Hello, lovelies! I don’t usually do reviews like this, but every now and then I can’t stop reading a series, even just to write a review. The Wayward Children series was one of those. I wrote these reviews for each book while I was listening to the next book in the series. I don’t know why I put off reading this series for so long. But after reading some of McGuire’s other work I found myself excited to try this series since everyone raves about it. I’m going to share the synopsis for each book and then my review of that book following the order of the series. As this series isn’t completed yet, I will add my reviews for future books to this post after I read them.
Book One – Every Heart a Doorway
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.
This was a slow story about kids that had found doors and traveled through them to other worlds (think Alice going to Wonderland or Dorothy going to Oz). I like the concept of this one, but found myself bored here and there. I guess it was good that this was shorter otherwise i don’t think i would have lasted. I guess my problem was that this turned into a murder mystery and i wasn’t at all expecting that when i went into the story. I also listened to the audiobook and didn’t really care for the narrator, so i think that affected my enjoyment of the book. Overall, i mostly liked this but i think everyone naming this their favorite in the series gave me higher expectations. I liked all of the characters and I’m hopeful to get more about their stories and travels in the next books.
Book Two – Down Among the Sticks and Bones
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 is Jack and Jill’s story and I loved it. This is by no means a happy story. Jack and Jill are twins, but their dad wanted a son and their motherly wanted a perfect little girl. So Jack is made into their mothers idea of a perfect daughter and Jill is made into the closest idea of what their father wanted for a son. Their parents have done a number on the twins, but most of all they’ve not allowed the two to develop their own sisterly relationship. So when Jack and Jill find a staircase inside of a trunk that’s supposed to have dress up clothes in it, obviously they go down the staircase. When they arrive in the Moors they are greeted my the Master (a vampire) and promised safety for the next three days. But the Moors have a history with foundlings and the local mad scientist has claim to the newest foundling, but this time there’s two of them. This is remedied by one twin choosing to go with the scientist and one choosing to stay with the Master. I was a bit sad that the twins grew apart instead of growing together now that they were out of their parents influence, but it’s not a huge surprise because this was not a happy story by any means. I was very happy to see Jack’s relationship with her girlfriend play such a big role in the story (we love female/female representation). Overall, I liked this one way better than the first but I wanted more. I wanted to know more about these Drowned Gods and the werewolves. I think this world was fascinating and i would gladly read another book with this setting.
Book Three – Beneath the Sugar Sky
Beneath the Sugar Sky, the third book in McGuire’s Wayward Children series, returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children in a standalone contemporary fantasy for fans of all ages. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the “real” world. When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can’t let Reality get in the way of her quest – not when she has an entire world to save! (Much more common than one would suppose.) If she can’t find a way to restore her mother, Rini will have more than a world to save: she will never have been born in the first place. And in a world without magic, she doesn’t have long before Reality notices her existence and washes her away. Good thing the student body is well-acquainted with quests… A tale of friendship, baking, and derring-do. Warning: May contain nuts.
This one is the story of Rini, who comes to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children in search of her mother, Sumi. We know Sumi from the first book in this series. Rini needs her mother, but her mother died years ago. So, the gang from the school go in search of a way to bring Sumi back so that Rini doesn’t cease to exist. But this one isn’t just about Rini and Sumi. First we meet Cora, who struggles with being fat and also with anxiety. I can’t speak to the representation but I’ve seen others say that they liked it. Cora was a mermaid in her world which is talked about but I don’t know the story behind her coming to Eleanor’s. I think my favorite this about this book was that the group travels to several worlds. They visit some characters we know from the first book and we get to see Confection. This book was a bit more whimsical than the first two (probably because the first two were more logical worlds and Rini’s world is a nonsense world). As much as I liked the darkness of the first two books, I really enjoyed the silliness and nonsense that Rini brought to this book. Now, that’s not to say this story is all happiness and butterflies because it definitely has its dark moments. Overall, this was a fun and captivating story full of diverse characters who are all searching for the same thing, but work together to help others find it too.
Book Four – In an Absent Dream
This fourth entry and prequel tells the story of Lundy, a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should. When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.
In an Absent Dream follows Lundy, a character we met in the first book at Eleanor West’s. I really enjoyed this one. We get to hear the story of Lundy finding her door and returning home, several times. I really liked the world that Lundy traveled to. It was a fascinating world of logic. I think the idea of always giving fair value for things is a really great one. I like that the Market was something sentient that will take its fair value if you think you can get around it. I think Lundy’s story wasn’t quite as dark as some of the others in this series so far, but it was filled with sadness and life lessons for Lundy. I also really loved the way that the story was told. (Jack and Jill’s story was told in this way too, but I forgot to mention it). The story is told by a narrator that chooses which parts of the story need to be shared. So, there are times when we jump forward and skip whole time periods of the story. I think it was a really captivating way to tell the story. Almost as if the details we’ve skipped aren’t deemed necessary by this narrator to get to the greater point. I am really interested to see more of Lundy now that we’ve heard her story. I almost want to go back and reread the first book over again now that I know some of the character’s backstory. It was so interesting to see Lundy find a home and friends in the Market, but eventually find happiness in her home world as well. The struggle that Lundy faces to stay at the Market or return home was a really heart wrenching one. This installment is definitely one of my favorites.
