes are on her - the new girls who's ruined everything. Others are suspected in their turn -- but accusations and panic are spinning them all in tightening circles. She doesn't know anyone well enough to suspect them, but Nancy decides that no one has the right to determine who she is -- and battling suspicion, her fears, and a load of loss and near paralyzing grief, she and her newfound friends in this awful, beautiful world have to get to the heart of what's going on, before it's too late.

Observations: Readers who enjoyed MISS PEREGRINES HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN may find a sympathetic echo in this novel, but Ransom Riggs wrote more of a straightforward adventure story -- crossing into the Weird, and going home safely to familiarity at night, and returning at will. This is a darker, sadder story. The slim volume is one hundred, sixty-nine pages long and yet manages to get its claws into your heart.

Like Nancy, readers come into the world confused - without benefit of the orientation which takes place after her first night's sleep at the Home. We live, at first, in the expectation that all the quirky characters are going to be spontaneously entertaining - poof off somewhere, do something fun - but they don't. They grieve, and soon we become accustomed to that -- and then everything changes again.

The tension heightens, the screws tighten, and then All Is Revealed. The little revelations continue to spill along until the final one, which surprised me a bit. I had to think whether I wanted things to conclude in the way that they did, or not. I'm still not quite decided.

Conclusion: A gorgeous depth and stillness inhabits Seanan McGuire's prose in this brief literary fantasy. There is a diversity of age in this novel which allows it to cross over beautifully, and will be of interest to older teens who may find themselves jaded with fantasy novels of evil fey, or are searching for an offbeat novel about acceptance and finding one's tribe. There are some surprising moments - and attitudes in this novel, but the surprises make sense from the characters. I found this work seamless, and found myself tearing up a bit just from ...a gentle nostalgia for places that don't exist, to which I'm sure I ought to be going home. In two words, disturbingly beautiful.

I WON my copy of this book via a Tor.com contest which never, ever happens. You can find EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!

No comments: