Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Every Heart a Doorway #1)Every Heart a Doorway

Genre: Fantasy, Novella

Publisher: Tor.com on April 5, 2016

Source: Purchased

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Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
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EVERY HEART A DOORWAY is a fantastical novella featuring realms both dark and whimsical, sumptuous writing, and an openly asexual protagonist. To say that I loved it would be an understatement.

Teens who’ve been sucked into other realms only to be spat back out again find themselves at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a fantastical group home of sorts. Ms. West once travelled to another realm herself, you see, so she understands her charges’ overwhelming desire to return to their true homes better than almost anyone. For those other realms – whether ruled by logic, chaos, whimsy, or something else – are more like home to these misfit kids than Earth ever could be.

For kids like Nancy, recently forced to leave her life in the Halls of the Dead to return to Earth, being back in the “real” world is torture. Her family, friends, teachers all think she’s cracked in the head, and explain away her absence and changes with elaborate stories of abduction. So Nancy enters into the care of Eleanor West, where she’ll learn to adjust to the colourful personalities of the other residents…no small feat for a girl who spent years training herself to be as still as a statue and survive only on sips of pomegranate juice.

Although there is a mystery to be solved in EVERY HEART A DOORWAY, the plot isn’t the main focus of this novella. Through Nancy and her tentative new friends’ eyes, Seanan McGuire explores what it means to be different. To feel out of place. To find where and with whom you belong, only to have that taken from you. And ultimately, what it means to go home again.

The idea of “going home” to her old life on Earth is especially difficult for Nancy, an asexual girl who struggled to articulate her sexuality in the past but found the words through her time in her realm, the Halls of the Dead. She discusses her sexuality with some of the others at the Home, explaining how for her, flirting and cuddling can be fun but anything more than that holds no appeal. While Nancy’s parents tried to make her wear pink and set her up on dates, Kade, Jack, and Chris accept her without a second thought. Kade’s own gender identity is also sensitively portrayed and discussed, including the unfortunately mixed reactions that some less than enlightened people have had to his identity. Their loss, because Kade and Nancy are fantastic.

If you’re undecided on this one because it’s a novella, I urge you to pick it up. Some of the best, most groundbreaking works of fantasy and science fiction are being released via novellas right now and I would hate for anyone to miss out, especially on a book as beautifully written as EVERY HEART A DOORWAY.

Highly recommended for those who like fantasy, lyrical writing, and care about the realistic and nuanced representation of queer identities.

Have you read anything by Seanan McGuire? What did you think of EVERY HEART A DOORWAY? Let me know in the comments!

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  • I loved this too! And I’m so happy it’s a series, although I’m not sure when she’ll go with it. Definitely a special book, one of my favorite this year:-)

    • Such a special book! I’ll definitely be re-reading it multiple times, which rarely happens these days. I heard rumblings on Twitter that McGuire’s going to write stories set in some of the other realms!

  • I’ve read so many good reviews of this! Clearly, I need it in my life.

    • Clearly! I think you’d LOVE this Lorraine, it’s totally up your alley (kinda dark, kinda funny, very poignant).

  • I totally need this one

  • This book. And your review. Both just yes yes yes yes yes.

    • Awwww Annika! <3 This book is honestly so important, I've been reccommending it to all my friends (and I'm going to try to get a copy donated to the Pride Library, too)!

      • It really is! And I mean, it’s a novella and it does so many things full-length books can’t. It’s actually kind of overwhelming to think about now that I’m writing for camo NaNo again. Waahhh

  • It’s official, I think I’m the only person left in the world (okay, fine, at least in the SFF blogging sphere) that hasn’t read this one yet 🙂

    • I’m just glad I’m not the last one to hop aboard the hype train for once! 😉 With your speed reading, I think you could whip through this in an hour or less. Totally worth it!

  • Lisa (@TenaciousReader)

    Oh sounds good. I keep thinking about reading this one but it never quite get makes the change from to-read to currently-reading status.

    • It’s fantastic, one of McGuire’s best in my opinion, and I’m a long-time fan! I hope you get the chance to read it soon, Lisa! 🙂

  • Wow, colour me intrigued. I wouldn’t mind giving this a go. I mean, novellas are great because they’re a quick read anyway so I will be checking this out… although I will not be buying it yet because I just checked Amazon and I can pay less for an actual book! What the hell?

    Anyway, the book, back to the book. It does sound really interesting. I don’t think I’ve heard of any book quite like this one and I love original books with original characters so I will sit and watch to see if the price goes down to a reasonable price for a novella.

    • Haha, I know, the price is pretty eyebrow-raising. Personally I bought a copy because I feel like sometimes you’ve gotta vote with your dollar in publishing, you know? Yes, I could buy about 10 cheap ebooks for the price of the print novella, but I might never read those and I knew I’d read (and love) this one.

      You should see if you can suggest it to your library, Becky! There’s typically an online form you can fill out to recommend purchases. Just say “diversity” and you should be good. 😉

      • Eyebrow raising, it’s 176 pages for £11, that’s pretty pricey. I may buy it soon. I am better at impulse buying pricey books in person than buying online so if I see it in a bookstore I will be buying. I do think sometimes you’ve got to pay more for a really good story, but it’s hard to talk yourself into it as well. I probably should pay more for less because my shelves wouldn’t be overflowing if I did that.

        I may contemplate requesting a copy for my library, but then there are an awful lot of books they already have I need to read. This may be a buy myself book. Maybe I should treat myself? I definitely need to treat myself. I think I’m talking myself into this book.

  • Lynn Williams

    I just simply loved this book – it’s so touching, and I think McGuire is doing more from this world – I really hope so anyway. So pleased you loved it too.
    Lynn 😀

    • Yes, from what I saw on twitter she’s committed to writing more short fiction in this world (or I guess “worlds”). I’m SO excited about it! I’ve really enjoyed all of her work that I’ve read, but this one was definitely the most moving and thought-provoking title I’ve read from her.

  • I have never read a book with a asexual protagonists, and keep hearing this author is worth picking up. Awesome Review!!

    • I think I’d read one YA contemporary with an asexual protagonist, but this was the first SFF novel I’d ever even heard about that features an ace character. So awesome!

      Seanan McGuire is one of my auto-buy authors, I highly recommend her work. She has a number of series on the go and they all have VERY different tones and styles, so I’m sure you’ll find something that suits your interests!

  • This sounds really, really interesting, but it’s SO PRICEY! 🙁 I might have to wait for a Kindle sale or something, it’s just that 12$ seems like a lot for an e-novella. I don’t usually mind it with books I really want to read but this seems a bit much nonetheless.

    I mean … you write the best reviews. Whenever you gush about a book, it ends up on my tbr. 😀 This premise sounds so cool.

    • Yeah, I agree. I was saying to Becky that it’s definitely unusually expensive for a novella, and I recommended that she check her library (or request that they purchase it). Sadly I doubt that’ll happen at your library, since I doubt it’s been translated into Slovenian yet and I remember you mentioning that there’s not a lot of English-language SFF floating around over there.

      If I see it go on sale, I will definitely let you know! Haha, aww thanks Kaja! Sometimes I feel like I’m rambling on forever so I’m glad it doesn’t come across that way. 😉