December 08, 2021

Seanan McGuire: "Across the Green Grass Fields"

Title: Across the Green Grass Fields [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Wayward Children (6th of 10? 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)
Year: 2021
Age: 14+
Stars: 3/5
Pros: An imaginative look-in-reverse at one of the most common fantasy tropes. Puts a female intersex character front and center while telling us that "there's no right way to be a girl".
Cons: More didascalic than the previous installments, and with less memorable/rounded characters.
Will appeal to: Horse enthusiasts. Everyone who's ever felt out of place, but doesn't necessary dream of a happier world than the one they live in...

Blurb: Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late. When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to "Be Sure" before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines - a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes. But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem… (Amazon excerpt)

Review: I've read this one twice - I also wrote a mini review for it after my first read - and I stand by my word: ATGGF is the weakest installment in the Wayward Children series so far. Still enjoyable, but more forgettable than the previous ones.

SMALL WORLD

Regan is a new face for the Wayward Children series' readers - one we haven't meet at Eleanor West's school (yet?). This time, McGuire chooses to have an intersex heroine...or better, one with CAIS (complete androgen insensitive syndrome), though she does use the term "intersex" in the story (mind you, I don't know if the representation is done well, though I generally trust McGuire to do her homework...but Becca has something to say about that and the use of the word "intersex", and it surprised me). Contrary to most of the Wayward Children we've met so far, there are no parental issues or conflicts in Regan's life, but after confiding in the wrong person as a child and finding herself rejected and bullied for her condition, a door to a world of mythical equines (quite fitting, since Regan loves horses) opens for her. Now, I know that these are novellas, but there was so much potential here for McGuire to build a fascinating world (as she did in Beneath the Sugar Sky), maybe by stretching the page count a little (as it's the case with Come Tumbling Down, the longest book in the series so far with its 206 pages) - while, due to the amount of backstory and to Regan's predicament in the Hooflands, we only get glimpses of a larger universe. (Also...unicorns are stupid? ๐Ÿ˜ง). [...]

FLATLINE

Let's get that out of the way: all the WC books are didascalic, to an extent. The very nature of these novellas (that model after fables in more than one respect) dictates as much. But the conversation between Regan and her parents (who, mind you, clearly love and accept their daughter) about her being intersex sounds so dry and stilted. I understand that it's not McGuire's job to teach her readers what it means to have CAIS, but from a reader's point of view, the exchange doesn't feel natural. I think that "there's no right way to be a girl" is a nice sentiment, but a pre-teen would probably need more than that - namely, more answers - in order to process the truth about herself. Likewise, the characters who Regan meets in the Hooflands lack the usual depth/allure of their predecessors - and I found it odd that Regan's happy place should be in a world where the gender divide is ultimately strong (so much that female and male centaurs only meet once a year, apparently just for breeding purposes and, uh, family visits?).

A QUESTION OF FATE

If you're looking for the protagonist's actual (and prophesied) adventure here, you'll have to wait until the last 30 pages or so, but I honestly think that the final showdown is the best part of the story for more than one reason. It's surprising, it's deep, and it encapsulates the running themes of destiny and human/beast divide while flipping them on their heads. Honestly, I was tempted to up my rating by half a star because of those 30 pages alone, but overall, to me, the book felt weaker than Every Heart a Doorway (the first installment in the series, that I have a love/hate relationship with). Also, while all the worlds the WC travel to are ultimately selfish and request a sacrifice, the Hooflands are probably the first one that seems to call to them more to satisfy its needs than to cater for theirs (though no one is pressuring Regan into embracing her destiny until the time is ripe, and of course, being the only human in a world of equine and semi-equine creatures has its advantages when you aren't hitting puberty anytime soon).
Overall, I did enjoy ATGGF, and there were parts of it that I really liked, but to me, it lacked the strength of the previous chapters (I was going to say the darkness, but then again, I loved the candyland - if twisted - in Beneath the Sugar Sky), plus I expect more from McGuire...so, 3 stars it is ๐Ÿ™‚.

For quotes from this book click here.
For my "Skeleton Song" review (prequel short story) click here.
For my "Every Heart a Doorway" review (first installment in the series) 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 "Where the Drowned Girls Go" review (seventh installment in the series) click here.
For more Supernatural books click here.

15 comments:

  1. You know I just googled CAIS. Wow. Anyhow, sorry this fell a bit flat for you, as I know this is an author/series you enjoy. Hmmm, I appreciate people using their platform to educate, but if it's not done well, what's the point?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought I'd link to that review because I know nothing about the subject and it sounds like that person does, but I guess there's only so much you can pack into a 170-page novella...

      Delete
  2. This wasn't my favorite either. Nothing really happens, and I was pretty bored. I have high hopes for the upcoming one though:-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's a shame about this one. A portal fantasy into a grassland world with centaurs. That would seem like a winner for me if it's done right...

    Uicorns are stupid? Noooo I want some badass unicorns... :)

    So clearly I need to start elsewhere with this series and I'm bummed this had issues, but... I still kinda want to try these :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Uicorns are stupid? Noooo I want some badass unicorns... :)"
      Haha, right?

      Do try Every Heart A Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones - then you can decide if it's for you. I liked Book 2 more than Book 1, but the backstory is needed.

      Delete
  4. Unicorns are majestic, magical, BEAUTIFUL creatures. They are not stupid... how dare the author portray them that way. ๐Ÿ˜ค

    I'm glad the conclusion was satisfying, but I probably would have struggled with those first 30 pages.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? ๐Ÿ’ฌ

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL, I think she wanted to portray unicorns in a unique way, but it was sad. Also
      [SPOILER]
      [SPOILER]
      [SPOILER]
      [SPOILER]
      [SPOILER]
      they are livestock for the centaurs...๐Ÿ˜ญ

      You mean the first 130 pages? They weren't bad by any means, but nothing to write home about either.

      Delete
  5. Oh dear. Nope, this doesn't sound good to me at all and after reading not only the review but the comments and your answers, that's a big nope for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL. I didn't mean for it to come across as a bad book, but it isn't one of her best either. And I guess the unicorns put a few people off ๐Ÿ˜‰.

      Delete
  6. Love this writer, but I only read the first of the saga. I'm your new follower and I invite you to my blog if you want to.
    Thanks and have a nice day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rocรญo! Nice to meet another McGuire fan. You have a new follower as well now (I've forgotten what little Spanish I knew, so I'll use the Translate option).

      Delete
  7. I enjoyed reading your review. :) Even if this wasn't a good book in the series as a whole, do you recommend the other books in the series?
    -Quinley

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! It's definitely a series I would recommend - lots of diversity and a unique twist on the portal-fantasy trope.

      Delete

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