When Jenna died, she blamed herself for that, too. Unfortunately Jenna died too soon. And now she must work to regain the years that were lost to her. But something has come for the ghosts of New York, something beyond reason, beyond death, beyond hope. And only Jenna stands in its way.
When Jenna’s sister Patty dies in New York, Jenna blames herself, can’t cope, and ends up also dying. Although Patty had died when her time had come, Jenna has died too early. Much too early. So now she’s a ghost in New York, trying to earn her extra time by talking down potential suicides. But then the other ghosts start disappearing, and Jenna discovers that she has more to do than work a suicide hotline if she is to save them, and herself, from a fate literally worse than death.
This is another of McGuire’s lyrical ghost stories, inventing a mythology for the USA. It’s only a novella (180 short pages), and it zips along, so it’s a good single sitting read.
Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.
Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realize it. They aren’t exactly gods either. Not entirely. Not yet.
Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not then father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.
Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained.
Annie Pearl is the keeper of oddities, the mistress of monsters. Her unique collection of creatures is one of the circus’s star attractions. But Annie is also a woman running from her past … and the mother of a mute young daughter, for whom she will do anything to protect.
Hoping to fill its coffers before winter sets in, the circus steers its wagons to The Clearing, a remote community deep in the Oregon wilderness, surrounded by an ominous dark wood. Word is that a traveling show can turn a tidy profit at The Clearing, but there are whispers, too, of unexplained disappearances that afflict one out of every four shows that pass through the town.
Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortatity. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea.
It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running.
They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner, the Phantom Prom Date, the Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by "Rose," a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her.
You can’t kill what’s already dead.
And when the night hails down and you’re afraid
That you’ll never get what you’re owed,
Go and talk to the girl in the green silk gown
Who died on Sparrow Hill Road.
16-year-old Rose Marshall died on her way to the prom, driven off the road by Bobby Cross. For the last 60 years she has walked the ghostroads, helping other car crash victims cross over safely, taking sustenance from the kindness of strangers. She is quite safe from the unkind strangers, being dead. But she is not safe from Bobby Cross, who needs to take her soul in his quest for immortality. She has spent the last 60 years running from him. But now she decides to run no more.
For the first few chapters, I didn’t really enjoy this. It’s very episodic, each chapter feeling a bit like a stand-alone short story. And it is trying to build a myth out of the depth of history, which I find hard to take seriously when it’s about American highways. (“Americans think 100 years is a long time, while the English think 100 miles is a long way.”) However, I persevered, as I like the author’s other work. And that perseverance was rewarded; the tale builds in depth, and character, and tension. Rose moves from being a naive teenager to an experienced ghostwalker (even if the timeline skips around, to help build the background), realising that she has to confront the being who killed her. And the various other characters – alive and dead – flesh things out well.
So as well as the gritty urban fantasy of the October Daye novels, here we have McGuire doing a more lyrical rural fantasy.
For Rose Marshall, death has long since become the only life she really knows. She's been sweet sixteen for more than sixty years, hitchhiking her way along the highways and byways of America, sometimes seen as an avenging angel, sometimes seen as a killer in her own right, but always Rose, the Phantom Prom Date, the Girl in the Green Silk Gown.
The man who killed her is still out there, thanks to a crossroads bargain that won’t let him die, and he’s looking for the one who got away. When Bobby Cross comes back into the picture, there’s going to be hell to pay—possibly literally.
Rose has worked for decades to make a place for herself in the twilight. Can she defend it when Bobby Cross comes to take her down? Can she find a way to navigate the worlds of the living and the dead, and make it home before her hitchhiker’s luck runs out?
There’s only one way to know for sure.
Nine will let you count the cost:
All you had and all you lost.
Ten is more than time can tell,
Cut the cord and ring the bell.
Count eleven, twelve, and then,
Thirteen takes you home again.
One’s for the shadow, one's for the tree,
And the last is for the blessing of Persephone.
Alex thought he was choosing the easier career when he decided to specialize in non-urban cryptids, leaving the cities to his little sister, Verity. He had no idea what he was letting himself in for. It’s a family affair, and everyone—from his reanimated grandfather to his slightly broken telepathic cousin—is going to find themselves drawn in before things get any better.
