Sugar and spice, and let’s not get sliced

Page 3:  Wayward Children review (Books 1-3 and 5) 

Cover of Every Heart a Doorway. A simple wooden door stands, slightly ajar, in the middle of a sunlit green forest. The door doesn't lead anywhere in particular; you just see the forest itself through the opening.

Wayward Children playlist:

  • “Fairytale Lullaby,” by Bombay Bicycle Club
  • “Underground,” by David Bowie
  • “Happy Phantom,” by Tori Amos
  • “Dream On,” by Depeche Mode
  • “Electrical Storm,” by U2 (I know I used this in another review, but it feels so right)

Edit:  I’ve created a Seanan McGuire playlist on Spotify (of course I have).  And now I have this sneaky feeling it’s as secretly self-aware as the knowes in the Toby verse…how else can you explain Alanis Morissette’s “Head Over Feet” turning on exactly as Nancy first lays eyes on Kade?  Do knowes and playlists have a sense of humor?

Series rating so far:  4.9 out of 5 bewildered turtles caught in one of the rapidly disintegrating folds of a dress made entirely out of cake.

Note:  Despite publishers’ notes, not all of the Wayward Children books are true standalones — certainly not Sugar Sky (Book 3) and Tumbling Down (Book 5).  They’re both sequels to Every Heart a Doorway.

Recommended if you like:  

  • Gleeful-yet-macabre-yet-whimsical-yet-disturbing odes to portal fantasy.
  • Magic-themed boarding schools for “gifted” or “difficult” children.
  • Diverse casts with lots of queer representation.
  • Realistic, three-dimensional characters who defy stereotypes (a girl can love messy contact sports and frilly dresses; the fat character is a star swimmer who’s not a fan of the pastry planet).
  • Sex positivity and casual graphic discussions.
    Cover of Down Among the Sticks and Bones. Dead grey hills rise up against a cloudy, grey sky. A blackened tree stands on the middle hilltop and a treasure chest sits in the slight valley formed by the three hills. A golden-orange glow comes from the slightly opened trunk..
  • Exploring the nature/nurture spectrum (did Jack’s germaphobia stem entirely from her upbringing, or was she predisposed to it?)
  • Elaborate world-building that you can LITERALLY map out on a chart or compass — the headmistress’ nephew has a diagram of the different worlds his classmates have been to, with labels such as Nonsense, Logic, Virtue, and Wickedness, with sub-genres and everything.
  • The intro to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Jack and Jill’s parents are basically the Dursleys).
  • Don’t even get me STARTED on the hints of merfolk!  I want an entire story about the Trenches.  Also, Nadya splashing through the school’s pond, shouting, “Come back, turtles! Come back and let me love you!” may be the best thing since the Luidaeg singing the sea witch’s villain song at Toby’s bachelorette party.  Maybe.

Cover of Beneath the Sugar Sky. A bright, blue sky covers the top left corner of the cover. Indigo clouds, with bright white lining, cover the top right. The bottom is occupied by magenta ocean waves crashing onto a magenta beach. In the middle of the sky is a semi-translucent door opening into nothingness.

Only slightly less awesome things:  

Anyhoo, there’s an out-of-character moment when Christopher’s bone flute is taken away and he waits a surprisingly long time before freaking out.  Also, considering they’re on a time crunch, the characters in Come Tumbling Down spend a bit too much time spouting philosophical quotes or responding to rhetorical statements.

Also, as much as I’m loving McGuire’s voice acting in the Sticks and Bones audiobook (like a true denizen of Nonsense, I’m experiencing these books out of order), she doesn’t capture the characters quite as clearly in Tumbling Down.  She does such a good job distinguishing one individual from another in the former, while in the latter a few of them sound like the same person using slightly different inflections (some of which border on generic teen sarcasm).

Cover of Come Tumbling Down. A green moor under a deep blue sky, with a giant bolt of lightning striking down the middle, branching out around a closed wooden door. The door has vertical wooden panels, a horizontal iron bar near the top, and two iron circles on top of the bar.

Luckily, it wasn’t annoying enough to turn me off, and I do recommend listening to at least Sticks and Bones to feel the full force of McGuire’s eerily matter-of-fact tone (and, maybe, to get that true hearthside Storytime feel).  Every “but, ahhh…” sends a combination of comfort and dismay shivering down my spine.


  1. I must admit, my favorite part was reading this: 5 out of 5 extremely useful buckets of soapy lemon water. Have you finished all the books? It’s up there on my list as a favorite series of mine. I honestly didn’t think I’d ever find a new favorite, but I have and now I wonder what else is out there 😀

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