As I write, it is Saturday 19th March. I have just finished Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, which doesn’t come out until April 5th. I like to publish my reviews near the day of a book’s release, but I don’t know if I can wait that long for to let loose the IMMENSE OUTPOURING OF LOVE I am currently feeling for this book.
Now is not the time for critical coherence or a well-structured analysis. Now is the time for me to sigh dramatically and wave my arms around.
As a compromise, I shall phrase my views in an easily digestible list of reasons why you must read this book.
- It is gloriously original. The premise is this: a residential school for wayward teens is actually a home for young people who have crossed into different worlds and been rejected by their families on their return. If you’re thinking the school part sounds a bit Miss Peregrine, I feel you but this is no cheap imitation. And let’s think about what a tremendous idea it is to set your story after a visit to another world, rather than focusing on that visit. Bravo, Seanan McGuire, bravo.
- The worldbuilding – ahh, the worldbuilding. There’s a whole structure to the different worlds which the characters have visited, and it is delightfully nonsensical in a way which actually makes complete sense. For example: “my world is a Nonsense world, with high Virtue and moderate Rhyme as its crosswise directions.” Oh, high Virtue and moderate Rhyme? Of course. I loved the vocabulary of these weird, dreamlike and sometimes creepy worlds. I want to go to one. Preferably Nancy’s.
- The characters in Every Heart a Doorway are masterful; the story begins as Nancy, recently returned from the Underworld, arrives at the school, and it is through her eyes that we meet the rest of the strange cast of characters. Manic Sumi, attractive Kade and, my particular favourites, twin sisters Jack and Jill are all entirely compelling; I think perhaps I want to be Jack, with her dry sense of humour and passion for the macabre.
- As if all this world-building excitement wasn’t enough, there’s a creepy mystery afoot too, in which McGuire pulls no punches; there’s some imagery that made me flinch, but it worked perfectly in building the story up to its climax.
- Every Heart a Doorway is 160 pages long. 160 pages! I have decided that any more than 400 pages is excessive; like the perfect 3 minute pop song, a book should know when it’s in danger of out-staying its welcome. This was one of the very rare occasions when I wanted more; another 200 pages of this would have made me extremely happy. Usually, seeing that I have accidentally just read the first in a series makes me wildly irritated, but, on this occasion, I was thrilled; I definitely want more of this world. Particularly skeletons, please.
I’ll stop now before I write a review longer than the actual book and Seanan McGuire feels the need to take out a restraining order. But Every Heart a Doorway is a true marvel; I was completely surprised by both its fascinating plot and the extent to which I enjoyed it. Also, did I mention it is only 160 pages long?