Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Read by Cynthia Hopkins
Summary from Goodreads:
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 the matter.
No matter the cost.
I have read a lot of fantasy in my life and many have been about children and adults who have traveled through a portal to another world, or realm or alternate reality. All of the characters always live up to their potential in these worlds and often go on to do great deeds. Many of them return home in the end, and then that is the end of the story. Or is it? I often wondered how well these characters truly adjusted back into their own realities knowing what they know. Some authors address this with epilogues with the characters appearing to be well adjusted and happy in their lives. I have seen a few where the characters loose their memories of the other place or think it is a dream. All can be done well. But there are a few where you are left wondering what happened to the characters when they have returned home. This well crafted book addresses what happens when these characters cannot assimilate back into the “Real World”.
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is a place for these lost children to go when their lives have been changed from their experiences. Some of the staff are aware of their journeys, and have experienced the same issues themselves. But it is really the children who are struggling with whether or not they will be allowed back into the world where many of them think they belong. Some do return, while others must face the fact that they will never go back. It is a sad little group of kiddos that populate the school. The descriptions of the different types of realms was very interesting and educational. I hadn’t really thought about all of the different fantasy worlds in that way. I would have liked to have seen a visual of some sort though, I think it would have helped. There may be one in the book, that is one thing about audiobooks that can be difficult.
Nancy went to an underworld and was told that she could stay, but she wanted to return to our world to say good-bye to her parents, and she is now stuck. She is a hard character to like, she is unemotional and has a hard time making friends. She has the ability to stand as still as a statue, something she learned in her otherworld. The other students are mistrustful of her because she was in a realm of the dead. I liked her roommate Sumi, who was very frank and and added a bit of comedy to an otherwise very dark novel. Kade was also an interesting character and the oldest of the group, and transgender. I also liked Jack and Jill, twin girls who also fell into a very dark and deadly world that sounded like a cross between Dracula and Frankenstein. There were other characters that added a very nice and diverse mix to the student body.
The murder mystery was pretty obvious and easy to figure out. But it did not detract from the rest of the story. This is very much a character driven story that was hard to put down. Some of the ways that the kids and staff cover up the murders is very disturbing, but necessary for the school to survive. The audio narration by Cynthia Hopkins was done masterfully. She was very bland and unemotional as Nancy, but was able to switch gears seamlessly when other characters were telling their stories.
A very compelling read that I enjoyed immensely. I will be picking up the other books in this series soon.