August 18, 2022

Seanan McGuire: "In Mercy, Rain"

Title: In Mercy, Rain [on Goodreads]
Series: Wayward Children (Note: This is a short story set in the same world as Down Among the Sticks and Bones and Come Tumbling Down, situated three years after the events in the first book and a couple before those in the second, and you can read it for free here. Chronologically book 2.5 in the series, though on Goodreads it's listed as 7.5...)
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: 2022
Age: 14+
Stars: 4.5/5
Pros: An imaginative look-in-reverse at one of the most common fantasy tropes. Fills us in about the scientist who took Jack under his wing, and her first encounter with her future girlfriend Alexis. Heartwarming despite the brutal setting and spooky circumstances.     
Cons: Leaves at least one question unanswered (what kind of deal did Alexis' parents do, exactly?).
WARNING! Death and gore as usual, but the latter is mostly implied.
Will appeal to: Fans of the Wayward Children series...past and future πŸ˜‰.

Blurb: Jack Wolcott was only twelve years old when she and her twin sister Jill descended the impossible staircase and found themselves in the Moors, a world of drowned gods and repugnant royals. After abandoning her sister to a vampire lord, and under the tutelage of a mad scientist who can do impossible things with flesh and living lightning, Jack quickly learns that in the Moors, death is merely a suggestion. (Goodreads)

Review: You may ask - what's the point in reviewing a short story that also happens to be a free read? It's not like one has to decide if it's worth one's money or not. But since I'm reviewing the whole series, it just didn't seem right to leave this one out. Also, sorry for going all McGuire on you...again and again and again (I have 3 mini reviews for one of her series coming later this month). But she writes SO MANY BOOKS, and I'm perpetually behind...

As a rule, I'm not a huge fan of short stories, but this one was quite lovely (you know, in a dreadful sort of way πŸ˜‚). If you've read Down Among the Sticks and Bones and Come Tumbling Down, you'll already know that twin sisters Jill and Jack found a portal to the Moors, a dark and dangerous world where the first caught the eye of a vampire master, while the second got taken in by a mad scientist, Doctor Bleak, who raised her as his apprentice. You'll also have met Jack's girlfriend Alexis, whom Jack helped her mentor to bring back to life, only to fall in love with her afterwards. Now we're finally treated to the first encounter between Jack and her future girlfriend (also, breaking news! Alexis is bi!), and we learn what brought the latter on Doctor Bleak's slab, but we also get a condensed, yet eloquent overview of Jack's coming of age, plus her very mentor's POV (and a small section of Alexis').
As usual with McGuire, the line between monster and saviour is blurred, as is the one between genius and madness; but in such a small page count she manages to make us understand what makes Doctor Bleak tick, and to portray him in a sympathetic light - we can see that he cares for Jack, and unlike her parents, has helped shape her into a version of herself that she likes and recognises. We also get a brief history of Jack's OCD, which is treated with the same amount of respect and understanding the author puts into every sensitive topic she touches. Ultimately, we get what is probably the most peculiar meet-cute in history, between a mad scientist's apprentice and the girl she's just helped to revive, and dammit, it works πŸ˜‚. Especially since Alexis has a knack for opening Jack's eyes to a few simple, yet foreign to her, truths, all without a patronising bone in her body. Gah, if I were a shipper, I'd ship these two so hard.
Seriously, this is the cutest bleak story (see what I did here? πŸ˜‰) I've ever read.

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 "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. This sounds like a cool book. :) I'll have to check it out, though read the other books in the series before I read it.

    1. It's an intriguing series, plus all the books are novellas (and short stories of course - two of them so far, both free), so it's easy to catch up.

  2. I need to read this, especially since Sticks and Bones is my favorite book of the series😁 And I want to read about that meet cute!

    1. The most peculiar meet cute in history. You've been warned πŸ˜‚.
      Then again, that's McGuire for you...especially when the Moors are involved LOL.

  3. I'm glad for a review even if it's free. To be honest, sometimes I read reviews just to see what my blogger friends think of a book, irregardless of my decision to get it lol or whether I WANT to actually read it! :) Anyway... it sounds like there are really unique, different worlds in this series, and that appeals to me quite a bit.

    1. Thank goodness for people like you who DO read reviews! LOL. Though I always hope to be able to actually pitch the book when I write one πŸ˜….

      You could maybe try the series via the library and see if it's for you. Even if you're more sci-fi inclined - but then again, as a rule, so am I...

    2. I like it when a reviewer is enthusiastic enough about a book that they not only want to share a review, but they're advocating for the book as well. I try to do that sometimes but I see that a lot in your reviews and to me that's a good thing.

    3. Thank you! Sam called me "book justice warrior" once, and it fits so much that I put it in my Twitter bio πŸ˜‚.

  4. I don't care how long or where I got the book, if I loved it and want to scream about it, I will review it. The most successful shorts for me were like this, where the author was able to convey so much in so few pages. It's impressive. So glad this was a hit for you. Brutal and heartwarming <- I love the idea of this

    1. I still can't wrap my head around the amount of reviews you're able to produce. For me to review a free short story there must be a HUGE reason behind - like in this case.

  5. I read free books and review them so I'm always happy to see others doing that too. It doesn't matter to me if they were free or not if you read them and you want to review them.

  6. Even if you're not spending money, you're still spending time when you read! Sounds like this one gave a lot of good backstory and info related to the series. Glad you enjoyed it!

    1. Look at me, finding ways not to review proper books under 3.5 stars and then reviewing a (free) short story for the sake of continuity πŸ˜‚. THAT is the odd thing LOL.

    2. Reviews take time and energy! Nowadays, I usually don't want to put that kinda time and energy into books I didn't like, but I love talking about the things I love, so I don't think it's odd at all.

  7. Well I thank you for this review because I didn't even know this book existed! I love Jack so I'm excited.

    1. I'm so happy we got to see how she met Alexis! Plus some off-screen stuff about her "formative years" with Dr. Bleak.


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