Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2), by Seanan McGuire
Description: (from Macmillan)
Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
This is the story of what happened first…
Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.
Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.
They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.
They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.
Expected publication: June 2017.
A review copy (e-galley) of this book was provided by the publisher. Some things might change in the final copy.
This is the second book on the Wayward Children series, the first being Every Heart a Doorway that I loved deeply last year. It was about young people who got into a Home for Wayward Children, like a recovering home for kids who had adventures into magical realms and can’t adjust back. The main character was Nancy, an asexual girl; while being a fantasy story at its core, the novella slowly turned into a murder mystery. While I loved it, I wished to read more about the children and the worlds they came from, about their past. Thankfully Seanan McGuire revealed that this was going to be a series, and the first prequel here dive into the past of Jack and Jill, the twin sisters who seemed a little bit twisted inside.
The novella starts by introducing us to the sister’s parents, which I found was interesting, as knowing the way a person was brought up often let us learn a lot more about the person they end up being. Which is the whole point here. It focused on their childhood and how their parents tried to shape them into the children they wanted to have and not the person they really were.
They way the first part of this story deals with how parents and society can’t deal with children loving both “girl things” and “boy things” is really important, it was really well handled. More than the fantasy elements (that I loved), the gender norms imposed upon children was the major theme of this story and -even if I never suffered from this- it really struck a chord, it’s still an issue in the world we live in.
Children are not formless clay, to be shaped according to the sculpor’s whim, nor are they blank but identical dolls, waiting to be slipped into the mode that suits them best.
About the story itself: oh, how I love portal fantasy! I was so excited when the two girls finally stepped into their magical world! They will have to grow and follow different paths, having to choose between serving a vampire or a mad scientist. I felt like the story maybe focused more on Jack than Jill, but it was not annoying as this story doesn’t have that many pages – but still a decent amount for a novella.
Obviously at times the story skips many years, and even if I’d have liked to read what happens between these years, I was still glad to find out what had happened to the girls. The jumps in time were well done and I didn’t felt like I had missed too much. When reading this story I felt like it was told to me by a storyteller who knew what she was doing and was taking me where she wanted to.
I realised when reading Down Among the Sticks and Bones that I actually didn’t remembered much about Every Heart a Doorway, mostly because I have a crappy memory and should re-read every book I loved every year if I’d like to remember everything about them. BUT it was not a bad thing. The story can be appreciated in any case, with or without knowledge of the first novella in the series! In the end it’s better to read them all but it can be enjoyed on its own anyway.
I’m aboslutely overjoyed that Every Heart a Doorway is not a standalone and that this novella is as good an addition! Seanan McGuire made me want to fall back into reading more portal fantasies, I’d forgotten how awesome it could be, especially when it is so well handled.
- The final copy will have three illustrations, head over to tor.com to see the first one!
- And here is a news about more novellas from Seanan McGuire!
Edit 09/05/17 : Since I read this eARC, there is something that I feel I should have said here. Since it can be seen as a spoiler, I wasn’t sure how to talk about it. But there is a major death in the novella that can be seen as a really hurtful trope. I had time to think and while I still enjoy and would reread this novella, I’m lowering my goodreads rating from 5/5 to 4/5 because of this. Do not hesitate to contact me for more details if you need/want!