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Review: Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart A Doorway

Seanan McGuire

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children No Solicitations No Visitors No Quests 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…more

My Rating:

Ever wondered what it might be like for the children who walk into wardrobes, the ones who return from foreign and magical lands? What sort of traumas have they suffered? And do they long to return? Those are the questions spotlighted in Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire.

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is a place where those who have passed into other worlds, and returned, can seek solace and comfort. She does not try to convince them they were making things up, placing stories of fantasy over some untold trauma. While their parents seek psychological help for their children, the West home does nothing of the sort, because she too once travelled into another, fantastical world. How could this not be a charming, wondrous and unique story? This short novella was, in all intents and purposes, a brilliant notion and concept. But the plot is quickened to a drastic pace when some of the children start turning up dead.

There is a lack of depth in these moments, and the riddle to solve who the murderous culprit is, well, isn’t much of a riddle. There was a lack of pacing, and this book could have done with a few hundred more pages in order to really build the suspense. As it stands, its length denotes how rapidly the twisted and warped villain will be set to rights. Considering the depth of the topic, and the true psychological terror and trauma these children would have all endured, murder is rather easily and hastily disregarded. Perhaps the saving grace of this book is that it is one in a series. But, with the subplot already wrapped up in book one, it’s hard to imagine what the subplots in the next books might be.

Overall the book was darling, it just didn’t pack the expected psychological nuances that could be deliciously explored in this interesting world McGuire has sought to create.

Personal Thoughts:

I want to add some more personal opinions to this review, because I really like the writing here. This is not to be construed as part of the review, which I always try to keep professional and removed. However, this concept of children returning home to this ‘real’ world after finding their way to some strange fantasy realm is a truly unique idea to look at. I’ve often thought of it myself and pondered as a writer what kind of story could be told. So, I’m adding these thoughts because it is a topic I’ve considered writing a novel about.

When I first read about this book, I thought, ‘oh my gosh this is amazing! I’m so excited someone has latched on to this very real tangent of this fantasy trope!’ It therefore came as a bit of a shock to me when the book I got in the mail was so thin. But, whatever, that’s no big deal. The story is still charming, and overall I liked it. What I didn’t like was how shallow it all felt. The notion of children feeling more at home in the worlds they went to, versus back here in the real world is brilliant. So, why not spend time on the psychological context of that? Why not showcase the PTSD, the lack of their ability to readjust to the constraints of science and reality, the disassociation? I’d totally be willing to try books 2 and 3, just to be clear, but I’m not sure that the heart of this concept is being exploited as it should.

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