Genre: Fantasy, Novella
Publisher: Tor.com on April 5, 2016
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 the matter.
No matter the cost.
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.