Tag Archive: Wayward Children


Posting this later than I’d like, both in the day and in the month. But hey, January’s the door to a new year so it totally makes sense to post this as it closes. Right? Right. This one’s thanks to the folks at Tor.com, here’s Beneath the Sugar Sky. Enjoy!

Beneath the Sugar Sky cover

An impossible girl landed in the turtle pond outside of Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Rini came to Earth to find her mother, Sumi, and take her back home. The problem is, Sumi was killed long before she could have had Rini and logic is quick to realize that an impossible girl shouldn’t exist. With a world to save and her existence on the line, Rini will have to find a way to put her mother back together. Luckily for her the students of the Home for Wayward Children are used to quests and ready to help.

Seanan McGuire is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers and Beneath the Sugar Sky is a really good example of why. This is a solidly written story with great character work and really interesting stakes. It is something I enjoyed so much that it’s actually really hard to write about because I just want to fangirl about how much fun I had with it.

So let’s start with the characters. Unlike Down Among the Sticks and Bones, which focused on two particular wayward children and their trip through a door, Beneath the Sugar Sky widens that focus to a number of students both new and old. This was a thing that I wasn’t sure on before I started reading, because I haven’t gotten to read the first book yet, I didn’t know Kade or Christopher or Nadya. But McGuire does a fantastic job of introducing them here through Cora’s perspective. There’s a sort of easy familiarity here that works really well.

The setting is interesting on a number of levels. Baseline, I like the idea of so many disparate worlds that can be accessed by the right people. The storytelling potential of that is awesome and those same people winding up back on Earth looking for a way home is a fantastic story hook. McGuire uses both amazingly here, both showing us a couple of the worlds and the sheer longing the cast has when faced with something close to theirs. It makes for some really good moments and some really great world building exposition.

The flipside to that potential and the possibility of characters going back to their world is that I’m very used to protagonists being fairly set.  It took a little adjusting to this new cast and the idea that characters might drop in and out of the story because of the doors. I like it, but it did feel weird for a good chunk of the book. It also left me wanting to see similar stories done for other characters though, which is a definite plus.

I knew less than half way through Beneath the Sugar Sky that it was a five out of five book. It made me want to jump to the first book and read the series again as soon as I finished it, so that I could see what came first and then re-see the second book and this one in that context. So, yeah, I had a lot of fun and really look forward to the next book in the series.

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I’m late! Sorry all, long day yesterday, I didn’t get as much done on this as I wanted to then. I’m really excited for this review though. Back when I was dealing with my being at a low point I kept putting off reading this because I adore Seanan McGuire’s writing and I didn’t want to start it only to find that I wasn’t enjoying it, like every other book I was picking up at the time. That I’ve finally read it and enjoyed it as much as I expected if not more so is a great thing for me. So, thanks to the awesome folks at Tor, here’s Down Among the Sticks and Bones. Enjoy!

Down Among the Sticks and Bones cover

Jack and Jill, sorry, Jacqueline and Jillian, were their parents’ perfect children. Jacqueline was her mother’s daughter, soft and well mannered and always dressed like a fairy princess, a pretty decoration for the society ladies to coo over. Jillian was her father’s sporty tomboy, fearless and brave and almost as good as the son he’d wanted, at least he could talk peewee sports with the guys at work. They learned early that adults couldn’t be trusted. They learned early that what’s said isn’t always what is. But they never learned to lean on each other. When they find an impossible staircase in the room their grandmother abandoned years ago what they’ve learned won’t be enough for the world they find at the bottom or the choices they’ll have to make once they’re there.

Seanan McGuire’s Down Among the Sticks and Bones is a deeply interesting thing to me. It feels like it’s nearly all character study, which I love to pieces. It’s a story about choices and at the same time a story about being shaped by circumstance. It’s a story about expectations and how being forced into them can break someone without them realizing it, but also about how jumping to escape those expectations can hurt just as much. It’s a story about sisters, twins, split by expectations and choice and circumstance.

A big thing I like about Down Among the Sticks and Bones is the way things echo down from the beginning. Jacqueline is constantly told as a young child not to get dirty, to keep her dress clean, it’s part of her mother shaping her into the perfect society daughter. Once she’s on the other side of the door Jack has a phobia of getting dirty, even after years of working with Dr. Bleak as a mad scientist’s apprentice, it still effects her. Their dad does his best to shape Jillian into the ultimate tomboy, to make up for not having a son, but kids are cruel and the boys she was friends with as a kid abandon her as expectations tell them that girls are gross and not fun. She gets to see people calling her sister the pretty one without being allowed to be anything but the tomboyish one, the trouble maker with the same face as the prettiest girl in class. So she has no support structure on our side of the door and thus, once in the Moors, Jill clings to the adult authority figure who promises her comfort and pampering. She clings to him and idolizes him even as it’s revealed that he’s not concerned with her well being. Old resentments grow into a gulf of frustrations with consequences of their own.

I do feel like, ultimately, Jack pushes the story a lot more than Jill does. It tends to happen in stories with sibling protagonists that one gets more focus than the other. That said though, that feels more like a feature than a bug here. Jack chooses to go with Dr. Bleak, so Jill is left with the Master. Jack was tired of being just pretty and so jumped at the chance to learn, while Jill was tired of feeling like second pick and decided to be whatever the Master wanted to convince him she’d chosen him. That this also gave her a chance to be the pretty one is, if not significant to the initial choice, a fantastic bonus. Jack does more in story because she chose to be Dr. Bleak’s apprentice and so works with more people. Jill is the Master’s pampered daughter and so has little she has to do, which leaves her to soak in more of how fantastic it is to be the town ruler’s child and so above it all. It can leave Jill hard to care as much about, since we see her less versus seeing Jack grow.

Another thing I want to talk about real quick is the setting. The book takes place in this sort of fairy tale world, but it’s more gothic literature than the Disney stuff most of us have grown up with. The sun is seldom out from behind the clouds and night comes far too early. The mountains are full of wolves and what lurks beneath the ever stormy sea must be placated. The Moors are a dangerous place, something that the reader is reminded of regularly, but the danger is a fact of life. People plan for it and work around it. The Master is terrifying and dangerous, but so are the things behind his city’s walls. It’s dark, but not oppressive. It’s dangerous, but not paralysingly so. It’s really well written.

I don’t have a lot of wrap up here. I adored this book. I enjoyed the characters. The setting was great. Even the stuff that bothers me works in terms of the story itself, and I’m totally going to go find the one that came before this one. It gets a five out of five and if you can find it you should give Down Among the Sticks and Bones a read.