I READ a Portal Fantasy.
But I can’t quite bring myself to celebrate it which has put me in a bit of a bind as far as prompts go. If you’re just coming into the Wayward Children Series please do not allow the review of this volume to sway you from picking it up. Also, start at the beginning with Every Heart a Doorway.
It’s genuinely a good series. I certainly enjoyed In an Absent Dream very much and every volume I’ve read before that although I missed reviewing them (maybe I’ll go back).
However, this novel just didn’t quite ring true for me. And I think there’s a couple reasons why . . .
— Careful. Spoilers abound —
Did We Need Another Trip to The Moors?
Probably not. I struggled to remember a bit just what happened in our last adventure to The Moors, but luckily it’s glossed pretty early on in the CTD (along with every other character’s backstory) so I was able to gather that at the end of Every Heart a Doorway, Jack ends up killing Jill and they return to The Moors and for these two — based on everything written about in Down Among the Sticks and Bones — this is a happy ending.
And in my humble opinion, a pretty complete ending. The next two books were about other characters, and complete (ish) in their own ways. I expected that in a similar manner we would meet new characters and then they’d get their own books, until McGuire had run out of axes to grind (I don’t actually mean this in a bad way. I love the representation and messaging in all of these books!)
But The Moors were done. They had served their purpose and quite well I think.
Only The Moors weren’t done with us apparently . . .
Ensemble Cast for a Solo Quest
Did Jack really NEED to go back to Eleanor’s School and assemble the squad? I might argue no. It’s never bad to have a group of friends help you through a tough task, but unless she’s an oracle and could see how each choice would go astray without them, or their was some sort of prescribed fate requiring that she go to them, I’m not sure why she bothered. She tries many times to get them to allow her to go on without them and they pretty much always respond with “we’ll help because that’s what heroes do“.
However, I’m not sure they really did help all that much (except maybe Christopher’s bone minions holding back The Master for a bit at the end; and Cora becoming a currency). Kade sacrifices himself but it’s immediately reneged, and Sumi seemed little more than a cheerful but heartless taskmaster. If she was hinting at (or beating a dead horse [with no skin] about) some deeper meta trope or theme (or satire) it was completely lost on me.
A Bit of a Talkie Adventure
All of the above (for me) led to a bit of a talkie time, with characters explaining the significance of situations or interjecting randomly just to have something to do in the scene. Maybe I was just having an off couple of days and this didn’t land right for me, but those were the general impressions I had.
I can’t really say no, because I have not read past this point yet so I’m not sure how important this is to the larger narrative of the series (which I do enjoy). However, if it’s immaterial to the progression of the other books (doubtful as after appearing in 3/5 books, Jack seems to be firmly in the Main Character category) then I’d say you could miss it.
But You’re Supposed to Recommend a Portal Fantasy!
Oh right. Well as I mentioned before, I’ve enjoyed the other books in this series, and In An Absent Dream gave me a lot to think about. Otherwise I’d say you couldn’t go wrong with Little Free Library by Naomi Kritzer.
Anyway, that’s all I have for this round. Has anyone read this one yet? What about the rest of the Wayward Children series? Other Seanan Mcguire? Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Looking forward to chatting about this one!