Normally, I read most of Seanan McGuire’s books as soon as they come out. I wish I had on this one as well and other than a lack of time, I have no excuses. Not only is it one of the finest novels I’ve read but it truly deserves every award that has been lauded on it. I’m glad I finally made the time to read it and here is my review of this magical story.
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 things.
No matter the cost.
There are two things that make this book so compelling. One is the magical twist on the idea of other lands and other places. This book manages to evoke all the magic of Lewis Carroll and the delight of Narnia and blend it into a spooky, twisted story highlighting parental neglect and all the childhood pains of people who fail to understand the gifts they are given in their children.
One of the ideas I loved the most is that the children who go through the doorways go because their parents failed to understand them in the first place and fail even worse when their children return, irrevocably changed by their journeys. For every child that felt alone or different, this is a book that grabs you and won’t leave you alone, until you understand the heart of the message, that it is beautiful to be different and your gifts are your strengths.
The other aspect that just kept me engaged in this story were the characters. Nancy is easy to like, but part of what makes her such an interesting character is the way the author shows her emotions, by her quietness and her ability to be silent. I’ve been that girl and I loved the exploration of her character, that she didn’t need to be loud to be appreciated. I liked the depths to her and the depths to the other characters. Each little touch made me want to know more about them and my only disappointment at the end of the story was that I couldn’t remain with them and explore more of their worlds, their tales.
I did figure out the mystery, the tragedy visited upon the home and who is responsible. But like the other characters, it wasn’t obvious so much as part of the journey. A good mystery always gives the reader a chance to puzzle out the who done it and this was an excellent example, with just enough hints to keep you involved and enough misdirection to keep it from being too easy.
I highly recommend the series. While this is just the first, I can only imagine the others are equally excellent. Ultimately, this novel is deserves every award and was well worth reading.
Rating: 5 out of 5 doorways