Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Synopsis from GoodReads:
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
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.
Oh man this book. I was expecting great things, I admit it. McGuire’s work has always been enjoyable, even when I’ve had issues with it. So I went in with high expectations and they were more than met.
I laughed out loud. I gasped at revelations. I delighted in the discussions that arose between the students, or the students and the adults. I was hooked from beginning to end.
Was it perfect? Of course not; no book is. But reading it made me forget the imperfections as I barreled along it.
The twist with the murderer was probably my main complaint – I saw it coming. I had it narrowed down to two suspects, and as soon as one of them got offed, I knew who it had to be. I understand that McGuire was clearly working under a constraint given the book’s length – closer to novella than novel, I’d argue – but I do wish there had been a bit more misdirection. Of course, that would have required more of the characters to be fleshed out, and we already had quite the cast size, so I guess I can’t be too upset.
And all of the characters were fascinating. The various worlds they visited – and the glimpses we get of them – the different ways they react to being forced back to this world, their interactions with each other… All of it is simply fascinating.
Jack was probably my favorite character. I sympathized more with Nancy for various reasons, but Jack was definitely my favorite. I thought she was more well-rounded than the others, full of more depth, and we got to see more of her facets even though the POV focused mostly on Nancy.
In the end, 5 out of 5 stars. This novel(la) was amazing and I can’t recommend it enough, especially to everyone wondering ‘but just how did Alice reacclimatize to life after the Looking Glass?’
ETA: Two of the characters (main ones) are LGBT+. Specifically, asexual (but not aromantic) and trans. What’s better is that these are simply aspects of the characters and are not important to their arcs (other than some bullying/hazing). It’s always great to see acknowledged characters who are treated as just the same as everyone else (ie, their orientation/gender identity isn’t the be-all end-all of their existence).