Book Five – Come Tumbling Down
The fifth installment in Seanan McGuire’s award-winning, bestselling Wayward Children series, Come Tumbling Down picks up the threads left dangling by Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones.
When Jack left Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children she was carrying the body of her deliciously deranged sister–whom she had recently murdered in a fit of righteous justice–back to their home on the Moors. But death in their adopted world isn’t always as permanent as it is here, and when Jack is herself carried back into the school, it becomes clear that something has happened to her. Something terrible. Something of which only the maddest of scientists could conceive. Something only her friends are equipped to help her overcome.
Eleanor West’s “No Quests” rule is about to be broken.
Come Tumbling Down revisits Jack & Jill and the Moors. While I did enjoy this one, I feel like it didn’t really add anything new to the overarching story of the series. It was nice to see how things played out after the twins left Eleanor’s. I also did really enjoy seeing the whole group go on an adventure together again. But it just felt like it maybe should have been a part of their first book. I think, as usual, the writing kept me interested in the story and I loved the characters. I just wish there was more. I wish we’d gotten to see more about the Drowned Gods, instead of just a tidbit. I feel like there wasn’t anything new here, it was the same bit of the Moors that we visited previously. I guess i just thought there would be more here, but I was interested in the ending of Jack & Jill’s story.
Book Six – Across the Green Grass Fields
A young girl discovers a portal to a land filled with centaurs and unicorns in Seanan McGuire’s Across the Green Grass Fields, a standalone tale in the Hugo and Nebula Award-wining Wayward Children series.
“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 installment follows Regan, who is intersex, starting when she is a young girl. We get to know her a little in her home world, where she deals with all her friends developing and going through puberty. She sees the cruelty that some girls are capable of. When she learns that she is intersex, she makes the mistake of telling her best friend who reacts horribly to her. Regan flees her school and while walking home, she finds a door. Through this door is the Hooflands. I think this was a really interesting world. There are centaurs and unicorns and kelpies. Regan is taken in by a family of centaurs where she lives and grows up with them. I think what I liked about this one is that it was different than the others in the series. In this one, there’s the same great world building and characters to love, but we get more time to see what is going on with Regan in a day to day sense. I felt more like a full length story when some of the others in the series have felt like they skipped parts of the story to get to the end of the story. I really liked getting to grow up alongside Regan and the centaurs. I think it’s full of great themes and I definitely recommend it.
Book Seven – Where the Drowned Girls Go
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 was approved for an early copy of this book, so huge thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for that. Here’s my honest review. This book follows Cora, who we know from Come Tumbling Down, has come back from her adventure with her friends and her time in The Moors with more issues than when she’d left school. Her experience with the Drowned Gods was not a good one and she’s haunted by them, so much so that she’s even struggling to spend time in the water. Which for a mermaid, is problematic? So, Cora takes extreme measures and requests to be transferred from Eleanor’s school to Whitethorn. But Whitethorn is a very different school and she still hasn’t managed to escape the whispers of the Drowned Gods.
I thought it was really interesting to see a different school from Eleanor’s. Whitethorn was a very different school, one that’s there to make the kids forget that they ever went through a door. They have many rules and Cora doesn’t always do well with them. I liked that we got to see Sumi again and the role that she played in the story. I also was really pleasantly surprised to see Regan from Across the Green Grass Fields. I liked that this is its own story, but also that we still get to see familiar characters and other elements from the rest of the series. I think Cora really struggled with the whispers of the Drowned Gods, but she was also treated incredibly poorly because she’s plus sized (part of the reason she found her door in the first place was because of being bullied about her weight her whole life). I liked Cora. She was abrasive and imperfect, but she knew her worth. It was sad to see her go to such extreme lengths as leaving Eleanor’s, but it was nice to see her do what she thought would help her. I also loved that she had blue hair. I continue to be a huge fan of this series.
Now, as an overall for the series, I think Down Among the Sticks and Bones and In an Absent Dream are both in the number one spot. I just can’t decide which one I liked better, and also I don’t have to, so I won’t. I think McGuire has done an incredible thing with this series. Between the wide range of diverse characters and the themes and messages within the adventures of these children, there are so many things to love about this series. Thinking about it now that I’ve read all of the books that are currently published, I think certain types of people will like certain books in the series more than others. I think part of that goes right along with the different worlds that we get to see. There are logic worlds and nonsense worlds. I think both kinds of worlds will speak to different people. This series has a book for everyone and I finally understand why there are so many people that have nothing but good things to say about this series.
EDIT: I’ve since added my review of book seven (Where the Drowned Girls Go) to this post. Everything I said above still stands. I love this series and I’ll continue to love it. Where the Drowned Girls Go takes third place in this series. It seems that I prefer the darker stories for these books. With the way book seven ended, I’m incredibly excited to see what will happen in later books.
Keep on reading lovelies, Amanda.