There are some things that you can train for. And then there are the things you have to figure out on the fly.
This is definitely the latter.
Australia, noun: A good place to become endangered.
Alexander Price has survived gorgons, basilisks, and his own family—no small feat, considering that his family includes two telepaths, a reanimated corpse, and a colony of talking, pantheistic mice. Still, he’s starting to feel like he’s got the hang of things…at least until his girlfriend, Shelby Tanner, shows up asking pointed questions about werewolves and the state of his passport. From there, it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump to Australia, a continent filled with new challenges, new dangers, and yes, rival cryptozoologists who don’t like their “visiting expert” very much.
Australia is a cryptozoologist’s dream, filled with unique species and unique challenges. Unfortunately, it’s also tilled with Shelby’s family, who aren’t delighted by the length of her stay in America. And then there are the werewolves to consider: infected killing machines who would like nothing more than to claim the continent as their own.
The continent that currently includes Alex.
Survival is hard enough when you’re on familiar ground. Alex Price is very far from home, but there’s one thing he knows for sure: he’s not going down without a fight.
As the youngest of the three Price children, Antimony is used to people not expecting much from her. She’s been happy playing roller derby and hanging out with her cousins, leaving the globe-trotting to her older siblings while she stays at home and tries to decide what she wants to do with her life. She always knew that one day, things would have to change. She didn’t think they’d change so fast.
Annie’s expectations keep getting shattered. She didn’t expect Verity to declare war on the Covenant of St. George on live television. She didn’t expect the Covenant to take her sister’s threat seriously. And she definitely didn’t expect to be packed off to London to infiltrate the Covenant from the inside...but as the only Price in her generation without a strong resemblance to the rest of the family, she’s the perfect choice to play spy. They need to know what’s coming. Their lives may depend on it.
But Annie has some secrets of her own, like the fact that she’s started setting things on fire when she touches them, and has no idea how to control it. Now she’s headed halfway around the world, into the den of the enemy, where blowing her cover could get her killed. She’s pretty sure things can’t get much worse.
Antimony Price is about to learn just how wrong it’s possible for one cryptozoologist to be.
Antimony Price is on the run. With the Covenant on her tail and her family still in danger, she needs to get far, far away from anyone who might recognize her—including her own mice. For the first time in a long time, a Price is flying without a safety net. Where do you go when you need to disappear into a crowd without worrying about attracting attention? An amusement park, of course.
Some people would call Lowryland the amusement park. It’s one of the largest in Florida, the keystone of the Lowry entertainment empire…but for Annie, it’s a place to hide. She’s just trying to keep her head down long enough to come up with a plan that will get her home without getting anyone killed. No small order when she’s rooming with gorgons and sylphs, trying to placate frustrated ghosts, and rushing to get to work on time.
Then the accidents begin. The discovery of a dead man brings Annie to the attention of the secret cabal of magic users running Lowryland from behind the scenes. They want the fire that sleeps in her fingers. They want her on their side. They want to help her—although their help, like everything else, comes with a price.
No plan. Minimal backup. No way out. Annie’s about to get a crash course in the reality behind the pretty façade. If she’s lucky, she’ll survive the experience.
Antimony Price has never done well without a support system. As the youngest of her generation, she has always been able to depend on her parents, siblings, and cousins to help her out when she’s in a pinch—until now. After fleeing from the Covenant of St. George, she’s found herself in debt to the crossroads and running for her life. No family. No mice. No way out.
Lucky for her, she’s always been resourceful, and she’s been gathering allies as she travels: Sam, fūri trapeze artist-turned-boyfriend; Cylia, jink roller derby captain and designated driver; Fern, sylph friend, confidant, and maker of breakfasts; even Mary, ghost babysitter to the Price family. Annie’s actually starting to feel like they might be able to figure things out—which is probably why things start going wrong again.
New Gravesend, Maine is a nice place to raise a family…or make a binding contract with the crossroads. For James Smith, whose best friend disappeared when she tried to do precisely that, it’s also an excellent place to plot revenge. Now the crossroads want him dead and they want Annie to do the dirty deed. She owes them, after all.
