Hello Humans! I want to start this review post by thanking Justine from I Should Read That for not only recommending these books to me but also for lending me her copies. Go on over and show her some love on my behalf! I have wanted to read these novellas since I first saw them on her Youtube channel and I was delighted to finally have the opportunity. All I knew about these books was that they had great queer representation and that Justine loved them (for the most part). I thought I’d summarise my thoughts on each one here for you (rather than boring you with four separate reviews for novellas).
Every Heart A Doorway
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.
This novella is just perfect. I can’t really do better than saying that. I literally loved every moment of it and when I got to the end it wasn’t just that I wanted more, it was also that I wanted to read the whole thing over and over again. It’s the same feeling of homecoming that I get when I re-read some of my favourite poems. I was that kid who, while life was broadly fine, was always looking for a rabbit hole to fall down or a door to open, some proof that magic was real and I could go off and have an adventure without even thinking about the consequences. As an adult reading this it was a combination of joy at reliving that adventure and also the sadness of the reality of what our world is in comparison, and that knowledge that nothing can be perfect.
That’s a wanky way of saying I adored this. If you read none of the others – read this one.
Down Among the Sticks and Bones
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 tom-boy. 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 a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.
I went into this book knowing it was Justine’s least favourite book. Her feelings are valid and I support her having them but actually, I really loved this one. Not quite as much as the first book but as a kind of ‘additional’ story I thought it was sweet and also a good indication of how parents can mess up their kids. Again there’s that painful hindsight to everything that makes these books ten times as powerful as they would be were they just seen through the eyes of children. Also vampires.
The line ‘between the lightning strike and the reincarnation’ still haunts me because I will never write anything quite so wonderful.
Beneath the Sugar Sky
When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can’t let Reality get in the way of her quest – not when she has an entire world to save! (Much more common than one would suppose.)
If she can’t find a way to restore her mother, Rini will have more than a world to save: she will never have been born in the first place. And in a world without magic, she doesn’t have long before Reality notices her existence and washes her away. Good thing the student body is well-acquainted with quests…
A tale of friendship, baking, and derring-do.
Warning: May contain nuts.
ACTUALLY GOOD FAT REPRESENTATION. I COULD HAVE SCREAMED. This one is my favourite so far. It had pretty much everything I could have wanted, the comraderie and the worldbuilding (universe-building?) from the first book and the spook/darkness of the second. I adored this story, these characters, the way it broke my heart into maybe 1000 pieces and has yet to put them back together.
In case it is unclear. I enjoyed reading this book.
In an Absent Dream
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.
I don’t want to give the wrong impression about this book because it is still exceptional. It is, however, my least favourite of these books so far. I thought that it was probably the cleverest in terms of worldbuilding (the Goblin market has always fascinated me and it was nice to see it done in a way that wasn’t just ‘this is evil’). However, I think my favourite aspects of these books is the children who have been to other worlds meeting – and that doesn’t happen in this story. It’s still AMAZING. Just not as much for me as the previous ones were.
My soul is not ready for more books in this series but I will be soon. I think they’re going on my Christmas list because I desperately want to own hard copies of these for myself (but I can’t quite justify buying them for myself).
Suffice to say, Justine was right, you should read these.
What say you? Now that I’ve embraced novellas what else should I read? Let me know in the comments below!