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Review – Every Heart a Doorway

Every Heart a Doorway, YA Fantasy by Seanan McGuire

Series: Wayward Children #1

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My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Many a fantasy, from classics to childhood first attempts, feature a child or group of children leaving their world behind for another. But like thinking beyond happy endings, it isn’t obvious to consider what might happen to them after. Some stories do tell the readers conclusively, and others cover only what we expect: the adventure. What happens to the children who leave or are kicked out–and wish desperately to return?

If they’re lucky, they end up at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Where their parents think they’re learning how to “get better” and reintegrate into the world they all left. Where they actually find others who understand, even if all of the worlds they found were different.

There is nothing about this book that doesn’t appeal to me. It’s weird, more than a little dark, and twists stories I cut my teeth on. Reading it felt simultaneously new and familiar. Besides, who can say no to an Outcasts Band Together story?

My favourite thing about Every Heart a Doorway is that the characters aren’t easily recognisable existing ones like Wendy or Alice. McGuire crafted a number of fascinating original worlds, like the main character Nancy’s land of the dead. She had to stand absolutely statue still, colours were reserved for those above her in status, and one could subsist on a sip of pomegranate juice once a rare while. Now she refuses to wear colours, eats so little that it worries her parents, and dislikes this fast-moving world.

In fact, many of the characters and their worlds are expanded upon, with their histories given. Even the Mean Girl who is a bit of a Straw Man to bolster the rather excellent representation. Nancy herself is asexual, while another character is transgender.  It’s all handled with subtlety without skirting around actual discussion.

Everything is astoundingly well-crafted. The atmosphere is dark and almost gothic, but there’s also plenty of room for humour. The mystery is tragic, compelling, and drives the action while still allowing for character development and world-building in a very short book.

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Review – Silence Fallen

Silence Fallen, Urban Fantasy by Patricia Briggs

Series: Mercy Thompson #10

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My rating: ⭐️⭐️

It feels like all urban fantasy series work like the manga industry in Japan: come up with an interesting premise and then write one instalment after another until lack of interest finally moves your publisher to shut the series down and give you a ridiculously short period of time in which to wrap it up and end. The goal is perpetuity.

It could just be me, but going into this felt like trying to keep on reading Sookie Stackhouse after series fatigue set in. Particularly when you look at the beginnings. Sookie doing laundry or cleaning out the attic are exactly as riveting as they sound. Now, two books have started with Mercy making cookies while the werewolves play that stupid pirate game. Not just a boring domestic activity, but the same one. Then the action ratchets up with something ultraviolent. Violence and kidnapping in a Mercy Thompson are not exactly out of the ordinary, especially when they happen to Mercy.

The pacing is slower than I liked. There are so many long passages that go nowhere. History lessons to no purpose. Adam bitching about people colour-coordinating outfits behind his back. (wtf??) One of the worst is the ghost Danek. This eats up so much book real estate and it is there for absolutely no reason. It certainly sounds like a subplot. It isn’t. Sometimes I felt like I was reading an anthology of short stories, except only one of them actually had an ending.

Personally, I think it’s a good thing that Mercy spent a lot of time on her own. I think she and Adam are distinct enough that I don’t expect them to be joined at the hip like one of those cutesy couples who don’t know how to be individuals after they get together. However, it would have been nice if less things revolved around Mercy. It’s understandable that all of the people in her support network would be concerned about her, even after they knew she was okay. It doesn’t feel okay until you see the missing person again. Life is just like that. But I didn’t understand why so many other characters even talked like Mercy, often to the point of citing instances. “[Blank], as Mercy would say, said another character.”

The change in location was cool. Obviously a lot of research went into it, which I appreciated. Even when there was too much, it was always well written and fun to read about. The vampire political intrigue was pretty good. I don’t know how I feel about Bonarata. He’ll probably show up again later though, so if I can keep up with this series, I should find out. I still feel conflicted about the golem.

Mostly I’m ambivalent. Briggs is a solid writer, but this series has been going on for such a long time. I feel like it needs to refresh itself somehow, and conflict may not be the way to make that happen.