And that’s before Leonard Cunningham, aka, “the next leader of the Covenant,” shows up…
It’s going to take everything Annie has and a little bit more to get out of this one. It she succeeds, she gets to go home. If she tails she becomes one more cautionary tale about the dangers of bargaining with the crossroads.
But no pressure.
Maybe that time has finally come.
After spending the last several years recuperating in Ohio with her adoptive parents, Sarah is ready to return to the world—and most importantly, to her cousin Artie, with whom she has been head-over-heels in love since childhood. But there are cuckoos everywhere, and when the question of her own survival is weighed against the survival of her family, Sarah’s choices all add up to one inescapable conclusion.
This is war. Cuckoo vs. Price, human vs. cryptid…and not all at them are going to walk away.
Even by herself. After years of denial, the fact that she will always be a cuckoo has become impossible to deny.
Now stranded in another dimension with a handful of allies who seem to have no idea who she is—including her cousin Annie and her maybe-boyfriend Artie, both of whom have forgotten their relationship—and a bunch of cuckoos with good reason to want her dead, Sarah must figure out not only how to contend with her situation, but with the new realities of her future. What is she now? Who is she now? Is that person someone she can live with?
And when all is said and done, will she be able to get the people she loves, whether or not they’ve forgotten her, safely home?
Good advice…especially when a story can kill you.
For most people, the story of their lives is just that: the accumulation of time, encounters, and actions into a cohesive whole. But for an unfortunate few, that day-to-day existence is affected—perhaps infected is a better word—by memetic incursion: where fairy tale narratives become reality, often with disastrous results.
That’s where the ATI Management Bureau steps in, an organization tasked with protecting the world from fairy tales, even while most of their agents are struggling to keep their own fantastic archetypes from taking over their lives. When you’re dealing with storybook narratives in the real world, it doesn’t matter if you’re Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or the Wicked Queen: no one gets a happily ever after.
Special Agent Henrietta Marchen works for the ATI Bureau, keeping the world safe from narrative incursion. And she knows the problems better than many: she’s an unactivated Snow White, and needs to avoid apples. Her partners include an activated Shoemaker’s Elf, and an unactivated Wicked Sister, who could be trying to murder her. And Henry might just need to activate a Pied Piper to solve her latest case.
The book started life as a serialised novel, and I thought it was going to be rather patchy, with a disjoint “monster of the episode” structure, and a lot of recapitulation to help new readers. But is soon settles down into a solid arc, and early events that seem to be unconnected all come together. It’s got a good snarky vibe, and an interesting play on fairy tales, how we don’t know the old ones that well any more, and how new ones are coming in to take their place.
The struggle against not-so-charming storybook narratives isn$rsquo;t the only complicating factor in Henrietta “Henry” Marchen’s life. As part of the ATI Management Bureau team protecting the world from fairy tales gone awry, she’s wrestling with her unwanted new status as a Snow White, dealing with a potentially dangerous Pied Piper, and wrangling a most troublesome wicked stepsister—along with a budding relationship with Jeff, her teammate.
But when a twisted, vicious Cinderella breaks out of prison and wreaks havoc, things go from disenchanted to deadly. And once Henry realizes someone is trying to use her to destroy the world, she knows that a new story is beginning—and this one might not have a happily ever after.
Henry Marchen’s life gets even more complicated now that she is an activated Snow White. She has to lead her team against a rogue Cinderella, which might mean that she has to embrace her status, which might kill her. And in trying to save the world, she puts her team in terrible danger.
This sequel carries on directly from where the previous book left off, with the team undergoing a review of that case. Again we have a few seemingly disjoint chapters, and again they are shown to be more relevant than we first realised. We find out more about Henry’s brother who escaped being a Rose Red, and much more about Sloane and how she got to be a Wicked Sister. We see some of the tragic downsides of incarcerating activated fairy tale characters to protect the rest of the world, and we learn more about the original form of various fairy tales.
Although we know from this style of book that everything will work out in the end, it’s not at all clear how that will happen, and who will suffer and be lost along the way. I’m looking forward to more tales in this world.
