Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire
Fantasy | Novella | Young Adult
Published by Tor.com
Released April 5, 2016
Goodreads | Amazon
Fantasy is full of stories of people going through doorways or portals into fantasy lands. We’ve all read and loved those tales. What is less common, however, is telling the story of those people once they’ve come back to reality.
Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series does just that. Set in a boarding school for “wayward children”, the novellas follow young adults after they’ve been thrust back into the real world from their unique fantasy worlds. The school serves to help them adjust to their realities and to the knowledge that most of the students will never go back “home” to the lands they grew to love.
Currently, there are six books published in the Wayward Children series, with four more currently planned. This first installment, Every Heart a Doorway, won a Hugo Award in 2017.
Every Heart a Doorway is told from the perspective of Nancy, who was sent back to our world after living in an Underworld with the Lord of the Dead. Upon her arrival at the school, a series of murders start to take place. While trying not to alert the outside world, the students and teachers have to keep one another safe with a murderer among them.
I enjoyed this novella. While it didn’t blow me away, I did like it enough that I’ve already requested the second book, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, from my library.
My favorite part of the book was watching the students adjust to our “normal” world after coming from a plethora of distinct and strange worlds. The worlds are so bizarre and intriguing – from a candy world to lands of skeletons, there’s a world for everyone. I do wish more time had been spent on Nancy’s Underworld, but seeing as this story is about the students adjusting to their normalcy, I understand why the focus was on their day-to-day lives.
At under 200 pages, it can be hard to fit a well-rounded story into a novella. Seanan McGuire did a great job, however. I never felt like the story was rushed or that parts were sacrificed for brevity. It felt much more like reading a full novel, just one that I was able to complete in less than a day.
Every Heart a Doorway has a diverse cast of LGBTQ+ characters. Mental illness and trauma are also represented, with many of the students suffering from PTSD. There wasn’t a ton of time spent with that, but considering how short the book was I think that McGuire did a good job of showing the difficulties of adjusting after something traumatic occurs.
While I was reading this story, I was reminded of Laura Weymouth’s The Light Between Worlds, which is another story about people trying to get back to their fantasy worlds. If you love one, definitely read the other. Both books are dark and magical and wonderful.
If you’re looking for a quick, quirky, magical, dark read, then I absolutely recommend Every Heart a Doorway. I finished it in just a couple of hours and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. If you end up enjoying it, you’ve got a whole series to keep you occupied! I’m looking forward to reading the next books!