Book Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Posted August 14, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: Every Heart a Doorway 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.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Published by Tor on April 5, 2016
Pages: 169
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, 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

First in the Wayward Children urban fantasy series for Young Adult readers and revolving around children spit back by their magical land, children who 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.

In 2017, Every Heart a Doorway won the Locus Award for Best Novella and the Alex Award. In 2016, it won the Nebula Award for Best Novella and was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Fantasy.

My Take

At last! An explanation for those children who feel they are in the wrong place.

It’s a creepy blend of Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, Little Monsters, and the like. Quite the depressing little story with so many kids rejected by their families for being different. Kade especially has my sympathy. Nor does it help that McGuire tells her way throughout Every Heart a Doorway.

Intellectually, it grabs me, but without pulling me in emotionally, I simply read and didn’t cry. That’s not to say that I’m not looking forward to seeing where McGuire goes with Down Among the Sticks and Bones, for how can a writer follow this?

It’s an emotional hook in a found narrative plot beat that pulled me in, as McGuire causes Eleanor to sound as if she’s plotting to do horrible things to the children brought to her. A schtick she’s perfected over the years. But that too was merely intellectual. The crisis point barely registers and was an opportunity McGuire should have exploited to make me afraid.

Not even third-person protagonist point-of-view from Nancy’s perspective could pull me in, for her experiences in the Underworld don’t move me. Well, they didn’t move her either…not to be too snarky…

I do like the idea of each child being pulled to the world that best suits them, “…where she could wear it proudly, not hide it away. That was her real story. Finding a place where she could be free. … [A world] that understood you so well that it had reached across realities to find you…”

The Story

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced…they change a person. Changes which 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 the matter.

No matter the cost.

The Characters

Nancy Whitman is back from the Halls of the Dead, sent back by the Lord of the Dead who wanted her to be very sure. A world where she learned complete stillness and lost her need for food.

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is…
…a boarding school for troubled children and run by Eleanor West, who used to be Ely West the Wayward Girl who visited a Nonsense world all those decades ago. Lundy, another of the teachers, had been to a high Logic, high Wicked world where she was forced out at 18 in spite of the bargain she made.

Sumi, Eleanor’s ward, went to a high Nonsense world, a mirror world, Confection, and will be Nancy’s roommate. Kade Bronson’s parents don’t want him back, not unless he’s willing to go back to being Katie. He went to Prism, a Fairyland, a high Logic world pretending to be high Nonsense, where he became the Goblin Prince in Waiting. He likes to sew and tracks the clothing left behind that newcomers can use.

The very creepy twins who went to the Moors are Jacqueline “Jack” who worked for a mad scientist in her world, Dr. Bleak, while Jillian “Jill” was “beloved” of their Master, a vampire. Christopher carries the bone flute he brought back from the Country of the Bones where his Skeleton Girl lives.

Other students include Seraphina who “is a rancid bucket of leeches on the inside … with a face that could move angels to murder”; Loriel Youngers went to Webworld, a high Logic world, where the Queen of Dust is anxiously awaiting her return; and, Angela is another judgmental snot.

Nonsense, Logic, Wicked, and Virtue are the primary types of worlds with many variations in between including being high or low with touches of the others.

The Cover and Title

The cover is is so innocent with the woodland scene at sunrise, a new-looking oak door in its jamb, standing ajar, inviting you to come through. It’s safe enough, for you can see both sides… There’s a testimonial at the top with the white title disappearing as it goes through the door, only to become solid again on the other side. The author’s name is below this in a white serif font

The title is true for the kids and some of the instructors, for Every Heart [is] a Doorway to the land to which they long to return.

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2 responses to “Book Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

  1. This does sound interesting but I’ll probably pass on it. I like to be pulled in fairly quickly and kept there. Thanks for sharing your review. And I loved Little Monsters.

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