Monday, February 15, 2021

Down Among the Sticks and Bones - Seanan McGuire

Title: Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: Tor (Tom Doherty Associates), 2017 (Hardcover)
Length: 187 pages
Genre: Young Adult/Adult; Fantasy
Started: February 14, 2021
Finished: February 15, 2021

From the inside cover:

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children. 

This is the story of what happened first...

Jacqueline was her mother's perfect daughter - polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it's because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. 

Jillian was her father's perfect daughter - adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tomboy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you've got. 

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can't be trusted. 

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you for a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

After Every Heart a Doorway, the subsequent instalments in this series tackle the backstories of different characters from the first book. Twin sisters Jack and Jill were a favourite of mine from the first book (and apparently everyone else's too), so it makes sense that the next book focuses on them. 

I love these dark fairy tales, if for nothing else then to remind ourselves that children are living beings with preferences and needs that we can't necessarily shape and mould as we will. Pretty much all the damage done (at least so far in these first two books), comes from forgetting this. 

Chester and Serena are probably the last people in the world who should be parents, but all the men at his firm have perfect sons, and all the women on her committees have the most idyllic daughters. How hard could it be? When Serena gives birth to twin girls, it throws a bit of a monkey wrench into their plans of getting the perfect family all at once, but they work with what they have. Jillian is more daring and outgoing, while Jacqueline is more cautious and observant, so Jill becomes the tomboy stand-in for the son Chester always wanted, and Jacqueline becomes the quiet and proper daughter Serena always wanted.

When the girls are twelve and hating the rigid roles that have been thrust upon them, a doorway opens up at the bottom of a trunk in a closet, and what twelve-year-old with little freedom can resist the promise of adventure? They find themselves in the Moors with werewolves in the forests and a blood-red moon in the sky. Two men offer to care for them during their stay there...which will they choose? 

This instalment is just as engaging as the first book, even though we're only focusing on one set of characters. Jack and Jill's story is a good one; dark, but not to the point where it could turn readers off. If anything, I'm finding I want more of these stories and wish they were full-length novels rather than short novellas, but they're still excellent as they are.

If you like dark fairy tales, give this series a try. I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of books 3 and 4 as we speak. 

Thoughts on the cover:
Again, similar to the first book, the landscape with the doorway as the central image is a good strategy to appeal to adult readers (this is not your usual YA cover) considering the cross-over potential. 

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