Finally picked this up despite getting it free from Tor.com (thanks, Tor!) ages ago, due to Doug’s review tweet. I wanted to know if I’d have similar feelings towards this novella, and I’m going to write down my own thoughts first before reading his review and comparing our experiences.
So here is a really terrific, unique take on what happens to the children who return from fantasy worlds. Nancy has just come back from an Underworld that she longs to return to, spurred on by the bewildered insistence of her family on somehow normalizing her disappearance. Her well-meaning parents have sent her to Eleanor West’s school/sanitarium, ostensibly to “heal” i.e. revert to the Nancy they knew. Unbeknownst to them, the school is more of a refuge, a place where children like Nancy are believed and helped to adjust to their new reality. This school specifically is for kids who want to go back, as not all do (there’s another school for kids who just want to move on.) At first, Nancy is thrilled to be in a place where she’s accepted and can learn more about the doorway she traveled through, in hopes of finding it again. But then her classmates start being gruesomely murdered, and fear grips the school.
I loved how this novella just bursts with excellent fantasy ideas (like the Virtue-Logic dichotomies) and I really enjoyed all the different fantasy lands the children had been to. I also really liked the inclusion of the different sexualities even as I thought they could have been included in a way that seemed more seamless and less clunky. It felt almost as if Seanan McGuire took a deep breath and said “we’re going to talk about asexuality and masturbation and since I’m not sure how to have it come up organically, I’m going to just put it in the foreground here” via a really unlikely conversation between Nancy and her roommate. The stuff with Kade was handled much better. I was also wtf with how Nancy’s speed changed so drastically, as if Ms Mcguire forgot how she’d described it just a handful of pages earlier. It was a weird oversight in a book that had pretty good attention to detail otherwise.
I also don’t know how earned I felt the ending was, especially after poor Loreli. I’m not the hugest fan of people running away from reality, and I can understand having a refuge be used as a reward, but as a reward for what, exactly? Given the context, it felt as if Ms McGuire was essentially condoning suicide for the misunderstood, and that made me uncomfortable.
Anyway, gonna go read Doug’s review now and see how mine compares (you should, too! Click here.) Ha, unsurprisingly, we have similar feelings. I think I’m generally grouchier, tho, particularly when it comes to craft.
Speaking of which, I was annoyed by the ebook version that I had for immediately tacking on the first chapter of the sequel without a separating page announcing that this was bonus material. I thought it was still part of the novella, which threw me for a loop when it ended so abruptly. Hmm, do I even want to learn more about Jack and Jill? Enough to place a digital hold at the library, I suppose. That review will show up eventually (Doug, look, I made a Coming Attraction note!)