Review: Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children #3) by Seanan McGuire

Title Beneath the Sugar Sky
Author Seanan McGuire
Series Wayward Children #3
Genre Urban Fantasy, Magic, YA
Format Kindle Edition
Page Length 157
Publication Date 09 Jan 2018
Read Date Jan 2018
Rating 5.5233 stars – Recommended

Beneath the Sugar Sky returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the “real” world.

Sumi died years before her prophesied daughter Rini could be born. Rini was born anyway, and now she’s trying to bring her mother back from a world without magic.

This week I have been reviewing the Wayward Children books written by Seanan McGuire. You can read my review of book 1, Every Heart a Doorway, here. Also, you can read my review of book 2, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, here. Even if you read those reviews earlier in the week, go back and reread them. I changed some things. See if you can spot what. (OK, now they’ve gone, I can let those of you that stayed know there isn’t any changes! I did it just to boost my view count. I’m such a cunning trickster like that!) Anyway, on to my review. Hey ho! Let’s go!

I FUCKING LOVE THIS SERIES! I had to get that out. Folks, seriously, this may be my favourite series of books ever. Individually, these books are 4 & 5 stars. But when you consider them as a collective group, they become greater than the sum of their parts. This is a 6 star series! I would say that to read this book, you don’t have to read DAtSaB (#2), but you do have to read EHaD (#1). This is a direct sequel of EHaD. Alles klar? Good.

Before we go any further – LOOK AT THAT COVER! Put your eyes to it and bask in its glory. Could it possibly be any more beautiful?! So much cover love for all the Wayward Children books, but this one especially. Look at it! (teehee, ‘at it’ sounds like ‘a tit’ – guffaw)

In this book, we are back at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. This is set some time after EHaD. We are introduced to Cora. Cora has been at the home for 6 weeks, and has come from a world where she was a mermaid. Cora makes friends with Nadya, another traveller from a mermaid world. One day when they are at the turtle pond, a mysterious stranger (Rini) falls from the sky. She’s totes fine, though. We don’t open with a fall – splat – visceral death scene. This is a Seanan McGuire story, not a Mira Grant story. She lands in the the turtle pond. She claims to have come from Candyland, and to be the daughter of Sumi – an ex pupil of the school. Sumi died before she could give birth to Rini and now Rini is starting to fade away. Totally not like Marty McFly – shut ya face! Cora, Nadya and Rini band up with Christopher and Kade (from EHaD) to go on an epic journey through magical worlds to save Rini.

Children have always tumbled down rabbit holes, fallen through mirrors, been swept away by unseasonal floods or carried off by tornadoes. Children have always traveled, and because they are young and bright and full of contradictions, they haven’t always restricted their travel to the possible.

You know how at the end of EHaD I was desperate to see more of these magical lands that we were teased with? You do remember that, right? Because surely you hang on every word I type. Well we got a little of that in DAtSaB, but we get more of it here! Ahhh, it’s so good. This is very much a ‘band of misfits on an adventure’ kind of story. I’m not normally a fan of questing stories but I was hooked throughout this. I think it helps just having such great characters, I would happily follow them to the end of the world and beyond. Speaking of such, we do travel to the Underworld, to visit the marvellous Nancy from EHaD! I was so happy about this. Nancy plays a minor role, but it was so nice to see her again, and to see her being happy.

I think Kade has become my favourite character. He was a Wayward Child and I (like many fans of this series) can’t wait to get his story! He is Eleanor’s nephew and second in command, and will one day run the school. This isn’t nepotism though, he has earned his place, and continues to work hard to keep it. He’s level headed, and studious, but is up for an adventure when the opportunity arises. I also have a soft spot in my heart for Christopher. He’s shy, and a little more reserved than others. BUT he plays a fucking silent bone flute that brings the skeletons of dead folk back to life! That’s possibly the most badass thing ever. When he is separated from his flute, he becomes sick, and his life starts to drain away. This is such an interesting part of his character and I want much more of this. I want a bone flute. I want one more than I can express.

So Stark, is there a good range of diversity in this like in other Wayward Children books? Well, I’m really glad you have asked me that, thank you. Of course there is! I mean, come on, this is a Seanan McGuire story. It’d be a bit weird if she stopped now.

