July 07, 2018

Seanan McGuire: "Every Heart a Doorway"

Title: Every Heart a Doorway [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Wayward Children (1st of ?? 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 closest I could get), Thriller/Mystery
Year: 2016
Age: 14+
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: An imaginative look-in-reverse at one of the most common fantasy tropes. A few diverse characters (especially when it comes to the sexuality spectrum).
Cons: You have to suspend your disbelief for things that largely transcend the premise...
WARNING! Gruesome murders/disposing of bodies.
Will appeal to: Everyone who's ever felt out of place, but doesn't necessary dream of a happierworld than the one they live in...

Blurb: 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. 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, and when tragedy strikes, it's up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things. No matter the cost. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: Before I start, a couple of things:
  • this is one of the rare mainstream series I read...the premise was too juicy to pass it up 😉.
  • I'm pretty much cover-blind, but HOW STUNNING IS THIS ONE? It even has the title crossing the door...it's so subtly done that I haven't noticed for a long time. And the sequels? All these covers are a work of art 😃. (Later edit: ...wait, WHAT?!? the Spanish version title doesn't do the door-crossing thing?!? ARE THESE PEOPLE FRIGGIN' JOKING?!?).


There are lots and lots of portal fantasy stories around, whether in book or movie form. What sets McGuire's vision apart from all those is that, with this book (and series), she tries to answer two questions that (to the best of my knowledge) no one else ever did before: what happens to these kids when they come back from their adventures? and why the worlds they visited chose them in the first place? Now, the way these questions are answered is both satisfying and infuriating. It makes sense that those kids wouldn't be able to adjust back to the "real" world, especially since no one around them will ever believe their side of the story. But to some extent, all the worlds they visited are harsh and unforgiving, or even downright cruel. In Ch.3, Jack explains:
"For us, the places we went were home. We didn't care if they were good or evil or neutral or what. We cared about the fact that for the first time, we didn't have to pretend to be something we weren't. We just got to be. That made all the difference in the world."
I get it, but I don't get it. The price for their freedom was still too high to me - the worlds that made them at home too dark, and more often than not, just a different kind of cage. Then again, I plaud McGuire for her inventive and - well - guts. Even if I have trouble suspending my disbelief, I can see how the way she imagines these portals is far more nuanced and interesting than if they were mere playgrounds where to have a grand adventure and maybe live happily ever after. [...]


Now, without getting too spoilery - shortly after Nancy's arrival, Miss West's home is plagued by a series of, well, murders. And since some of the kids come from particularly dark worlds, where death is not an issue for a bunch of reasons, I kind of get how they manage to deal (on various levels) with those murders...even if they don't seem excessively fazed about risking the same fate. But I can't suspend my disbelief about how easy it is to sweep the mess under the rug, not only when it comes to the law - because, at least in one case, there are still parents to answer to. Also, now that I'm mentioning this - I don't get how, all this time, Miss West has been able to deal with the cases (albeit rare) in which her kids found their way back to the places they called "home". Even if she fake-reported those kids as runaways, I suppose their families would have blamed her and press charges? How is her "Home" still open? And finally...I think the culprit was ill-equipped to deal with the bodies, even if their plan had worked. Sorry I can't elaborate further, for the two or three of you who haven't read the book already...


So, you see, I'm torn. I understand that there's magic in this book...in this series. I understand where it wants to go. I'm happy it exists. I'm on board about reading the whole thing. I'm grateful a good chunk of the sexuality spectrum gets represented in it, and not as an afterthought. I understand that a story like this lives by its own rules, and you can't apply too much logic to it. On a level, it's like those faces where the single features aren't "perfect", but the way they come together creates a different kind of beauty. And I understand this is, in itself, a fable - albeit dark - so, again, looking at it too closely is useless, and maybe even wrong. The fact is...I don't know where I stand in regards to Nonsense and Logic*, but I can't unsee all the things that don't make common sense in here. So, I like it and I don't. I'm sure it couldn't have been written any other way, but I still can't help feeling uneasy with the way it's written. One thing I can't deny though - this is a work of art and poetry and compassion, trying to answer the questions most people can't even seem to formulate. For that alone, it stands out and shines. So, my rating here is a compromise between Nonsense and Logic, I suppose. Maybe I'm a child of both and at home with neither 😉.

* Two of the "main coordinates" for the portals the books talks about.

For quotes from this book click here.
For my "Skeleton Song" review (prequel short story) click here.
For my "Down Among the Sticks and Bones" review (second installment in the series) click here.
For my "In Mercy, Rain" review (companion short story, following "Down Among the Sticks and Bones") click here.

For my "Beneath the Sugar Sky" review (third installment in the series) click here.  
For my "In an Absent Dream" review (fourth installment in the series) click here.
For my "Juice Like Wounds" review (companion short story, outtake from "In an Absent Dream") click here.
For my "Come Tumbling Down" review (fifth installment in the series) click here.
For my "Across the Green Grass Fields" review 
(sixth installment in the series) click here.
For my "Where the Drowned Girls Go" review 
 (seventh installment in the series) click here.
For my "Lost in the Moment and Found" review (eighth installment in the series) click here.
For my "Mislaid in Parts Half Known" review (ninth installment in the series) click here.
For more Supernatural books click here.