Sir Toby Daye is a Changeling: half human, half fae, fitting in neither world. She was a PI working for the fae, but now, barely recovered from a traumatic captivity, is passing as human, ekeing out a minimum wage existence in San Francisco. But when an old pureblood friend is murdered, cursing Toby with her dying breath to find her killers, she is thrown back into the deadly fae world.
This is a combination of urban fantasy and noir detective work. Toby is the kind of detective who gets beat up and shot until she figures out who the bad guys are. This is lifted above the ordinary by having a rich backstory (for example, this incident where Toby got her hotly-contested knighthood is mentioned only in passing) and a dark, complex fae society. There are lots of different races of fae, useful to ensure that not everyone has a complete set of superpowers.
Toby solves this crime, but it costs her dearly. The main story finishes, but there are oodles of loose threads ready for a series. I'm interested to see if she uses the same blood-spattered detection techniques in her future cases.
Sir Toby Daye's liege, Sylvester, has sent her off on a mission to discover why his niece January has dropped out of contact. It's politically sensitive, as January's domain sits on a sensitive border, but it seems a simple enough task, and so Sylvester gets Toby to take along Quentin, as part of his training. Of course, it's not at all simple, and Toby becomes trapped in a battle with a serial killer.
More great urban fantasy, here in a high tech software company. It uses the classic "last man standing" ploy for identifying the killer (although the identity is pretty obvious early on), and again, Toby sheds a lot of blood along the way, and pays a high price in the end. We get to see a few new kinds of Fae, plus more on the problem of being a Changeling who can't fit into either the human or the Fae world. One niggle: Toby seems to have mostly forgotten about her previous family. Will that plot point re-emerge later in the series?
Children -- pureblood, changeling, human -- have been stolen, including two from Toby Daye's best friends. So she sets out to get them back. But the thief is Blind Michael, stealing new children to make up his Wild Hunt. Toby will have to travel to his realm by one of the three deadly paths. And her Fetch has turned up on her doorstep, so she knows this quest will end in her death. But can she get the children back first?
This has Toby firmly back in the land of the Fae, where she gets put through the wringer more than once. The pace doesn't let up, and the ghastly ghostly dark lands where Blind Michael rules and brilliantly atmospheric. There's no real detecting here, just a quest to free the stolen kids. But Toby has to fight the bad guys just as much. And the interaction with children keeps bringing her back to thoughts of her own lost daughter.
Based on a survey of three so far, I think the books set mainly in Fae's domains work better than those more in the "real" world: a combination of Toby's kick-ass grit and the dangerous Fae works better than kick-ass grit in mundania.
Sir Toby Daye suffers again for Faerie. This time, her friend Lily, and her liege's wife Luna, are being poisoned. She knows the culprit is Oleander, who was responsible for her own loss of 14 years. But Luna's mad daughter Raysel is determined to implicate Toby, and the Queen of Faerie also wants Toby dead. And indeed, no-one else can detect Oleander. Is Toby instead going mad as part of her Changeling curse? Worse still, Toby's Fetch, May, is sure their time is soon.
More fast frantic action as Toby goes up against powerful foes, but discovers just how many friends she has. I'm not sure how much more the pain level can ramp up: Toby barely recovers from one set of most-painful-ever injuries before encountering a new even-more-painful set. But she bulls through in her own inimitable fashion. And she discovers some interesting things about her past, which are bound to have interesting consequences in the future...
Countess Toby Daye is settling in to her new role in the Goldengreen knowe, when, as usual, disaster strikes. Someone has kidnapped the two sons of Duchess Diana Lorden of the Undersea. If the sons are not returned within three days, the Undersea will go to war with the Queen of the Mists, and a lot of people will die. Toby promises to find them, return them, and uncover the culprit. And then things get personal.
An interesting expansion of the mythology, incorporating the undersea kingdom and its denizens. We already know Connor is a Selkie, but here we get the whole nine yards. There's a little less slam-bam action than in previous books, as Toby races around, trying to find who has taken the children (clear fairly soon on), and where they have been taken (which requires interrogating a few reticent rocks), whilst foiling the odd assassination attempt. It does, however, build up to a shattering finale. It will be interesting to see what Toby does next.
!!! WARNING : SPOILERS FOR One Salt Sea !!!
