Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
Synopsis from GoodReads:
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.
This novella was beautiful. It was everything I wanted for Jack and Jill’s backstory.
Like Every Heart a Doorway, the first book in this series, it’s more of a novella than a true novel – short and quick-paced, glossing over swathes of time to focus in on critical issues spanning a year (or more, as in the case with DAtSaB).
If it had been longer, we could have seen more of those stories, those moments, that were only mentioned. But then the story would probably have lost the fairy tale feel that made me like both books in the series so much. Yes it meant that I didn’t feel quite so attached to some characters who probably should’ve been more important – Alexis in particular, since we got a decent amount of the Master, the doctor, and Mary – but I’m willing to forgo that for this particular narrative.
Like in EHaD, the narrator is dry, witty, and perfectly happy to comment on matters of narrative, making this a very self-reflexive and self-aware fable. I think that’s one of the reasons I liked it so much.
And something I realized about EHaD after talking it over with my sister after she finished it – Jack was the main character in EHaD even though it was Nancy’s story. So I greatly enjoyed getting to see more of her and where she came from.
My main complaint is that we didn’t see enough of Alexis for me to get attached to her and that I wish we’d seen more of Jill’s ‘transformation’, if indeed it was such. We’re told by the narrator that of the two wounded hearts one healed and one rotted, but we’re not shown the rotting. We’re not really shown the healing, either, but it was far easier to believe what happened with Jack than with Jill, at least in my opinion.
That having been said, reading EHaD first definitely helped make the events in this novella more understandable and believable because I knew where the characters were going to end up. I knew the basics of what was to come, so my mind filled in some of what was missing based on what I knew going in. So I think that helped with the lack of detail and thus I would definitely recommend reading EHaD first.
5 stars. Great follow up, and now I’m really excited for Beneath the Sugar Sky, next year’s release for this series.