Every Heart a Doorway (Shades of Magic #1)
By: Seanan McGuire
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
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.
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
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. There’s a darkness just around each corner, 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.
Where to begin about this book and what caught my attention in the first place: the cover art, the title, the premise? Anyway, it looked fantastic that I was quite pleased to get my hands on it for my Kobo and more or less read it right away.
This novella, you guys…It was creepy and intriguing and fantastical and lyrical and thoughtful. It’s a pretty slim novella, running at around 176 pages (according to GoodReads), so it made for a quick read but structurally it was a pretty tight narrative that told readers enough about the worldbuilding, the different worlds that these children would disappear into, and enough of the consequences and effects of their travels when they return to flesh out the characters and make them believeable. Speaking of worldbuilding, the story with its interesting use of portals to other worlds and the varying natures of these worlds (from worlds with rainbows and unicorns to the Halls of the Dead) reminded me a bit of Neil Gaiman’s works; there’s a streak of darkness to these places and to these characters that lend an air of ominousness to the story as a whole. I wasn’t expecting the macabre mystery that strikes the school at the start of the second part of the novel, which added to the already tense situation that Nancy finds herself in, being in this new school.
Thematically the story is interesting. In a way it’s a bit of a coming-of-age as these young people who return to their homes after their travels realise that everything has changed but their parents don’t quite accept that these young people are no longer their little boys and girls. In a way the story feels like a fable of sorts, of these wayward children searching for a way back “home”, to these places they’ve come to feel accepted and loved and themselves. The theme of seeing through your own story and determining your own future is also hammered home by the end of the story.
Overall I really enjoyed reading Every Heart is a Doorway. I would’ve devoured it in one evening except for the fact that I was super tired the day I started reading it 😛 but don’t let the length fool you: it is jam-packed with story and characterisation and worldbuilding. I look forward to reading the next two books in this series and highly recommend this book to everyone 🙂