Sir Toby Daye is causing concern to her friends: since losing both Connor and her daughter, she has been putting herself in stupid danger. However, that all changes when Etienne, another of Sylvester's knights, comes to her with a most unlikely call for help: his daughter Chelsea is missing. Worse than that, she's a changeling who can't control her powers, which might just rip Faerie apart. Toby is now back on track doing what she does best: risking her life to save children. And Tybalt, King of the Cats, lends a paw.
Toby suffers again, but this time it's more physical than mental anguish, as she struggles to find Chelsea, with the bad guys and a treacherous cat faction against her. However, she is now more willing to let her friends help her out. There is another shattering finale, but it's not personally shattering for Toby, so it is all rather less traumatic than usual. Indeed, if it wasn't for the fact there is another book announced, I would be happy to believe this was the end of the series. And a very good series it is too, so I'm glad Toby will be back.
Toby’s efforts to take the problem to the Queen of the Mists are met with harsh reprisals, leaving her under sentence of exile from her home and everyone she loves. Now Toby must find a way to reverse the Queen’s decree, get the goblin fruit off the streets—and, oh, yes, save her own life, since more than a few of her problems have once again followed her home. And then there’s the question of the Queen herself, who seems increasingly unlikely to have a valid claim to the throne…
To find the answers, October and her friends will have to travel from the legendary Library of Stars into the hidden depths of the Kingdom of the Mists—and they’ll have to do it fast, because time is running out. In Faerie, some fates are worse than death.
October Daye is about to find out what they are.
Sir Toby Daye discovers an epidemic of goblin fruit on the streets. The drug is debilitating for Faerie, but is lethally addictive to halfbreeds and humans. Toby has to do the right thing, so she raises the issue with the Queen of the Mists, without much hope for a solution. But the Queen’s response is worse than she could imagine. So Toby finds herself in another race against time to save not only the kids at risk of goblin fruit, but herself. A lot of people are going to be very annoyed with her.
Again, Toby gets put through the wringer. But now, she has a gang of friends to help her; although that does mean that some of them get put through the wringer, too. But this is yet another great race against time. Like all these books, the events along the way, and the solution, have real consequences, for the people involved, and for future plot possibilities.
She was wrong.
It’s time to learn the truth.
Sir Toby Daye’s job is to fight the bad guys on behalf of the good guys. She is very good at her job. But now, she discovers that some of the good guys might have been deceiving her, and some of the bad guys might have a different view of events. She has to relearn where she stands, who she can rely on, and who she fights.
In some sense the previous seven books have been getting Toby to this point, where she can start asking the right questions, and where she has the strength, and the backing, to cope with the dangerous answers. As ever, things rapidly get complicated, and seem likely to stay that way for a while yet, as those answers lead to yet more questions, and to more dangerous foes.
How far will Toby go when lives are on the line, and when allies both old and new are threatened by a force she had never expected to face again? How much is October willing to give up, and how much is she willing to change? In Faerie, what’s past is never really gone.
It’s just waiting for an opportunity to pounce.
Sir Toby Daye is given her hardest task ever: Queen Windermere sends her to the neighbouring Silences as a diplomat to prevent a war. Diplomacy is not exactly her strong point. So it comes as no surprise when her solution to avoiding the impending hostilities is somewhat undiplomatic.
Despite her magical self-healing abilities, Toby isn’t invulnerable, and it’s interesting to see her here, well outside her comfort zone, subject to some old enemies and weaknesses. Her solution to her task comes as no surprise once the possibility has appeared, but it’s always interesting to watch Toby, and now her gang, power through the bad guys with a real possibility of failure.
And the way she solves the problem is going to change everything.
Now the events she unwittingly set in motion could change the balance of modern Faerie for ever, and she has been ordered to appear before a historic convocation of monarchs, hosted by Queen Windermere in the Mists and overseen by the High King and Queen themselves.
Naturally, things are barely underway when the first dead body shows up. As the only changeling in attendance, Toby is already the target of suspicion and hostility. Now she needs to find a killer before they strike again – and with the doors locked to keep the guilty from escaping, no one is safe.
As danger draws ever closer to her allies and the people she loves best, Toby will have to race against time to prevent the total political destabilisation of the West Coast and to get the convocation back on track… and if she fails, the cure for elf-shot may be buried for ever, along with the victims she was too slow to save.
