Every Heart a Doorway
Wayward Children, Book 1
by Seanan McGuire
Published by Tor.Com Publishing • April 5, 2016
176 Pages • ISBN 978-0765385505 • Hardcover
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Winner: 2017 Hugo Award
Winner: 2017 Alex Award
Winner: 2017 Locus Award
Winner: 2016 Nebula Award
Nominated: 2017 World Fantasy Award
Nominated: 2017 British Fantasy Award
2016 Tiptree Honor List
"A mini-masterpiece of portal fantasy ― a jewel of a book that deserves to be shelved with Lewis Carroll's and C. S. Lewis' classics" ―NPR
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.
This is such a fantastic idea for a story: a "home" for those who have come back from a portal world (think Wonderland, Narnia, or Oz), but can't accept that they are unable to go back to that portal world. Eleanor West (who has a portal all her own, and knows where it is, and is just biding her time until she can return) runs such a home, taking in the children who can't cope with the normalcy of the "real" world and who yearn to return to their true "homes." Some do find their way back, but many don't, and are in constant turmoil as a result.
Nancy is one such child. When she found her door to the Halls of the Dead, she thought she'd found her true home. But when then the Lord of the Dead sends Nancy back to the real world so that she can be certain that she wants to stay in the Halls of the Dead, she is unable to re-acclimate herself, and her parents send her to Eleanor West's School as a last resort.
As the new girl in the school, Nancy feels immediately out of place but is able to make friends with her roommate Sumi, Kade, a young man banished from his portal world, and Jack, who was apprenticed to a mad scientist. After one of the students is found murdered, suspicion immediately falls on Nancy as the newest arrival, but through the help of her friends they are able to discover the identity of the true murderer.
This is the fourth time I’ve read this book, as I do a complete reread when a new book is released in the series, and I’m still struck by the power of McGuire’s writing. The books are sinister and dark and beautiful and I can’t recommend them enough.
Here is a handy outline of all the portal worlds discovered so far in the series. Some possible spoilers as this list is up to date with the most recent book.
The books follow an every other pattern, one book set in the "now" at the school, the next telling a portal world story about one of the students, then back to the school.
- Every Heart a Doorway (2016): At the school
- Down Among the Sticks and Bones (2017): Jack and Jill's portal story
- Beneath the Sugar Sky (2018): Back at the school
- In an Absent Dream (2019): Lundy's portal story
- Come Tumbling Down (2020): Should be back at the school