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Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children) Hardcover – June 13, 2017
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"McGuire has a miraculous talent for examining adolescent discontent, wedding the strange with the poignant, the fearsome with the fascinating." ―RT Book Reviews Top Pick, 4 1/2 stars
“Beautifully crafted and smartly written, this fairy-tale novella is everything that speculative fiction readers look for: fantastical worlds, diverse characters, and prose that hits home with its emotional truths." ―Library Journal starred review
"Exquisitely crafted, this is the rare companion novel that can stand alone." ―Booklist starred review.
"Down Among the Sticks and Bones has the voice and rhythm of a fairy tale... It is vividly characterised, as so much of Seanan McGuire’s work is, and has the kind of prose that carries you along to find out what happens next." ―Locus
"McGuire’s exquisitely written fairy tale is about the choices that can alter the course of a life forever, lost innocence, and what it is to love and be loved." ―Publishers Weekly starred review
PRAISE FOR EVERY HEART A DOORWAY:
"A mini-masterpiece of portal fantasy that deserves to be shelved with Lewis Carroll's and C. S. Lewis' classics." ―NPR
"Seanan McGuire has long been one of the smartest writers around, and with this novella we can easily see that her heart is as big as her brain. We know this story isn't true, but it is truth." ―Charlaine Harris, New York Times bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse series (TV's True Blood)
"This is a gorgeous story: sometimes mean, sometimes angry, and always exciting." ―Cory Doctorow for BoingBoing
"McGuire's lyrical prose makes this novella a rich experience." ―Library Journal, starred review
"So mindblowingly good, it hurts." ―io9
"This gothic charmer is a love letter to anyone who's ever felt out of place." ― Publishers Weekly
"This gothic novel is ideal for fantasy fans who have longed for a world of their own, as well as readers looking for books with diverse casts." ―Bookish
“Girl Interrupted meets Grimm's Fairy Tales. Let it in and it will touch your heart and open your mind.” ―Geek Syndicate
About the Author
SEANAN McGUIRE is the author of the October Daye urban fantasy series, the InCryptid series, the Wayward Children series, and other works. She also writes darker fiction as Mira Grant.
Seanan lives in Seattle with her cats, a vast collection of creepy dolls, and horror movies, and sufficient books to qualify her as a fire hazard.
She was the winner of the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and in 2013 she became the first person ever to appear five times on the same Hugo ballot.
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These twins were first seen in Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones tells the story of their lives before any doors and the world that Jill tried so hard to return to. The other world Jack and Jill travel to is called the Moors, which offers them a chance at a new life with a whole new set of problems. Jack (who was always Jacqueline) was jealous of her sister's freedom to be less feminine, get dirty, and run around. Jill was jealous of her sister's beautiful dresses, long hair, and refined nature. This jealousy keeps them from forming a true friendship and keeps them at odds. This new world gives them the chance to be who they truly want to be, but their relationship is no better. Jill chooses to stay with the Master, the cruel vampire ruler of the land, as his doll-like, pampered daughter. Jack chooses to become a mad scientist's apprentice, submitting herself to backbreaking work and science that would turn others' stomachs. Both girls' desire to go after their own interests whether it be stereotypically feminine or not is seen as completely valid. Especially in YA novels, there is a dismissive or outright hostile view towards feminine women and girls with an "I'm better than those other girls attitude." I'm so happy to see an author I especially respect giving validity to differing gender roles.
The latter part of the story focuses mostly on Jack, her coming of age, and her first love. She lives near a village of peasant people and loves every bit of her humble way of life. However, throughout everything, there's an undercurrent of threat. If someone offends her, they might suffer a painful, bloody fate at the hands of Jill or the Master. After one such incident, the people take care what they say around her and keep her at arms length. Everyone except for Alexis, who loves her deeply. They hide the extent of their relationship in public, but Alexis is the only person Jack can truly be herself with. Jill, on the other hand, aspires to become a vampire and be next in line to rule the Moors. Her heart withers until she becomes just as ruthless as the Master she is so obsessed with and views death as an amusement. Their journeys run parallel each other until they meet in a heartbreaking tragedy.
Down Among the Sticks and Bones isn't quite as good as Every Heart a Doorway, but it provides a context for the twins and their dynamic. It's a pretty short novella. Seanan McGuire imbues each page with such masterful writing and detail that it seems much longer. I am eager to read further stories in this series that allow us to get to know those memorable characters better.
Jack and Jill are raised as Jacqueline and Jillian. Jacqueline is raised to be polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. Jillian is raised to be adventurous, thrill-seeking, and bold. At the age of twelve, the twins find themselves in the Moors. The two girls quickly abandon their full names and the roles their parents have forced them into. Jacqueline becomes Jack - the mad scientist's apprentice. Jillian becomes Jill - the Master's daughter. For five years, the two rarely see one another. Jack grows stronger (both physically and mentally), the finds love with the innkeeper's daughter, finds a place with her doctor and among the villagers. Jill grows colder, perhaps slightly unhinged, and less humane. When Jill does something unforgivable, it is up to Jack to save them both from the unforgiving Moors.
There is so much to love in this novel: the way the author shows parents forcing roles and personality traits on children, the way the girls slowly learn to make their own choices, and the ideas of gender roles. It is all just so perfectly done. And, the writing is beautiful - the lyrical writing style sucks you in and keeps you reading until the very end. I literally read this entire thing in two hours.
I cannot wait for the next novel in the series.
Jack and Jill's parents feel like caricatures, and it's a little hard to believe in them, and yet I wish it were harder. The effect that they have on their daughters feels all too real.
This is Jack's story more than Jill's. The narration mentions trying to be even between the two as it goes from one to the other while their lives diverge, but Jack is the one who sees better in both worlds, who interacts with the world around her more in the Moors. Jack is the one who heals in the Moors.
This starts with the twins' conception, effectively, and goes forward until they're about seventeen and a half. Despite that huge range of time in relatively few pages, it never feels like time is unaccounted for. It goes quickly and unevenly, but we know where it all went. (For context, the girls get to the Moors about a quarter of the way through. They make their choices of where to live -- which happens two days after they arrive or so -- halfway through. Their last day in the Moors starts about 80% of the way through.)
If you found Every Heart a Doorway too gory, this is far less so.
First the author details their controlled, unhappy existence in the "real" world, and thenshows us their descent into their alternate world, "The Moors," and describes their adventures there.
It's told in third-person omniscient style, like the first book, in icy beautiful prose that really ought to be read out loud. It's a meta fairy tale, but it's for adults--although over-13s should be able to appreciate it, too.
It's short, maybe too short. I surely didn't want it to end, but I'm glad more Wayward Children books are to appear.
NOTES AND ASIDES. Blood and bones. Jewelry and vampires. Implied werewolves.
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