Review: Wayward Children Series

Wayward Children series book covers

Friends, I’ve had a serious book hangover ever since I finished In An Absent Dream back in January. This book was one of my most anticipated releases for 2019, and is the fourth installment in Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series.

Journey to Another World

I haven’t spoken about any of these books on here yet, because I read them all in rapid fire succession. Once I started, I couldn’t put them down, and I didn’t want anything else distracting me from devouring them. Now, I’d like to take a step back and briefly review the rest of the books in this series because THEY! ARE! AMAZING!

The Wayward Children series is an excellent example of portal fantasies. In these stories, children find doors that take them to a different world where they can be their truest selves and escape whatever reality they are experiencing at home. Many of the children become totally immersed in their new world, and take on whatever role they find themselves in. Others, however, dislike the change, and want nothing more than to go home.

Eventually (usually before an eighteenth birthday), the children (in many cases, now teenagers), are sent back to their original homes. Sometimes it’s because they got in trouble and cannot return, and other times, it’s because they need to make sure they truly want to live in an alternate world rather than the one they were born in. A select few are lucky enough to be allowed to travel between their new world and home world, and they are envied by many.

Returning to their home world is not an easy adjustment, and many parents are shocked to see their children who went missing many years ago. In order to help the children/teenagers adjust, they are sent to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. At this special boarding school, they are with others who traveled to different worlds. They learn about their experiences, and the experiences of others, as well as typical school subjects.

Every Heart a Doorway

The first book in the series, Every Heart a Doorway, takes place at the school after a new student, Nancy, returns home after spending a number of years in the Halls of the Dead (a sort of underworld). Throughout the story you’re introduced to a number of characters, the worlds they traveled to, and get a sense of what exactly they experienced. However, students begin to be murdered, and the school is on high-alert, trying to solve these violent crimes.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones

The second book, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, focuses on two specific characters—twin sisters Jack and Jill—and what happens to them when they find themselves transported to The Moors. Here, Jill finds herself serving The Master (who may or may not be a vampire—okay, he totally is), and Jack goes off to work with and learn from Dr. Bleak (a doctor along the same vein as Dr. Frankenstein). The two girls spend nearly a decade in The Moors, until something goes terribly wrong and find themselves transported back to their childhood home.

Beneath the Sugar Sky

In the third book, Beneath the Sugar Sky, we’re taken back to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, and meet some new students. Of course, trouble is afoot, and the students find themselves journeying through multiple worlds—their home world, the Halls of the Dead, and Confection—in order to solve a problem involving a time loop. This story provides a mix of old and new characters, and draws on some events in previous books to fuel the plot forward.

In an Absent Dream

The fourth book, In An Absent Dream, provides yet another backstory to a character seen in the first book: Lundy, the school’s therapist, who ages in reverse. This story focuses specifically on Lundy’s childhood, and her travels to and from her home world and the Goblin Market. Lundy is lucky in that she is able to travel between worlds. However, this ultimately becomes her downfall, and readers who remember her from the first book will quickly realize why she has been cursed. This book has been my favorite in the series so far: it is beautifully written, utterly heartbreaking, and will leave you aching for more stories from this series.

If you’re looking for a book that will help you escape reality, pick up one of these. While I read them in publication order, you don’t necessarily need to do so. Each one is written as a standalone novel, and can be enjoyed without any knowledge of the rest. However, as you read through them, you will find connections between each book. And as you learn more, you’ll find yourself diving deeper and deeper into these fantastical worlds that Seanan McGuire has created.

I’ve been raving about the Wayward Children series since I read the first book, and don’t think I’ll be stopping anytime soon. These books are straight up amazing, and I urge you all to give them a read.

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