Tag: Seanan McGuire

Review – Mislaid in Parts Half-Known

Posted April 2, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Mislaid in Parts Half-Known

Mislaid in Parts Half-Known

by Seanan McGuire

Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 146
Series: Wayward Children #9
Rating: three-stars
Synopsis:

Antsy is the latest student to pass through the doors at Eleanor West's School for Wayward Children.

When the school’s (literally irresistible) mean girl realizes that Antsy's talent for finding absolutely anything may extend to doors, Antsy is forced to flee in the company of a small group of friends, looking for a way back to the Shop Where the Lost Things Go to be sure that Vineta and Hudson are keeping their promise.

Along the way, they will travel from a world which hides painful memories that cut as sharply as its beauty, to a land that time wasn’t yet old enough to forget—and more than one student's life will change forever.

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

For a book that promised me dinosaurs, Seanan McGuire’s Mislaid in Parts Half-Known felt like a bit of a swizz. The dinosaur world was only a tiny part of the story, which was really the end of Antsy’s story, as begun in Lost in the Moment and Found. There are bits of other characters’ stories (a little here for Sumi, a little there for Kade, a drop for Cora), but it’s really about Antsy’s story, and a little bit about expanding the world as we know it, showing us what a nexus is and what it can do.

Honestly, it feels like we’ve got a little further from the idea of a school for children who fell into other worlds than I like? The rotating cast of characters feels like “monster of the week”, but we’re spending so little time actually at the school, and Eleanor doesn’t always appear. And I’m deeply ambivalent about Kade’s position here, always the best man and never the groom.

So I’m wondering where our questers will go next, but I also wonder if I’m tiring a bit of the formula?

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Lost in the Moment and Found

Posted March 18, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 1 Comment

Review – Lost in the Moment and Found

Lost in the Moment and Found

by Seanan McGuire

Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 208
Series: Wayward Children #8
Rating: four-stars
Synopsis:

Welcome to the Shop Where the Lost Things Go.

If you ever lost a sock, you’ll find it here.

If you ever wondered about favorite toy from childhood... it’s probably sitting on a shelf in the back.

And the headphones that you swore that this time you’d keep safe? You guessed it….

Antoinette has lost her father. Metaphorically. He’s not in the shop, and she’ll never see him again. But when Antsy finds herself lost (literally, this time), she finds that however many doors open for her, leaving the Shop for good might not be as simple as it sounds.

And stepping through those doors exacts a price.

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Picking up Seanan McGuire’s Lost in the Moment and Found, I wasn’t sure whether I’d love it. On paper, this series has so much that I love, but it goes some dark places at times, and the warning about the situation that Antsy ends up in made me wonder if this was going to be another one which cut too close to home.

For me, it wasn’t, but it’s worth knowing that Antsy ends up in a difficult situation where her step-father convinces her that her mother won’t believe her if she says anything against him, while making her feel deeply uncomfortable (and also involving an obvious threat of child sexual abuse). In addition, Antsy loses her father very young. So it’s important to know that going in, for some people; as McGuire’s initial note says, Antsy runs before the bad things really start happening, though.

There is a fair bit about that and the build-up to why Antsy runs away, and as such I suppose I’d be happy if the book spent a bit more time in the shop. It sounds like a fascinating world and I wanted Antsy to explore it a little more, and to explore some of the other worlds with her. Instead we turn to the price she’s paying for the joy — and as ever, it’s a harsh one.

Obviously, the end of the book tells us where the main plot thread that runs through the odd-numbered novellas is going next, or at least, that Antsy’s going to have something to do with it. Given that she brings a bit of fresh blood into the questing group, that could be interesting!

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Where the Drowned Girls Go

Posted February 19, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Review – Where the Drowned Girls Go

Where the Drowned Girls Go

by Seanan McGuire

Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 208
Series: Wayward Children #7
Synopsis:

"Welcome to the Whitethorn Institute. The first step is always admitting you need help, and you’ve already taken that step by requesting a transfer into our company."

