In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire | Book Review

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In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

Rating: ★★★★★

This book has been sitting on my nightstand for months. I devoured the first two books in this series, and quickly added them to my list of favorites, but I was hesitant about reading this latest installment. Why? The third Wayward Children book, Beneath the Sugar Sky, was a huuuuuuge disappointment. It lacked the magic of the first two books. Reading that book and discovering it to be nothing like the first two books was profoundly disappointing, and I kept putting off reading this book because I was worried that it would be similarly disappointing.

Was I ever wrong.

In an Absent Dream may very well be my new favorite book in the series (or perhaps my second favorite book, after Every Heart a Doorway). McGuire is back. This book is every bit as magical and wonderful and beautiful as her first Wayward Children books. I know a lot of people were disappointed with Beneath the Sugar Sky, but please, don’t let that stop you from reading In an Absent Dream. Trust me!

Goodreads Synopsis: 

This fourth entry and prequel tells the story of Lundy, a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.

BookishBlond Reviews:

This book is about Lundy, the childlike counselor/right-hand man to the school’s headmaster, who was a supporting character in the first book. In the first book, we learn that she ages very slowly and backward, kind of like Benjamin Button. In this book, we learn the story behind her anti-aging, but the book isn’t simply telling that one story. Lundy was a kid just like the other Wayward Children, who stumbled down a doorway into a Wonderland tailored just for her. In an Absent Dream tells Lundy’s story – who she was as a child, what world drew her in and why, and, of course, why she couldn’t stay, and where she went afterward.

This book was much more of an emotional read for me than the earlier installments in the series (especially Beneath the Sugar Sky), which are more whimsical. In an Absent Dream is a true coming-of-age story. I had SO MANY FEELINGS after finishing this book, and I’m still not entirely recovered.

“Of such commonplace contradictions are weapons made. Katherine Lundy walked in the world. That was quite enough to set everything else into motion.”

I felt more of a connection with Lundy than I have with any other Wayward Children. At first, her character seems a little bit bland – she’s the principal’s daughter, a bookworm, a rule follower. Quiet. She definitely isn’t as distinct as some of McGuire’s other heroes, but that’s exactly what sets her apart. She is a normal girl, perhaps a bit of a loner, living in the 1960s, with a normal family. I was drawn to her quiet bookishness. Each of McGuire’s Wayward Children books feature a different type of child who ends up in a (very) different type of world. Following my connection with Lundy, I feel like if I opened one of McGuire’s doors, it would lead me to a world very similar to Lundy’s Goblin Market.

I looooooved the Goblin Market. It’s different from McGuire’s other worlds in that children are able to freely travel back and forth between their home world and through the Doorway to this one, at least until their 18th birthday. McGuire’s other worlds aren’t so readily accessible, and it’s interesting to compare Lundy’s experience with the experiences of the other Wayward Children, who only went down the doorway once and then spent years trying to find it again. But… this feature doesn’t work out so well for Lundy, which absolutely broke my heart. The flexibility of traveling to this world made Lundy’s journey less ominous and less urgent than the journeys in the other books, where the children only get that one chance to decide whether to stay forever or to go home. McGuire is tricky, though – she lulls us into a false sense of security then hits us with a sucker punch to the heart. It hurts so good.

The Goblin Market is definitely one of my favorite worlds, right up there with the world the twins went to in Down Among the Sticks and Bones. There are centaurs, birds, children turning into birds, and a complex yet intuitive system of rules. I love rules (which is maybe why I went to law school), so this world really resonated with me. And the characters from this world! The Archivist, who I imagine as an ancient librarian, guides Lundy like Virgil leading Dante through the Inferno. And, of course, Moon. Lundy doesn’t have any friends in her home world, but she meets Moon, her best friend, at the Goblin Market. Their friendship was one of my favorite things about this book.

I love this book so much. It is absolutely one of my favorite reads of 2019. Please, please, please… read this book. If you haven’t read the rest of the series, start here.

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Every Heart a Doorway & Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire | Book Review

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Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1)

5/5 Stars

Every Heart a Doorway is Seanan McGuire’s answer to an interesting question: what happens to the children who come home from their adventures in places like Wonderland? At Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, students are learning to cope with returning to the “real” world. For some, the transition is difficult. How can you accept your place in this world when you always want to return to another? Which one is “real”? For other children, the transition feels impossible. Why stay in a world that does not see you for who you are when you can go home to the place that let you be yourself instead of a version forced upon you by others?

This book is enchanting and haunting. Each child has disappeared into a unique fantasy world that is utterly perfect for them but have each returned to the “real” world and are struggling to cope. Some children vanished into dark Underworlds and and some into bright ones; some with logical foundations and others that thrive on nonsense.

I loved all the characters. While Nancy is our protagonist, I was really drawn to Jack. I loved that in her world, she had been a mad scientist’s apprentice and that she had carried all these eccentricities back into the “real” world. And I just loved Kade. I love it when fantasy authors slip queer characters into the story and their sexuality isn’t part of the plot. Nancy is asexual and Kade is transgender, but none of that defines their character, and it really isn’t a part of their character at all. As in, it’s NOT pretty clear that a character was queer primarily to make them more “interesting.”

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2)5/5 Stars

Some adventures begin easily. It is not hard, after all, to be sucked up by a tornado or pushed through a particularly porous mirror; there is no skill involved in being swept away by a great wave or being pulled down a rabbit hole. Some adventures require nothing more than a willing heart and the ability to trip over the cracks in the world.

Other adventures must be committed to before they have even properly begun. How else will they know the worthy from the unworthy, if they do not require a certain amount of effort on the part of the ones who would undertake them? Some adventures are cruel, because it is the only way they know to be kind.


Even though Seanan McGuire recommends reading Every Heart a Doorway first (it’s the first book in publication order, but the stories are not fully linear – very Narnian), I really wish I’d read Down Among the Sticks and Bones first! Well, maybe I don’t wish that. Every Heart a Doorway introduced us to the cast of characters at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, and every subsequent book is about another one of those characters. Which makes sense, structure-wish. Maybe what I really wish is to read Every Heart a Doorway again, even though I just read it a few months ago. Yeah, I do. Why? These books are magical and perfect.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones is about my favorite characters fromEvery Heart a Doorway, Jack and Jill, the twins who went to the Moors, where Jack studied under Dr. Bleak, a mad scientist, and Jill served the Master, a vampire. Whereas Every Heart a Doorway was about what happened to the children who fell down the rabbit hole after they returned “home,” Down Among the Sticks and Bones tells us the story of what exactly happened to Jack and Jill in the Moors, and what had happened in their lives first that caused the door to the Moors to be summoned. This book tells us what happened before Every Heart a Doorway: it tells the story of how Jack and Jill became the people they are when we first meet them.

It is a tale of sisters, and toxic gender roles, and monsters, both natural and man-made. It’s the story of Dr. Bleak, and the Master, and their chosen successors. It’s also the story of Alexis Chopper, the most beautiful girl in the windswept world.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones will change how you read Every Heart a Doorway.

I can’t wait to read the next book in the series! I’m so excited because I know it’ll change Every Heart a Doorway for me even more.