At the end of A Red-Rose Chain, Toby solves her problem in a way that will change everything. And not everyone in Faerie is happy with change. So a Convocation is assembled, to discuss if Toby’s solution should be embraced, or suppressed. Toby is invited along to testify. Then the murders start, and Toby has a new set of problems to solve. And her solution this time could cause another headache for Faerie. Maybe they should just stop asking her to solve their problems…
Another great outing for Toby Daye, as she is enmeshed ever deeper, and always unwilling, in Faerie politics. Here she is, outranked by nearly everyone at the Convocation, given a task to do, then put in a situation where it is nearly impossible to do it. Just another day in Faerie for Toby, then.
My edition includes a novella, “Dreams and Slumbers”, after the main novel (which, irritatingly, therefore finishes about 70pp before I thought it would). This follows on directly from the main action, told from Queen Windemere’s point of view, as she tries to save her brother. Here we get to see Toby as others see her, as a sort of lethal whirlwind messing up the lives of all who come into contact with her; we learn a bit more about the Luidaeg, too.
With no first-hand knowledge of her sister—who has been missing since 1906—Toby must do the unthinkable, and consult the one person who knew August best: August’s father, Simon Torquill. The man who once ruined Toby’s mortal life by transforming her into a fish is now the only one who can save her.
Trusting an enemy-turned-ally like Simon is out of the question, but without his help, finding August may be impossible…and without August, there’s no way Toby is ever bringing her own family home. Together, Toby and Simon will have to solve one of the greatest mysteries in the Mists—and they must do it quickly. Amandine’s patience is short, and Toby’s world hangs in the balance.
She’s never had so much to lose.
In the aftermath of Amandine’s latest betrayal, October “Toby” Daye’s fragile self-made family is on the verge of coming apart at the seams. Jazz can’t sleep, Sylvester doesn’t want to see her, and worst of all, Tybalt has withdrawn from her entirely, retreating into the Court at Cats as he tries to recover from his abduction. Toby is floundering, unable to help the people she loves most heal. She needs a distraction. She needs a quest.
What she doesn’t need is the abduction of her estranged human daughter, Gillian. What she doesn’t need is to be accused of kidnapping her own child by her ex-boyfriend and his new wife, who seems to be harboring secrets of her own. There’s no question of whether she’ll take the case. The only question is whether she’s emotionally prepared to survive it.
Signs of Faerie’s involvement are everywhere, and it’s going to take all Toby’s nerve and all her allies to get her through this web of old secrets, older hatreds, and new deceits. If she can’t find Gillian before time runs out, her own child will pay the price.
Two questions remain: Who in Faerie remembered Gillian existed? And what do they stand to gain?
No matter how this ends, Toby’s life will never be the same.
When the Luidaeg—October “Toby” Daye’s oldest and most dangerous ally—tells her the time has come for the Selkies to fulfill their side of the bargain, and that Toby must be a part of the process, Toby can’t refuse. Literally. The Selkies aren’t the only ones in debt to the Luidaeg, and Toby has to pay what she owes like anyone else. They will travel to the fabled Duchy of Ships and call a convocation of the Selkies, telling them to come and meet the Luidaeg’s price…or face the consequences.
Of course, nothing is that simple. When Dianda Lorden’s brother appears to arrest Dianda for treason against the Undersea, when a Selkie woman is stripped of her skin and then murdered, when everything is falling apart, that’s when Toby will have to answer the real question of the hour.
Is she going to sink? Or is she going to swim?
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 newfound schoolmates to get to the heart of things. No matter the cost.
There are adventures to be had in fantasy lands. But what happens when you come back from Fairyland, or Narnia, or wherever? How do you readjust to Mundania? Can you readjust? Or will you break, fruitlessly searching for your lost life, your true home?
Eleanor West runs a boarding schools for those children who can’t readjust. Their parents think them damaged, or wayward, or mad. Eleanor knows better, having herself returned from a Netherworld. Most learn to cope, in the company of those who understand. A few, a very few, find their way back. But when new girl Nancy arrives, dark things start happening, and the school itself is threatened. Is Nancy the source, or the trigger, of these events?