There is another school for children who fall through doors and fall back out again.

It isn't as friendly as Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children.

And it isn't as safe.

When Eleanor West decided to open her school, her sanctuary, her "Home for Wayward Children," she knew from the beginning that there would be children she couldn’t save; when Cora decides she needs a different direction, a different fate, a different prophecy, Miss West reluctantly agrees to transfer her to the other school, where things are run very differently by Whitethorn, the Headmaster.

She will soon discover that not all doors are welcoming...

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Seanan McGuire’s Where the Drowned Girls Go as much as as I did: I haven’t been totally all-in on this series for a few books now, or so it feels, and Cora goes to some pretty dark places in this book. It’s probably important to know going in that there are potential triggers for those with eating disorders, and probably any kind of abuse, especially anything relating to a boarding school.

But all the same, Cora rises above it. She finds the strength to own her experiences, and to finally Be Sure, and that’s a journey I enjoyed. Eleanor West’s school is warm and quirky and endlessly accommodating, but here Cora (and the supporting cast, including Sumi) have a bit more adversity to stand up to, and it’s a stronger book for it. And we get to see Regan, from Across the Green Grass Fields, tying her into the ongoing story of the school and the loose collection of kids that we know from it.

I’ll admit there was one point in the story I didn’t 100% follow, how Cora suddenly realised that the headmaster wasn’t the real one, and how they’d all get out of there. I don’t know if I missed something, or whether it just was meant to be a bolt of intuition… But that didn’t take away the fun of watching Cora come into herself and emerge strong.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Across the Green Grass Fields

Posted December 4, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 4 Comments

Review – Across the Green Grass Fields

Across the Green Grass Fields

by Seanan McGuire

Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 174
Series: Wayward Children #6
Rating: three-stars
Synopsis:

"Welcome to the Hooflands. We're happy to have you, even if you being here means something's coming."

Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late.

When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to Be Sure before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines--a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes.

But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem...

This instalment of Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children novellas is a step back from the rest, which are developing a sort of formula (former student of the school needs help in some way, the others all team up to solve their problems). In fact, I don’t think any of the other kids we’ve seen in the other books are even mentioned: Regan kind of stands alone, and I don’t think we’ve heard any reference to the Hooflands elsewhere before.

As such, it’s a point where someone unused to these books might be able to start — but I don’t know that I’d recommend it as a starting point, to be honest. It’s rather skippable, actually, except for the fact that it showcases an intersex protagonist.

Overall, it didn’t stand out a lot to me: it felt like it was a lot of leadup for very little payoff, and I wasn’t surprised by the conclusion at all. (Which one doesn’t necessarily need to be, especially in a series as metafictional as this one is, but it still didn’t feel fresh to me, which is perhaps a better descriptor of what I was hoping for.)

Not unenjoyable, but not a favourite, and one I may not return to in future rereads.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Under the Smokestrewn Sky

Posted April 28, 2023 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Under the Smokestrewn Sky by A. Deborah BakerUnder the Smokestrewn Sky, A. Deborah Baker (Seanan McGuire)

Received to review via Netgalley

Under the Smokestrewn Sky
 continues and completes the story of Zib and Avery’s first travels through the Up-And-Under. I was pretty sceptical in beginning this journey, since it spun off Middlegame — a great book, don’t get me wrong, but not one I really wanted to see a sequel or spin-off for, somehow.

Still, the series is not very related to Middlegame‘s story, and is self-contained and quite different in tone. This final volume wraps things up, bringing Zib and Avery to their final destination. The language remains playful and reminiscent of Cat Valente’s voice in the Fairyland books, and mostly avoids being too much.

As for the story, well, there are certain things that I found really predictable and others that I hadn’t been expecting. The narration made light of the first part, pointing out that Niamh also saw it coming, so just played into the whole meta-textual bit there — but still, I was a little disappointed that it had been obvious to me for so long.