Cora is fat. She has always been made to feel that being fat means being lazy, disgusting and worthless. Cora spends a good amount of time being amazed that nobody at the school seems to care that she is fat. I’m a relatively big guy (6’3” and 270lbs) and I struggle to keep my weight manageable. It was so nice and refreshing to have a positive fat character in a book. Cora shows us that she is anything but lazy, disgusting and worthless. She’s smart, brave, athletic, and most importantly, she’s just like anyone else. (Well, she has spent some time as a mermaid, so maybe a little unusual!) Nadya’s right arm ends at the elbow. Rini looks like her mother, Sumi. Sumi is described as looking of Japanese descent, therefore, Rini looks of Japanese descent. Christopher is mexican-american and as we know from EHaD, Kade is trans. Other characters that we meet are of different races and minorities. I do think I would probably be disappointed if future Wayward Children books didn’t continue to have a wide range of diverse characters. But I can’t see that being the case.

I want to discuss a particular moment, but I do so with hesitation. When I mentioned this to a couple of work colleagues, they looked at me like I was weird. I am a bit weird, so I do get that look a lot to be fair. I hesitate because I am a man and men are not allowed to talk about this kind of thing. But, please remember I’m an aro ace man and there is nothing pervy in what I am about to say. So with all that stalling and caveat-ing, we have now created a safe space to discuss this. The bit I’m talking about is this:

Nadya, who had spotted the three of them, was waving her arms frantically over her head, signaling her distress. In case this wasn’t enough, she shouted, “Over here! Next to the naked lady!”
“A cake’s a cake, whether or not it’s been frosted,” said the stranger primly.
“You are not a cake, you are a human being, and I can see your vagina,” snapped Nadya. The stranger shrugged.
“It’s a nice one. I’m not ashamed of it.”

How fucking good is that exchange?! I smiled so much at this part. Yes, it is witty and comical and a little bit shocking. But it’s so much more when you stop to think about it. Here we have a girl that has fallen to the earth, and her dress made of candy and sugar has dissolved leaving her naked. At no point is she ashamed of her body or her nakedness. So many teenage girls have so much pressure put onto them to look a certain way, or to feel like they shouldn’t take pride in their appearance. I’m not advocating people walking around naked, (although as a bit of a hippy I do think people should do whatever they feel comfortable with), but I’ve always found it odd that nakedness is so taboo in our western culture. Here we have a positive role model of a young woman who is proud to be female and has no shame in people seeing she is female. I mentioned in my DAtSaB review about Seanan’s genius, and this is just another example of this. Seanan slips in these little messages of love and acceptance. Yes, there is probably a little bit of preaching to the converted going on (although, these stories are far from being preachy), but it’s such an important message that it deserves all the respect and acknowledgement. See, I’m not a weird pervy guy! Just a slightly weird guy. 🙂

This is my favourite of the Wayward Children books so far. It has a bit of everything in it. It has more tension than the other books. If EHaD is a murder mystery, and DAtSaB is a gothic atmospheric coming of age story, then BtSS is an action adventure journeying quest story. That makes it sound like these shouldn’t work as a collective, but trust me, they do.

Kade was an amateur historian and mapmaker rolled into one, recording the stories of all the children who came through the school. He said it was because he was trying to accurately map the Compass that defined Nonsense and Logic, Virtue and Wickedness, all of the other cardinal directions of the worlds on the other side of their doors. Cora thought that was probably true, but she also thought he liked the excuse to talk to people about their shared differences, which became their shared similarities when held up to the right light.

We do have a fourth and a fifth installment of this on the way. In an Absent Dream (#4) – Goodreads Page. Which, from the synopsis, I think is probably Lundy’s story. Lundy is a character from EHaD. I am very excited about this! Also, Come Tumbling Down (#5) – Goodreads Page. We don’t have a synopsis for this yet.

The Wayward Children books are for anyone who has ever felt like they don’t belong. They teach about acceptance, and embracing our differences. They are deep, emotional, sometimes gruesome, sometimes funny, and sometimes heartbreaking. All set in magical, exciting and intriguing world. I want many more Wayward Children books. Please, please. We want lots more. Contract Seanan to write many more. At least another 23.

Anyway, I’m off to try and track down some candy corn. I live in the UK, I can’t find them anywhere. Until next time, Peace and Love!

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  1. Well… ‘download 100% complete’- you have thoroughly and utterly convinced me that I simply need to start reading this series!
    Fantastic review- really nodding along to everything nice you say about this book, all three books, and am thinking now- wth was I thinking when I thought I probably won’t enjoy these? I think I have been a victim of ‘false marketing’ somewhere… thank the lords for book bloggers though- Thank you Stark for making me see the error of my ways!
    Brilliant review! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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