September 02, 2018

Seanan McGuire: "Down Among the Sticks and Bones"

Title: Down Among the Sticks and Bones [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Wayward Children (1st of 8? books)
Author: Seanan McGuire [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural (technically it would be Portal Fantasy, but since I don't have a Fantasy Room on the blog, I decided to shelf this one as Supernatural - that's the closer I could get)
Year: 2017
Age: 14+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: An imaginative look-in-reverse at one of the most common fantasy tropes. Explores themes of gender issues and roles, and validates all the different shades in which femininity comes.
Cons: It's difficult to accept that kids would feel at home in such a harsh, unforgiving world.
WARNING! A vampire who sounds like a sexual predator; a murder; some gore.
Will appeal to: Everyone who's ever felt out of place, but doesn't necessary dream of a happier world than the one they live in...

Blurb: Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter - polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter - adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you've got. They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you [for] a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: I have already detailed, while reviewing Book 1, my love/hate relationship with this series...if you need to brush it up, it's in the last paragraph of my EHAD review, "BOOK OF (SELF) RULES". So take my ratings with a grain of salt - there's a lot to love in these stories, and they ARE unique, which is a great achievement in itself. With that out of the way, let's get to the actual review...

WHAT WOMEN WANT

Some reviewers have lamented the heavy-handed approach to Jack and Jill's home life description in the first quarter of the book - all the telling-not-showing and whatnot. I have to confess I didn't particularly notice it, though I do understand where they're coming from. As a (dark) fable - and a short one at that - I think the omniscient narrator style suited the book...and I say "the book" because it doesn't really stop once the sisters find their door. Also, Chester and Serena (while of course an EXTREME example of bad parenting) are the epitome of all the wrong assumptions, the nonsensical expectations, the rigid roles that society - and, yes, family too, sometimes - tries to force upon us from a very young age. I also found interesting how, even if the twins would switch roles if they could (which they will do once in the Moors), those roles would come with nuances their parents (or society) can't even begin to comprehend. Like, Jill would still like sports and spaceships and superheroes, only in a fancy dress (Part II, Ch.7). To be honest, the first section of the book is my favourite, with all its social commentary and validation of all things female, whichever form they take. And if it's hammered upon us a little, it's just because we STILL. DON'T. LISTEN. ENOUGH. [...]

HOME IS WHERE IT HURTS

I still can't wrap my mind around so many of the Wayward Children finding their "home" in worlds that are brutal and unforgiving (and even when they're not, there are still harsh rules, or you can literally fall from rainbows to your death...). This been said, in a couple of instances, McGuire tries to make us understand how - in this case - the sisters can cope with theirs, or better, find it preferable to the world they came from, besides the obvious reasons (I'm particularly thinking of the relationship between Jill and the Master, where, if anything, there's a straightforward quality that her everyday reality didn't have). It's hard, though, to accept that in the Moors the twins can develop in ways that are completely at odds with each other - and I'm talking about their moral compass here (though Jack is as ruthless as Jill in her own, science-justifies-everything way).

EMOTIONAL RESCUE

Without being too spoilery, I'll just comment that this book - as its predecessor - has got its share of diversity, in more than a way...though while discussing this series, some reviewers have commented about the fate of a certain queer character (but I disagree about it being a mere example of "burying your gays") and the lack - or marginality - of POC (and I agree that MUCH more should be done in that respect). Alexis is a wonderful character, who manages to feel totally fleshed out even in a relatively small amount of pages; and most of all, I love how she provides the emotional and moral ground Jack has never had in her life, for lack of empathy role models. In that light, Jack's decision in the end, as hard as it is, makes complete sense. I have some minor quills about the consistency of her character through the series, because in EHAD we see a slightly different side of her - but nothing that would make me do a double-take. So...without the burden of Book 1's murder spree (which nagged at me for practical reasons, as explained in my EHAD review), and thanks to its statements about femininity and gender roles, Down Among the Sticks and Bones ultimately gets the additional half star from me. Now I'm curious to visit the other worlds we only were told existed, and even the ones we weren't...the possibilities are endless 😃.

P.S.: Here's a gorgeous review for this book by Pamelibrarian.

For quotes from this book click here.
For my "Every Heart a Doorway" review (first installment in the series) click here.
For more Supernatural books click here.

4 comments:

  1. I keep meaning to read this series but event he e-book was super expensive but now that I've been trying to be more active with the library maybe I'll see if they have it there.

    Of course I've had her UF series on my shelf for about 8 years and haven't read that yet either lol

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm mildly angry with you people - here I make an effort to read a popular series and NONE of my friends has read it!
      (LOL, actually, a couple of them have - but still!).

      If it helps, these are very short books - just a little longer than your usual novella, I think? - so they're super-quick to read!

      Delete
  2. I love this series and plan to read the upcoming arc for my Fall reading (I do love a good, morbid read in the months leading up to October, even if it's hot and humid here right now).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kate! I've been trying to get a hold of you for a while now. I can't comment on your blog anymore since you and Kim only left the Google+ option in place. Do you think it can be fixed for those of us who don't have a G+ account? I'd love to comment again!

      Yep, I know you love this series, and look forward to Halloween and stuff LOL. If it's any consolation, it's hot and humid here as well. *sighs*

      Delete

Welcome to Offbeat YA! I love hearing from you and always - I mean always - acknowledge your comments. This used to be a full democracy place, because anyone could comment, regardless of being a registered member of any community. Unfortunately, I had to turn off the Anonymous comment option, because I was getting too much spam that didn't get filtered. So, you’ll need to have a Google account (Gmail will suffice) in order to comment. Sorry about that. Anyway, jump right in! Come on, you know you want to...😉 And be sure to leave a link!
BTW...I don't care if a post is a million months old - you comment, I respond. And you make my day 😃.
Note: this is an award/tag free blog. Sorry I can't accept nominations due to lack of time.

As per the GDPR guidelines, here's the link to my Privacy Policy.