It’s a mostly satisfying end, though I have lot of questions about where the characters other than Zib and Avery go from there. I suppose there may be more, since the last pages mention that Zib and Avery do return to the Up-and-Under… and I shall read it eagerly if so.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Along the Saltwise Sea

Posted June 30, 2022 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Along the Saltwise Sea by A. Deborah BakerAlong the Saltwise Sea, A. Deborah Baker (Seanan McGuire)

The frustrating thing about this book is that the first fourteen pages are a recap… and I read the first book earlier this week. The tone is knowing, meta-fictional, and gets you right back into the world — there’s a bit of Cat Valente, a smidgeon of C.S. Lewis, in the way it knows and comments on the characters, and on the world. But it was annoying that in a novella, 7% of it was pure recap. It felt like it took a while to get going… and then stopped short of its destination.

Which is not to say I didn’t find it charming, because I did. I just want more, and wish I had the third book in my hands right now. I saw somewhere that it ends on three, but I’m not sure how that’s going to fit in with the general pacing.

I wondered about some stuff, like whether the iron shoes were part of stopping the Crow Girl from coming apart, for example… but in the end that seemed not even a red herring, just a detail that didn’t mean much.

I think I preferred the first book, but largely because it feels like we didn’t get anywhere much (though some good and interesting stuff did happen). I’m still rating it a 4 because I ripped right through it and enjoyed it; it’s more in retrospect that I’m sighing a little.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Over the Woodward Wall

Posted June 13, 2022 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah BakerOver the Woodward Wall, A. Deborah Baker (Seanan McGuire)

I loved Middlegame, but I didn’t expect to enjoy this spin-off so much! It shares DNA with Cat Valente’s Fairyland books, though the narrator is a little less intrusive and knowing. It also shares some DNA with McGuire’s own Wayward Children series, unavoidably.

It also manages to be something of its own, though, and I quickly stopped comparing it and started caring about Zib and Avery and the Crow Girl, and what will become of them. It’s a world based on fantasy/fairytale tropes and tarot cards, and there are giant talking owls and Bumble Bears and an improbable road to an Impossible City — what’s not to like?

I didn’t expect to get so caught up in it, but it was lovely; exactly what the doctor ordered. I know the second book is out, though, and I wish I’d got it before I started, because the story really doesn’t end at the end of the book.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Come Tumbling Down

Posted January 23, 2020 by Nicky in Reviews / 5 Comments

Cover of Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuireCome Tumbling Down, Seanan McGuire

Received to review via Netgalley

Come Tumbling Down is the latest installment in the Wayward Children series, and really does not make sense as a starting point. We’re thrown into it as a girl nobody knows comes through Jack and Jill’s door, carrying the unconscious body of… Jill? And naturally there’s a whole new quest, despite all the rules.

I’ll admit to racing through this and definitely not lingering on anything. Jack is too close to home, with her serious OCD; I remember exactly what it’s like to worry that every inch of the skin of the body you’re in could be making you die any minute now. I also don’t enjoy the bits where she’s actually losing her entire mind as a result of the intensity of her OCD. I think I’m too close to it to fairly judge whether Jack’s behaviour seems right, but it didn’t feel right to me, at least not towards the end.

(Yes, I’m aware that Seanan McGuire is #ownvoices when it comes to OCD.)

I also wondered if it was intentional that everything the characters do actually enables Jack’s OCD, because I get the feeling it is intended to be read as supportive. And maybe it is, for someone with a very different view of OCD than I have, I’ll acknowledge that: I know that coming back from those compulsive behaviours is really hard, and some people don’t want to (and/or do not believe it is possible). But knowing how I came back from it, I can’t stand the way everyone enables it in this book, because I know that when I was in that position, people kindly caving to my compulsions made them worse.

