Book Review: The Wayward Children Series, by Seanan McGuire

“Doors opened everywhere. Maybe one day, the children of this world who had gone to that world to save themselves would see a door that didn’t fit right with the walls around it, something with a doorknob made of a moon, or a knocker that winked. Maybe they could still go home.” 

Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series asks a question arising from a deep well of literature. What happens to the children that go on a fantastic adventure once they return to the “real” world? Would Alice (from Alice in Wonderland) or the Pevensie children (from Narnia) be able to readjust to a more mundane life? In Every Heart a Doorway, the first book in the series, McGuire introduces Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. After children have returned from their fantasy world, their parents bring them to this boarding school in order to move on.

Of course, nothing is as simple as that, as Eleanor West herself experienced a fantastic journey herself as a child. Virtually every one of the teenagers in the school is devoting themselves to rejoining the fantasy world where they feel they really belong. This search for home is the center of the series. Every Heart a Doorway follows a group of students investigating a series of murders seemingly designed to give the murderer a chance to return home. Down Among the Sticks and Bones explores the back story of Jack and Jill, two of the primary characters from Every Heart a Doorway, and Beneath the Sugar Sky depicts a quest to set one of these fantasy worlds right by returning one of the “wayward children” to her real home.

As of May 2018, these three books are the only published entries into the series. However, more are coming since the Wayward Children series has proven a critical and commercial hit. The fourth book, In an Absent Dream, is scheduled for January 2019. A fifth book due roughly a year after that. Although inspired by books for children, the Wayward Children series contains adult language and situations. We do not recommend these books for children. However, for an adult who enjoys a character-driven fantasy with a lyrical style, this could be an excellent choice. Every Heart a Doorway managed to win 3 of the biggest prizes in science fiction and fantasy, the Hugo, the Nebula, and the Locus awards as well, so it’s highly acclaimed. If you ever wonder about what happens after happily ever after, give the Wayward Children series a try!

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