Book Review: Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Posted August 28, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Misc. / 3 Comments

Book Review: Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
Genres: Dark Fantasy, YA
Published by Tor Books on June 13, 2017
Pages: 189
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

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Also by this author: Chimes at Midnight, Indexing, The Winter Long, The InCryptid Prequels, Pocket Apocalypse, A Red Rose Chain, Reflections, Once Broken Faith, "Dreams and Slumbers", Chaos Choreography, Magic For Nothing, Indigo, Every Heart a Doorway, The Brightest Fell, "Of Things Unknown", Beneath the Sugar Sky, Night and Silence, "Suffer a Sea-change", The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, "The Recitation of the Most Holy and Harrowing Pilgrimage of Mindy and Also Mork", Tricks for Free, That Ain't Witchcraft, "The Measure of a Monster", The Unkindest Tide, "Hope is Swift", Come Tumbling Down, Imaginary Numbers, "Follow the Lady", "The Fixed Stars", "Forbid the Sea", "No Sooner Met", Across the Green Grass Fields

Second in the Wayward Children dark fantasy series for Young Adult readers and revolving around children pulled into other worlds through doors. The focus is on the twins, Jack and Jill.

My Take

It was kind of weird reading this. Like reading a story backwards. Yes, it was good. It was very good, and it is fascinating to gain another perspective on this alternate plane of existence. Some reasons why the doors bring children to these worlds. And it did answer a lot of questions I had from Every Heart a Doorway, 1. And now, dammit, I want to read Beneath the Sugar Sky. Now. I have to know what happens after events in Every Heart a Doorway now that I know more about events in the Moors!!

Down Among the Sticks and Bones is almost a primer for how to raise a child. Just do the opposite of Serena and Chester. Lord, what a pair of twits these two are! It is a point that McGuire hammers home time and again about children growing up to be people with their own ideas and preferences. And it’s a common failing in many parents who expect their children to fulfill their dreams and desires without considering what their child might want. Too common for parents to compare one child to another, let alone comparing twins.

McGuire cracks me up with her assessment of children, the having thereof as ambushes. Heck, at least the parents had a choice; the girls didn’t. The girls’ childhood alone practically qualifies this story as a dark nightma…er, fantasy. Poor Jack is so entrenched against dirt that she constantly wears gloves and scrubs like crazy. Jill, on the other hand, has been so desperate for the pretty things a girl likes, that she takes to it whole hog.

Serena and Chester are so out in cloud-cuckoo land, they’re lying about Chester’s mom. He claims she’s a reputable nanny — his own mother! Serena acknowledges that she’s Chester’s mother but that she simply needs to be useful. God forbid these two coldhearted monsters should admit to being unable to handle their own children!

As for point-of-view, I can’t choose. It’s third-person point-of-view, but seems to veer from objective to subjective. It’s an impersonal narrator speaking from a distance for most of the story, but it’s interrupted with the thoughts and feelings of Jack, Jill, Dr. Bleak and Serena and Chester.

And I insist on knowing what happened to Gemma Lou!!

The Story

After twelve years of being forced into their individual, strict roles, spilling out into the Moors is freeing for Jacqueline and Jillian. They can be who they want to be without fear of correction.

And Jack and Jill embrace that freedom to do as they please, to explore their own preferences. A desire that leads to disaster.

The Characters

Jacqueline and Jillian are twins forced into their parents’ vision. Chester and Serena Wolcott are the ultimate yuppies, anxious to be socially acceptable, desperate to appear perfect, and selfish in their desire for attention. He’s a lawyer; she sits on the boards of various “elegant” nonprofits. Louise “Gemma Lou” Wolcott is Chester’s mother. Loving, disciplined, a dreamer who believes the world capable of kindness.

Dr. Tozer is the obstetrician.

The Moors are…
…an alternate plane of existence reached through a door. A land of eternal twilight of endless scientific experimentation and terrible consequences, surrounded by werewolves, gargoyles, and sea gods, and ruled by the Master, a vampire, but not one who is native to the Moors. Mary is a foundling who said no and became a maid.

Dr. Michel Bleak is not a native either and has a bargain with the Master. Dr. Ghast had been Bleak’s teacher. Don’t you love these gruesome names, lol.

Alexis Chopper is the resurrected daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Chopper who run the Sign of the Hind and Hare. Mr. Chopper had been a woodcutter before he settled to an innkeeper’s life.

The Cover and Title

The cover doesn’t remind me much of anything on the Moors, unless it’s meant as a metaphor for those bleak parents. There’s an old white trunk off-center, the lid partially raised, and a clear bright light emitting from within. That cheery light is a stark contrast to the tonal grays of the cover, an image that looks like a volcanic eruption hit. A gray cloudy sky with a rocky gray landscape of hills and gullies topped by a dead tree that appears to be kicking up its heel while waving its arms. The title wraps around the tree in a white and smoggy-gray while the author’s name is at the bottom in a white serif.

The title is how Dr. Bleak describes the Moors and their existence Down Among the Sticks and Bones.

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