  1. Haha, I love covers and usually pay attention to them & I've been looking at this book for quite a while as a potential buy, but I've NEVER seen that the title crosses through the door lol. That makes the book 100x cooler.

    I've been on the fence about reading this, to be honest- it sounds good, but then I've read quite a few mixed reviews. Your review, however, convinced me to give it a chance. It sounds really unique, even if imperfect at times, and who doesn't love a story that's out of the ordinary? Fantastic review, and wow, it IS weird to see you reading more "mainstream" titles, but I also think fun? Kinda like a "does Roberta think this leaves up to the hype!?" post. :P

    Veronika @ The Regal Critiques

    1. LOL, I have only read a handful of hyped books so far (you'll see the list in my Tell Me Something Tuesday post for July 31st, and in it I'll also explain why I don't usually read hyped books). That would be a fun feature...if I didn't have to pay full price for physical books...

      I did convince you? with a 3.5-star review? That's big! Spoiler: I have already read Book 2, and ultimately decided to rate it 4 star (review coming in September).

      As usually, thank you for reading and stroking my ego! 😉😘

    2. Ooh, I'm really looking forward to that post. :)

      I was already paying attention to this because of the asexual rep, but was so unsure, but I think 3.5 stars is not bad + I'm glad to know you liked the sequel even more!

    3. And the sequel (well, prequel) is even much darker, which should please you! 😉

  2. I haven't read this one, but it does sound like there were some pretty big plot holes now that you've mentioned it. Still, glad you enjoyed the other things!

    1. This book/series lives in its own bubble, so to speak...I wouldn't call them plot holes, maybe more like "things that require a huge suspension of disbelief"...

  3. The last book I read about portals wasn't a good fit. The Blue Window? Maybe? I can't remember now... but these kids just sort of fell through a wall in their house, and ended up somewhere with reincarnated dollish people... I think. I remember it was something weird, but it didn't work for me.

    I don't know how I would feel about this one if it requires me to just believe something for the sake of believing it. I would have to be very comfortable with the world and what it was implying.

    Also, did you just read something... popular? Whaaaaat?? ;)

    L @ Do You Dog-ear?

    1. Yep, Blue Window it is! I looked it up on GR, and judging by the average rating, you weren't the only one having issues with it...

      Ah, it's difficult for me to tell if you would like this series or not. Maybe halfway through, just like me!

      I have read exactly 5 popular books/series in my life LOL. Yes, I've counted them. Just because there's a Tell Me Something Tuesday post coming...😉

  4. Time portal books don't usual work for me but I've wanted to read this one anyway but the ebook is $9.99 - I might just go for the HC at some point since it's the same price.

    Karen @ For What It's Worth

    1. Really? That seems absurd...but since this is a popular series, I suppose they're cashing on it hard...

      BTW, it's just a portal fantasy - no time travel involved.

  5. I really hate to break this to you, but I haven't read this book. To be fair, I have seen it EVERYWHERE but I have never picked it up. After reading your review though, I might give it a try.

    I am a huge fan of fantasy (and slightly offended that you don't have a fantasy room) but the portal trope isn't one of my favorites. The only notable story that I love with portals is the Chronicles of Narnia, and those are just classic books.

    However, I love the whole complication between Logic and Nonsense, Belief and Seeing. Don't get me wrong, philosophical themes like that are pretty much always convoluted and confusing, but I love exploring those ideas!

    As always, a great review that has convinced me to seek this book out!

    1. Just my luck. Once I read a popular book/series, none of my friends has! AND HERE I MADE THE EFFORT! LOL.

      Actually, there's a comment from on of the characters about Narnia being just "a Christian allegory pretending to be a fantasy series", and about Lewis not knowing how the real thing worked because he hadn't experienced it firsthand. Just a heads up, since some reviewers were a bit offended by the remark...

      Quote: "(and slightly offended that you don't have a fantasy room)".
      This made me chuckle. Sorry, but I read so little of it...😳

    2. Update: I just finished reading Every Heart a Doorway (thanks for the recommendation!) and it took me less than a day. Yes, I know that it is a short book, but I couldn't stop reading it. I agree with you that the distinction between Logic and Nonsense was not really explained, and the "minor" directions were just thrown in there, but I like the effect of it. The lack of explanation added to the whimsical and mysterious aura of the book for me. There were parts when I was confused, but all in all I think that I got it.

      As for the Narnia comment, that didn't really offend me. C.S. Lewis could be heavy-handed with the Christian messages at times, but it doesn't affect my love for the series. I also get the perspective of the Wayward kids who feel like they are being misrepresented by his stories.

      Anyway, thanks for making me read it! I have already requested the second book in the series and I am looking forward to it!

    3. Did I just...recommend a book?!? 😮😃 I'm really glad it worked for you! And I liked Book 2 better, so I hope it will be the same for you! My review for Sticks and Bones is scheduled for Sep. 2nd. Looking forward to read yours for this one!

    4. "to READING yours" 🙈


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