For me, it really isn’t the epitome of love to create a map of someone’s freckles to show them that none of them are cancerous and help them monitor it obsessively — I can see that it’s actively making that person sicker. It’s not a matter of “wear gloves and you’ll be fine”; the gloves do not help, there’ll just be another step after the gloves (refusing to touch anything at all, perhaps). I remember my loved ones being torn between reassuring me and knowing they shouldn’t; it’s not an easy thing to do. But in my experience, OCD isn’t some kind of lifelong thing you just have to live with. There is treatment, you can stop being afraid. It’s rough, but it can be done, and the longer you delay doing it and engage in the reassurance behaviour, the harder it is. So it was pretty fraught reading all these things the characters do for Jack which seem kind and (for a real person) would probably just push her further into paranoia. Maybe Seanan McGuire experiences it a different way, but from my own perspective and a clinical understanding of OCD, I just cannot enjoy this the way I suspect it is meant to be enjoyed.

Also, I just really want to see Kade get a story for himself. Not somebody else’s quest, not somebody else’s happy ending. He’s enabled almost every other character’s story so far, without being given the chance to grow and find his own place for himself.

Reading this, I did enjoy it a lot, but the more I think about it, the less I do. There’s all kinds of interesting stuff going on with the balance of Jack’s world and meta-fictional stuff about stories, but… for me, this one was overshadowed by Jack’s OCD. And yeah, that’s probably a very personal thing, but that’s allowed.

Edit: Some sections of this review have been changed to make it clearer that I understand that Seanan McGuire is #ownvoices and has a different outlook on it than me.

Rating: 2/5

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Review – Late Eclipses

Posted August 27, 2019 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuireLate Eclipses, Seanan McGuire

In Late Eclipses, there’s a poisoner on the loose, and there’s little doubt in Toby’s mind that it’s someone from her past — Oleander de Merelands, of course. Throughout the book she leads Toby a merry dance, poisoning her allies and friends, and setting her up to look like the bad guy. Obviously some people are eager to seize on that and chase Toby down as a murderer, while others (the usual suspects) are arrayed beside her and behind her, ready to protect her and commit acts of courage and stupidity to keep her safe.

My main problem with this book was that it felt drawn out painfully by the fact that someone kept hitting Toby with the idiot stick. Things that are obvious to the reader are far from obvious to Toby. I can’t believe someone so trusted by her liege, someone who is an investigator no less, would keep making stupid mistakes like this. It’s not even a matter of trusting the wrong people this time — Toby just puts her head down and starts bulling through the obstacles, instead of using her head the less painful way.

There are some great moments — many of them involving Tybalt — and some payoff from hints we’ve been hearing all along. Amandine makes an appearance, remarkably sane for her. It’s fun, I just feel like about 80 pages could’ve been cut by letting Toby use her brain instead of her skull.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – An Artificial Night

Posted August 8, 2019 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuireAn Artificial Night, Seanan McGuire

In An Artificial Night, Toby ends up confronting one of the Firstborn in order to save children — both mortal and fae children, snatched away to join Blind Michael’s Ride. I think in the previous books we’ve had a reference or two to him here or there, but now he comes out in full force, and full horror. Toby has to be a hero, of course, even when her Fetch arrives to say hi early in the book. As ever, she goes through the whole thing a couple of steps from being killed, and the reader lets it work because we love heroes.

I think this is the book that really got me into this series: it’s so clever, the way the mythology is used and added to, and there are so many great emotional notes that I shouldn’t name for fear of spoilering people.

I do still feel that for all that Toby suffers in this book, it’s lacking in teeth in one way: I never really felt that someone we love was at risk, even when Toby behaved recklessly. We know she’s going to be fine, and I feel like I’m always waiting to see her reckless behaviour really hurt the people around her — not just because they’re worrying about her, but because she’s really pulled someone else into trouble. In the first book, there was Dare, of course, but… that was the first book. It feels like the stakes should be raised, and yet this book is remarkably bloodless in that sense. The person who suffers is Toby — and it’s not that it means nothing, but I’m just expecting the way Toby behaves to get Quentin killed or something. By rights, she should’ve by now.

Despite that quibble, it’s a strong book in the way it uses the mythology and ratchets everything up to the ending, and I enjoy it a lot.

Rating: 4/5

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