Life After Fantasy has always struck me as an issue. The scene at the end of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where the Pevensie children return home after decades in Narnia, always horrified me: they had been adult royalty; how did they cope with being ordinary children again? Jo Walton tackles this issue in her wonderful short story, Relentlessly Mundane. Here Seanan McGuire tackles it differently, in a 170pp novella.
Despite wanting to go to Lewis’ Narnia (for the Talking Animals, if not for the sexism, racism, classism, bad theology, and shoddy plotting), and to Phillips’ Fairyland, I didn’t find myself attracted to any of the Netherworlds described by McGuire. (And I don’t think that’s just because there are no Pauline Baynes illustrations, or that I am half a century older than when I read the originals.) However, that lack of attraction is not a problem: it just serves to illustrate how everyone is different, and what is hearts-ease for one may be horror for another. But, consistently, Mundania is home for none.
This is not a typical school story, as it does not dwell on any lessons, except for some interesting Netherworld classification schemes. Nancy as new girl allows for some expository passages, but not that many. The tale focuses mainly on the deadly goings-on that threaten the school. And even there, we do not get a lot, since this is a novella. But McGuire does paint vivid pictures of the various main characters, and the very different homes they wish to return to. I wish this was a novel rather than a novella, and you can’t say fairer than that.
This is the story of what happened first…
Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.
Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill seeking, and a bit of a tomboy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.
They were five when they learned that grownups can’t be trusted.
They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you for a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.
We first meet ‘identical’ twins Jack, apprentice to a mad scientist, and Jill, wannabe vampire, in Every Heart a Doorway. This is their backstory: their terrible life in Mundania, their escape to their own fantasy land, their training there and how it made and broke them, and why they returned back to their parents’ house (I cannot say to their home).
This is another novella, and so not much space to spare on inessentials. I suppose it is necessary to spend several chapters to show why their prior home life as Jacqueline and Jillian is so bad that the fantasy land is such a release. But I would have like to see more of Jack’s life in particular: apprentice to a mad scientist. We move very briskly from their arrival to their pitchfork-assisted departure, and get to understand very well why they end up as they do.
I’m very glad that Wayward Children has turned out to be a series.
When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can’t let Reality get in the way of her objective—not when she has an entire world to save!
Good thing the student body is well-acquainted with quests…
The residents at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children are used to strange occurrences, for each has been to a fantasy world of their own, which has ejected them, and to which they long to return. Yet even they are surprised when a strange girl, Rini, lands with a splash, looking for her mother. For Suni died at the school, many years before her daughter would have been born. But Rini needs to find Suni to save her entire world. It’s a pity the Home has a rule against quests.
So, naturally, this is a quest. We meet characters we have seen before, all broken in their own ways by their past experiences, who band together to help Rini in her quest. Given this is a novella, the plot is fairly linear, but we get to see a couple of strange worlds, the characters grow and learn about themselves, and there is a satisfying resolution to the main issue.
Another good addition to the series. Even if it did make my teeth ache in places.
When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the Goblin Market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.
This latest entry in the Wayward Children series is stand alone: we follow the story of Katherine Lundy from when she first discovers her own fantasy world of the Goblin Market, with its rigidly enforced rules of fair exchange, until the fateful day she has to decide whether to stay with her family, or stay in the world of her heart’s desire.
The other books in the series show the devastating effect on the children of being returned to their mundane worlds. Here we see the devastating effects on the family of the children disappearing in the first place. I find it interesting that of all the various fantasy world McGuire has shown us in this series, absolutely none of them sound like a place I would want to spend more than a few minutes, yet they are clearly ideal homes for the characters in the stories, who nevertheless are rudely evicted. At least here, Lundy is given the choice. Someone so keen on following rules and regulations should have a better understanding of the price of exploiting loopholes.
But death in their adopted world isn’t always as permanent as it is here, and when Jack is herself carried back into the school, it becomes clear that something has happened to her. Something terrible. Something of which only the maddest of scientists could conceive. Something only her friends are equipped to help her overcome.
Eleanor West’s “No Quests” rule is about to be broken.
Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late.
When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to “Be Sure” before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines—a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes.
But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem…