Review: Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

Title Every Heart a Doorway
Author Seanan McGuire
Series Wayward Children #1
Genre Young Adult, Fantasy, Diversity
Format Kindle Edition
Page Length 176
Publication Date 05 Apr 2016
First Read Apr 2017
Rating 5.09658 stars – Recommended

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. No Solicitations. No Visitors. No Quests.

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 the matter.

No matter the cost.

I’ve decided this week will be a little spotlight on the Wayward Children series (being) written by Seanan McGuire. This is my review from the first book, from when I first read it. I warn you, I have grown to love these books, and there is a lot of gushing from me about why I love them! You can read my review for book 2 here. You can read my review for book 3 here. Hey Ho, let’s go!

We’ve all heard of Wendy from Peter Pan, Alice from Wonderland, those irritating kids from Narnia, and even the loveable Bastian from The NeverEnding Story. Stories of children that travel through doors to magical lands. Well, this is similar, but different.

What happens when these Wayward Children (not specifically those mentioned above, different Wayward Children) visit those magical fantasy worlds and then have to return to our logical boring world? Well, you need ponder no more! Some children end up at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Nancy is a girl that visited a world of death. An underworld if you will. Where citizens voluntarily spend their lives practising standing perfectly still in the halls of death. So still, they can be mistaken for statues. Within days of Nancy joining the school the students start to be murdered by having body parts removed. But who could be doing this? *sucks on pipe* Spoiler – it’s not Nancy. I know, it seems like it should be Nancy right? But it’s not. Nancy though, can use her skills of hiding in shadows and remaining perfectly still to discover who is the dark one in their midsts.

I’ve seen some people compare this to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. I don’t think that’s a fair comparison. Yes, they both have homes with children, and they are both fantasy stories, but they have a vastly different feel to them. I didn’t particularly like Miss Peregrine’s, but I sure as hell did like this. I loved these characters. They are flawed, and vulnerable, yet so strong and determined at the same time. This book is full of moments that left me thinking for a while. It’s that kind of book where one could simply read it in a few hours and enjoy a nice little fantasy story, or you can analyse moments and realise that Seanan is teaching us something about love and acceptance and human nature. It takes real skill to write something that can do both. This is a masterclass in getting that balance right.

Call it irony, if you like, but we spend so much time waiting for our boys to stray that they never have the opportunity. We notice the silence of men. We depend upon the silence of women.

Can we just take a moment to acknowledge and praise the amount of diversity in this book?! Yes you can, it’s your blog Stark, you make the rules! You know me (or maybe you don’t), I love a good story with a great representation of diversity. The characters in this are a really good mix of ethnicities, sexualities and genders. And it is done so very well. One character is aromantic asexual, one is trans, one ‘looks of Japanese descent’, other characters don’t fit with gender norms – such as Jack and Jill, twin sisters. And this level of diversity is handled really well. It isn’t preachy. Their characteristics are discussed a little, and then everyone gets on with their lives. This is a story full of diverse characters but not necessarily a story about the diversity of the characters. More of this type of diversity in books please – much more!

I’m really struggling to articulate the mood/feel/atmosphere of this book. It’s quick and easy (that’s what she I said), and is light hearted in parts, but then really gruesome, awful things happen in other parts. On the whole, this world is normal, it is set in our normal, boring world. Some of the characters dress in floral dresses and bows, and others in jackets and waistcoats and bow ties, and they live in normal boarding school rooms and eat normal food. Some like books, some are interested in their boyfriends, some are part of clicky little groups where they bitch about others. They do what normal teenage kids do with the familiar teenage relationship dynamics. But then we get glimpses of their other worlds that are dark underworlds, or made of candy, or ruled over by a vampire lord, or have goblin markets. One moment we are sat in a garden under a tall tree, and then next we are thrown into a basement dissolving the body of a dead person in acid. This sounds chaotic and all over the place, right?! But it’s not. It really melds well together and keeps the setting feeling fresh throughout. It reminded me a little of how Guillermo del Toro can sometimes create a similar vibe in his work.

Hope hurts. That’s what you need to learn, and fast, if you don’t want it to cut you open from the inside out. Hope is bad. Hope means you keep on holding to things that won’t ever be so again, and so you bleed an inch at a time until there’s nothing left.

The ‘mystery’ is not much of a mystery. I figured it out pretty early on because I’m so smart omg you don’t even know. When I first read this I wanted the story to be longer and I wanted more backstory on the supporting characters and the worlds they had visited. I felt a little empty towards the end.

I really like Seanan’s writing. It isn’t overly floral and poetic like some other YA authors, but it is beautiful and fits the feel of the story perfectly. Her descriptions are great and I could picture things so well from them. Take a look at this example:

A girl with hair the color of moonlight on wheat stared at her hands while she talked about boys made of glass whose kisses had cut her lips but whose hearts had been kind and true.

Overall, this is a wonderful story. A little too short, but marvelous nonetheless. I loved the characters and the style of writing. The plot is a little thin and rushed in parts. The ending is bittersweet – my favourite kind.

Anyway, I’m off to check for doorways in all my cupboards and chests. Until next time, Peace and Love!

Goodreads | Amazon UK | Amazon US

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    1. Thank you! 😊

      I’d love to read another bloggers review, especially if they didn’t like it. I love to read blogs and compare our experiences. My book 2 review will be live on Wednesday and book 3 on Friday.


  1. Interesting… I have, on purpose, steered clear from the series for fear that I won’t be able to enjoy it much- don’t ask me why, sounds like I have let unfounded prejudice cloud my brain… But your review highlights some really neat and cool things about the book. Things I think I would be able to really appreciate myself. I shall keep an eye out for your other reviews and decide then if this needs to be on my TBR shelf! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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