Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1)

By Seanan McGuire

Rating: 4 stars

Everyone talks about the kids who go away to magical lands and have adventures. Nobody asks what happens when they come back. Miss West understands though. She was one of those children, back in the day, and now she’s set up a school to help them try to reintegrate back into society, when often they want nothing more than to return to the worlds that spat them out. Nancy is one such girl, returned from the Halls of the Dead, and her parents can’t deal with how she’s changed, so they send her to Miss West’s school. But instead of the sanctuary she was expecting, she finds death and danger.

The Problem of Susan aside, nobody ever wonders about those who are ejected and can’t return to the places they come to think of as their true homes, and what that would do to them. Miss West does know, and she is kind and understanding. She tries to protect them, and prepare them – both for this world, and for what to do if they do get a chance to return.

This is a great book for diversity, with our protagonist making clear early on that she’s asexual (not aromantic), and one of the few close friends that she makes is a trans boy. It’s very much a book about being who you are, and being accepted (or not) for it. Children and teens are still children and teens. Some lash out because they’re hurting, others are just mean. McGuire paints a sympathetic portrait of a young woman who feels like she’s lost everything and wants desperately to get it back.

This is also a nicely standalone book, although it does a good job of worldbuilding, leaving lots of space to tell more stories (and, indeed, there are several more books in the series). A good execution of a great idea.

Book details

Year of publication: 2016

Midnight Blue-Light Special (InCryptid, #2)

By Seanan McGuire

Rating: 4 stars

The second volume of McGuire’s InCryptid series picks up with Verity Price some months after the end of Discount Armageddon. In that book, the Covenant threat to New York really wasn’t one at all, while in this one, that threat finally arrives, in full force. Verity is completely thrown by this and anguishes over which way Dominic will go while at the same time she has to protect her city’s cryptids from the Covenant.

I enjoyed this book a lot. Verity is a fun narrator and I enjoyed spending time in her head. We also get a second narrator for part of this book in the form of Verity’s cousin Sarah, the telepathic, maths-loving, adorkable cuckoo, and we get to see more of their family. Despite this, Verity, and her relationship with Dominic, are very much at the heart of the book.

If it had one major weakness, I felt that it was the Covenant. When they do turn up and things turn nasty for Verity, they feel very much like cartoon villains. They all but twirl their moustaches. I sort of feel that they would have felt like more of a threat if they’d been at all relatable. If they could have threatened Verity’s worldview, not just her life, that would be a threat. But they’re oddly bland. The best we can get is that they’re religious fundamentalists, and that would be an angle worth exploring (especially in a post-9/11 world) but they didn’t even get any decent monologues.

On the other side, the cryptid community does get some expansion. The bits where they all group together to help rescue Verity and show solidarity in diversity were probably the bits that made my heart swell the most. Even the Aeslin mice got some cool stuff to do (while still being most adorable). And the contrast between the warmth and humanity of the “monsters” versus the lack of empathy and zeal of the Covenant was hardly subtle.

So a very fun, very lightweight, novel. The world continues to be fun and I’m looking forward to exploring it more in the volumes to come.

Book details

ISBN: 9780756407926
Publisher: DAW Books Inc
Year of publication: 2013

Discount Armageddon (InCryptid, #1)

By Seanan McGuire

Rating: 4 stars

The Price family have been cryptozoologists for generations, studying and protecting mythical creatures — cryptids — from humans (and sometimes vice versa). But Verity Price wants to be more, she wants to be a ballroom dancer! But when cryptids start disappearing, and the Prices’ old enemy, the Covenant, reappears, it’s up to Verity to protect her city. If she can do it backwards and in high heels, so much the better.

This was such a fun book. Verity is a great protagonist and narrator. The story bounces along at a good pace and you’re never far from a decent action scene. It’s moderately predictable and when tall, dark and brooding turns up, you won’t have to work hard to guess a) who he is and b) that they’ll end up doing the horizontal tango. But it’s an enjoyable romance and he’s a decent character, who’s given room to evolve. Verity does sometimes feel like she auditioned for Buffy, but has enough of her own personality and the twist of the Prices wanting to protect the cryptids from humans keeps it from feeling too familiar.

This is a book that’s made much easier to read in the age of the Internet, where if I don’t recognise what a therianthrope is, I can just google it (humans who can shapeshift into an animal, so a more general sort of werewolf), but McGuire keeps such interruptions limited, so it’s not something that ever becomes frustrating.

There are plenty more books in the series, which is fine by me. The world is big and interesting enough to make more visits welcome.

Book details

ISBN: 9781472113139
Publisher: Corsair
Year of publication: 2012

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