Hello Humans! I’ve been incredibly into novellas lately – I think some of the storytelling in them is just impeccable. One of the Novellas I knew I wanted to read in 2021 was the latest installment of the Wayward Children series. Although my physical copy is delayed in transit I was kindly given a free review copy via NetGalley so I can share my thoughts a little quicker than I might be able to otherwise.
“Welcome to the Hooflands. We’re happy to have you, even if you being here means something’s coming.”
Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late.
When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to “Be Sure” before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines―a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes.
But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem…
For those who have yet to encounter this series I will say you have found a good time to get involved. Although this is technically the sixth published work in this series this is supposed to be a great ‘jumping in’ point. This series is (broadly) split into portal books and books about the home for wayward children – and this falls firmly into the former category. If you’re new to the series that would certainly be a positive since you’ll get a flavour for the tone of the books without feeling like you’ve missed some worldbuilding.
Personally I love the other side to the series a little bit more than the portal fantasy books but I’m willing to chalk that up to personal preference!
Since we’re dealing with one character rather than an ensemble piece I ought to talk about Regan. It took me a little while to warm up to Regan – possibly because of my own experience with teenage girls making it feel a little too close to home – but once we got ‘through the doorway’ she definitely grew on me. One of the things that I think is fascinating about this series is how different the main characters are and seeing where people who have read them find themselves within the story. Personally speaking, I didn’t relate to Regan but I appreciated her story.
A slight content warning here, the beginning of the book deals with some bullying specifically to do with Regan’s intersex identity – it’s not the theme of the entire book, more an event that takes place within that early portion of the story, but I can imagine it might be quite difficult to read if you are sensitive to such events. I obviously can’t comment on the ‘accuracy’ of the portrayal but what I will say is that it isn’t important within the plot, the focus is on other things.
I think one of the reasons I didn’t connect with this book as much as I did other books in the series is that I didn’t quite get the same level of worldbuilding as I had in other books – I’m wondering if when the Hooflands are contextualised with the knowledge of the various worlds it might be a bit clearer. Regan’s story is quite isolated within the world until nearer the end of the story and as such you don’t get a lot of detail as to how the world works outside of the small community Regan is in. I think you get enough worldbuilding I just found myself wanting more – always a tricky balance to strike in a novella.
It’s hard to review this because on the one hand I can imagine myself reading this without having read the other books and loving it – but because I have read them and naturally compare them it doesn’t quite match up. That’s with the enormous caveat of for me it doesn’t match up. So my review for the entire series continues to be ‘oh yes definitely read them they are amazing’. I’d be really interested to hear from anyone who does join the series at this book and to see what their thoughts and opinions are.
Seanan McGuire continues to craft imaginative worlds filled with characters whose identities we often find missing or misrepresented in this kind of story, this is well worth reading as an installment in that series but I will continue to hold my breath until the next ensemble piece.
My rating: 4/5 stars
I received a free digital review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley – all opinions are my own.
Across the Grass Green Fields is Available Now!