The more Wayward Children books I read, the more I feel like they come in two types. There seems to be a main thread which holds true to the premise of the series, aka what happens to (portal fantasy) children, when they come back from their quest? And a second category which seems to mimic more traditional portal fantasies, aka separate the MC from the normal world and let her go on a QUEST!!
Of the parts of this series I’ve reviewed for this blog, In an Absent Dream seemed to belong more to category two, while Come Tumbling Down seemed to fit more in category one.
I’m finding that despite exactly everything this series is attempting to subvert, I still seem to like ‘type two’ installments better. In some ways, they read more like the traditional portal fantasy which I know and love.
Luckily for me then, Across the Green Grass Fields (AtGGF), was more ‘type two’.
Of course, I think the parts of this book which resonated with so many people, and hit the hardest (therefore making it a Hugo contender), take place ‘IRL’ before Regan ever crosses over into the Hooflands. It’s in her life as an everyday girl, combatting the changes of puberty, as well as an almost Mean Girls level of social stratification that we find the hurt and meaning of this well crafted story. In short, how devastating it can be to perform girlhood incorrectly.
Listening to the beginning of this novella was a stark reminder of just how cruel children can be, and just how much trauma can occur at such a young age (and how strict the culture is on young girls (and later women))
Then, we cross over into the Hooflands, and the adventure starts. I’ve read some comments that the worldbuilding here is sub-par but I still found it to be engaging and awe inspiring, as any magical realm should be.
Perhaps in the mode of someone looking for a door myself, I just wanted to stay in this world and peel it back layer by layer. What mystical creatures could we take for granted? What even stranger beasts might we see when we go to the fair? How might our preconceived notions unravel as we venture out into the wilds?
Some of the denizens of the Hooflands were familiar while others were not. Maybe someday I’ll try to chase down all the references and see what might have inspired the creatures and culture we experienced within this volume.
Finally, there was the ending . . . I won’t spoil it here, but I think in many ways it was also a subversion, and — maybe because I’m just stuck in my ways — probably the novella’s weakest point.
Alright, but Should it Win the HUGO?!!
This was a pretty tough call, which ultimately came down to more subjective than objective reasoning. I really enjoyed AtGGF and I would definitely recommend it to anyone. In terms of Wayward Children installments, I felt it was more the type of story I was looking for than the previous novella.
However, the competition for ‘Best Novella’ is fierce, and I just enjoyed Psalm for the Wild-Built more (but I probably enjoyed AtGGF more than The Past is Red).
So, no. If the award was left only up to me, I would not give Across the Green Grass Fields a Hugo for Best Novella . . .
What are your thoughts? Did I miss my mark? What was your favorite part about this book? What was your favorite creature from the Hooflands? Was it the Peryton? Apparently they were invented by Jorge Louis Borges in the mid-1900s . . . the more you know!!!
Let me know your answers in the comments. See you next time!!
I don’t suppose I’ve read many of the Hugo eligible (is there a shortlist already? I don’t really know how it works, haha) novellas but I agree that this one probably falls short of ‘best’.
Hey! Nominees were announced back in April? And then the Award were actually given out over Labor Day weekend:
Looks like Psalm for the Wild-Built won this category which is what I was hoping would happen.
I think this is the only spec fic award I track with any consistency just cause I’m in the habit of it now. And usually reading the short lists exposes me to a couple things I might not normally read 🙂
Okay, so five minutes after I posted this comment, I saw that the Hugos had been awarded on Twitter haha. Thanks for the explainer! Novellas sounds like a fun category to keep up with – more fulfilling than short story and not as daunting as reading all the novels.