October 3, 2016

Book Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children

No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

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 new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

Several books came to mind when I started reading the first few chapters of this book: The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis (children “tumbling” through doorways to other, magical worlds), The Magicians by Lev Grossman (what happens to those same children when they are dragged back to this reality), and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (all the teens collected in one home, each with some peculiar gift that sets him/her apart). 

Despite these themes reminiscent of other books, I found that McGuire has created not one, but multiple magical worlds all her own. The narrative never enters these worlds in the present as the book is firmly grounded in the after – as in what happens after the magical adventure and the children return to our world against their will. But there are tantalizing glimpses when the teens recount to each other the worlds they visited – the Moors, the Halls of the Dead, Fairyland, to name a few.  The Home ostensibly prepares the traumatized teens for living in the real world, committed there by their parents who think they’re crazy.  Soon after Nancy, who was slave to the Lord of the Dead, arrives at the Home, however, mysterious and deadly events start happening. 

It’s enchanting and sinister all at once, with just the right touch of melancholy.  If you’re a fan of any or all of the books I mentioned above, Every Heart a Doorway will strike a poignant chord in you.

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