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Thursday, June 16, 2016

"Every Heart A Doorway" by Seanan McGuire (Reviewed by Cindy Hannikman)




Visit Seanan McGuire Author Website Here

OVERVIEW: 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.

FORMAT: Every Heart A Doorway is an urban fantasy/fantasy novella. It stands at 173 pages and was published by Tor on April 5, 2016.

Even though it is ultimately an 'adult' novel, Every Heart A Doorway could be appropriate for a more mature teenage audience. There are some graphic scenes involving dead bodies and some topics (such as the main character being asexual or the secondary character being transgender) that may make it not appropriate for some audiences.

ANALYSIS: Some books have that unique ability to capture your attention instantly. Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire was one of those book. I was barely three pages into the book and I was already immersed in the world and forming an emotional bond with our first main character – Nancy.

Every Heart A Doorway tells the captivating tale about a boarding school for young adults between the ages of 12 and 18, but unlike regular boarding schools this one is designed as a rehabilitation center of sorts. All of the young adults who are present at the school have at one point in time journeyed to alternate fantasy worlds. These worlds include everything from lands with fairies and unicorns and rainbows or Wonderland weird worlds, to just plain scary/horror universes or the land of the dead.

All of the children at the school are struggling with one major problem – they want to go back to their fantasy world, but they have been cast out from it and it might not happen. This has caused all the children to experience what can only be described as PTSD-like symptoms. Of course, the children also have to deal with other "real life" issues, such as forming relationships, dealing with parents, navigating the scary world of high school, and overcoming bullying.

Nancy, our main character of the story, is a new student at the boarding school. Unfortunately, right as she arrives at the school murders start happening. Every Heart A Doorway follows Nancy and her new friends as they work to find themselves, solve a mystery, and work to potentially find their hidden doorway that will lead them back to their fantasy world.

Every Heart A Doorway may seem – from its description – to be a light, fluffy fantasy novel, but it emotional and dark. Many of the characters are struggling with extreme emotional issues and various problems, which leads to a disturbing/creepy feel to the novel.

One of the amazing things about Every Heart A Doorway was how detailed almost all the characters were. This is only a 170 page novella, but every character from Nancy to the secondary characters of Jack and Jill, was fleshed out and felt real. A pretty amazing feat when you consider the novel also had to create a world/backstory and progress the current plot all in 170 pages.

Characters weren't the only extremely well-thought out or creative element. I was intrigued with the whole hidden door/alternative universe concept, which was extremely detailed and fascinating to me. I probably could have read an entire 400 page novel on just this concept alone, but it was extremely well-done given the short page count.

While I did enjoy the novel, I have to admit the murder mystery part of it fell flat for me. The mystery element comes in about a quarter of the way through the novel and it never really felt well developed. It had a very rushed feel to it, especially when things were solved and everything was 'wrapped up'.

Despite the clunky or rushed feeling at the end of the novel, I was impressed with Every Heart a Doorway. It certainly isn't your light, fluffy Narnia/Wonderland novel, even though it seems like it might be from the overview. It is a novel that is emotionally engaging, unique, and creepy/weird.

While it may not be my top read for the year, it certainly is up there. I would recommend Every Heart a Doorway  to fantasy lovers who are looking for something unique or for those that have ever wondered how characters reacted when they left their fantasy world and returned to their real lives.

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