Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

I’m playing around with this format to see is this might be a way to quickly and easily post short reviews of book that I have read but don’t plan on offering an in-depth review.

I saw Every Heart a Doorway at a local bookstore and added it to my TBR list. Finally borrowed it for Kindle from Libby app and read it. I figured this would be something I enjoy. “Creative spin on classic fairy tale/mythology/speculative fiction trope.”

It was interesting… but unsatisfying somehow.

As is often the case with first books in a series, it felt like a setup that didn’t quite payoff. This is a novella so it really does read like an introduction. It is also like one part speculative fiction, with a heavy dose of paint by numbers “diversity,” and one part murder mystery. I don’t think the two blended very well. My sense is the first aspect is more interesting than the second and thus was undercut by the latter; particularly in the second half of the book.

It was highly celebrated at the time of it release:

  • Winner: 2017 Hugo Award
  • Winner: 2017 Alex Award
  • Winner: 2017 Locus Award
  • Winner: 2016 Nebula Award
  • Nominated: 2017 World Fantasy Award
  • Nominated: 2017 British Fantasy Award
  • 2016 Tiptree Honor List

And most reviewers loved it:

McGuire (Chaos Choreography, 2016, etc.) provides answers, or at least valid-seeming speculations, for anyone who’s ever wondered how Susan really felt after she was barred from Narnia and if Alice managed to become a proper Victorian young lady after her return from Wonderland. McGuire understands and has true compassion (never pity) for outcasts and outliers while also making it clear that being a misfit doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily get along with all the other misfits, who don’t fit for different reasons. Her depiction of teen interactions is believably prickly.Thoughtfully and poignantly wonders if, or hopes that, you can go home again, depending on what you define as home.


McGuire (the October Daye series) puts her own inimitable spin on portal fantasy, adding horror elements to the mix, and her characters are strange and charming. Being different is all these kids have ever known, but as much as they pine for their other worlds, they ultimately find comfort in one another. This gothic charmer is a love letter to anyone who’s ever felt out of place.

Publishers Weekly

The whodunit plot of Every Heart isn’t complex or particularly suspenseful, but it doesn’t need to be. The characters carry the story. Sumi’s scattershot wisdom is both funny and profound; Nancy’s asexual crush on Kade, a trans classmate, is rendered in bold, sensitive strokes. McGuire’s dialogue is witty yet organic, and she lingers luxuriantly on tiny, telling details — the fluttering of a curtain, the scent of chalk dust — that bring the Home to teeming life. At points, Nancy and the others compare their own strange trips to magical worlds to Alice in Wonderland and The Chronicles of Narnia, books they’ve read — and have issues with, as angst-ridden teens are apt to do, paranormal or not. And with Every Heart a Doorway, McGuire has created her own mini-masterpiece of portal fantasy — a jewel of a book that deserves to be shelved with Lewis Carroll’s and C. S. Lewis’ classics, even as it carves its own precocious space between them.


So, yeah. I am an outlier here… But it just wasn’t my style. T

here were some folks at Goodreads who had issues as well. Here is a sample:

[T]he novel has at its center a fascinating idea, one gleaming with potential: a school full of children cast out of their various Narnias, longing to go back (oh and there’s a serial killer on the prowl). too bad that potential was squandered on a predictable and often inept narrative, gruelingly repetitious dialogue and ham-handed exposition, and characters who are trying awfully hard to entertain with their snarky dialogue while fitting themselves into the most au courant of demographics.

mark monday at Goodreads

So I’ll end with what seems like the unofficial moto of CM: Your mileage may vary…

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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