Down Among the Sticks and Bones, YA Fantasy by Seanan McGuire
Series: Wayward Children #2
My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
It was a field. A big field, so big that it seemed like it went on forever–and the only reason it didn’t go on forever was because it ran up against the edge of what looked like an ocean, slate-gray and dashing itself against a rocky, unforgiving shore. Neither girl knew the word for “moor,” but if they had, they would have both agreed in an instant that this was a moor. This was the moor, the single platonic ideal from which all other moors had been derived.
This series is going in a different direction than I expected, but I think I like it. This is the story of Jack and Jill, twin sisters introduced in the first book. From before their birth to their exit from the moors. Basically taking a story that was quite relevant before but background, and telling it in total depth. At one point, I actually wondered whether or not I would recommend this as Read Before #1 to someone new to series. Ultimately, I decided that although it’s chronologically first, there is a foundation set in the first book that supercedes any of the usual arguments for reading books in chronological order rather than published.
Just like the first book, I loved everything about this book. Especially the progressive content. Without getting too deeply into it, there is an overt theme about the various ways one can be a girl. No need to decry traditionally feminine things as “girly” read as “worthless,” and a gentle insistence that the most important part of a girl deciding how to express herself as a girl is that she must be allowed to decide. Traits also don’t come in strict sets. There aren’t four right ways to be a girl and two wrong ones, and never shall they meet. They mix and match. Fluffy and athletic, intelligent and fashionable.
I don’t always like Seanan McGuire’s books–I fell hard out of the Incryptid series when the main character changed (I know it was temporary, he was still a shitty POV character) and I still intend to go back someday–but she has a way of just conquering the short form of storytelling that I can only applaud. The moors are so beautifully established that I found myself thinking of all the right literary references. Brontës, Dracula, the actual Vlad Tepes, and of course the classic Frankenstein film. The storytelling is tight while still allowing the language to be poetic and expansive. I particularly love this passage about the moon near the beginning:
The moon is the friendliest of the celestial bodies, after all, glowing warm and white and welcoming, like a friend who wants only to know that all of us are safe in our narrow worlds, our narrow, well-considered lives. The moon worries. We may not know how we know that, but we know it all the same; that the moon watches, and the moon worries, and the moon will always love us, no matter what.
I love the setting. It’s every overcast day that I want to spend sitting outside waiting for the rain and watching the clouds.
Technically, there aren’t a lot of surprises here if you’ve read Every Heart a Doorway. Details we didn’t already have, yes. Surprises? Not really. It’s an expansion more than anything else. It worked for me, although I mightn’t have expected it to if someone had asked me beforehand. Of course, now I have no idea what will be next, and that does surprise me. The premise alone had me thinking this could be a very long-running series with each book taking a similar form to the first. But now, I really don’t know.