Friday, April 8, 2016

Short Fiction Friday: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

What if the lands of our stories and myths were real? What if doors to these worlds revealed themselves only to a select few? And what if those select few were sometimes sent back. Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children is a boarding school that's meant to help.

After she is sent back from an Underworld (there are many different Underworlds, apparently), Nancy's parents are at their wits end trying to fix her. And so they turn to Eleanor West and her school, in the hopes that she can bring their daughter back to them. Like most of the other kids in the school, Nancy doesn't want to be fixed. Nancy wants to go back. She knows, though, that her return is not up to her - Nancy has to be allowed back by the Lord of Death himself. Until then, she'll bide her time in whatever school her parents send her to - as long as she can still wear black!

Fortunately for Nancy, while Eleanor West's school may not be the only one of its kind, it is the only one designed for those children who long for nothing more than to return to the lands of whimsy and fantasy. Eleanor offers the children a refuge and doesn't curb their desire, instead she understands that if or when a student's door returns it's their choice to leave this world behind or stay. She even has a story prepared for the parents in the event of such a case. But when a murderer begins targeting her students, Eleanor's carefully constructed sanctuary is shattered. Now Nancy and her classmates have no choice but to unmask the killer themselves. To fail could mean losing the school at best or dying (at worst!).

Seanan McGuire once again spins a fabulous tale set in a wondrous and admirable world! And she promises to continue weaving this magic as well - Every Heart a Doorway is now the first in a series! The possibilities of such are only limited by the number of worlds McGuire can imagine.

We do learn of quite a few of these worlds in Every Heart a Doorway. There's Nancy's Halls of the Dead, which is quite different from the twins' world and their vampire lord, which is even more different from the land of the skeletons. There are lands that resemble tales of the fae, lands of magic, and lands of candy and rainbows. Each of the students has their own story and their own land. Even Eleanor has one, and it's one she's admitted to returning to over and over again.

The students are all as varying and different as students in any real life school. The twins, Jack and Jill, (the smart one and the pretty one); Sumi, boisterous and outgoing, Kade, one of the few boys and, as we learn, Eleanor's nephew; Nancy... there are even some mean girls and snobs in the mix. None of them feels like caricatures, though. McGuire takes adequate time to develop them each enough, even those on the periphery, that they all feel genuine.

The murders are quite gruesome, but that makes the story all that much more fun in my opinion. The stakes are HIGH for these kids and they know it. Their classmates are falling one by one and any of them could be next. For them death is more than the end, it's death without ever seeing their beloved worlds again!

The lands are described as being Nonsense, Logic, Wicked, and Virtue. Beyond that there are even further delineations to determine the vast number of worlds out there. I couldn't quite grasp the full meaning of these just yet (they're used a bit like directions), but this is just one of the things I hope to learn more about in subsequent stories.

Rating: 4/5

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