Title: Every Heart A Doorway
Author: Seanan Mcguire
Rating: 5/5 stars
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan Australia in exchange for an honest review.
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
Every Heart A Doorway is a charming, dark, and wistful tale about the children who are dumped back into reality after their adventures in otherworldly lands. I absolutely adored it, and I think anyone who grew up reading about doorways hidden behind wardrobes or within rabbit holes would feel the same. This review will be a bit on the shorter side, as the book itself is not very long and I don’t want to spoil anything for you.
“For us, places we went were home. We didn’t care if they were good or evil or neutral or what. We cared about the fact that for the first time, we didn’t have to pretend to be something we weren’t.”
Children who have experienced the wonders of the world beyond the portals – whether it be Wonderland, or Confections, or Webworld – can no longer accept the humdrum of reality. They’re desperate to find that doorway which will lead them to their true home once more. While they struggle to assimilate to this world, they find refuge at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Eleanor was once a traveler between worlds, and hope to help as many of these broken and lost children as she can before she goes through that doorway one last time.
“You’re nobody’s doorway but your own, and the only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you.”
I think if you’re a lover of books, especially the ones about the magical world of Oz, of Narnia, of Wonderland, then you’ll love Every Heart A Doorway and its dark twist on the story. It’s a classic tale in reverse, it questions what would happen to Dorothy and Alice once they stumbled back home. How could they shrug it off as a dream when so much have happened? Our protagonist is Nancy, who just freshly returned from the The Halls of the Dead. She yearns for the quiet and solemn colours of her underworld. On the other hand, her parents and the rest of society want her to embrace ordinary things all girls should love: like bright tones and dating. This disconnect is a pattern repeated again and again in the stories of each individual in the Wayward Home, and the book’s important themes about identity versus societal expectations.
“Hope hurts. That’s what you need to learn, and fast, if you don’t want it to cut you open from the inside out. Hope is bad. Hope means you keep on holding to things that won’t ever be so again, and so you bleed an inch at a time until there’s nothing left.”
Although the book is very short, at only 170 pages long, it contains a multitude of diverse and vibrant characters. We spend most of the time in our heroine’s head, and hear of how she gradually befriends the fellow students at Eleanor’s home. Nancy is asexual, and I have to say I have never read a fantasy book with an asexual person as a main character – so I was delightfully surprised. The book never makes a huge deal of it, and always treat her in a respectful manner. Similarly, Kade, one of her fellow students, is gender fluid. As a child, he often dressed up as a girl – and during his entire stint in Prism, his hosts thought he was female. Again, the text approaches this in refreshingly respectful way. I also loved hearing about the students of the home and the different worlds they traveled to.
Narrate the impossible things, turn them into a story, and they could be controlled.
The writing itself is wonderful and atmospheric. At times dark, at times tongue-in-cheek, it’s utterly delightful all the way through. While the book took place largely in our world, Eleanor’s home crosses the border between reality and magic primarily thanks to the adaptable writing style. The book could be talking about the teen’s struggles with their parents one moment, and then go into convoluted classification of the different types of magical worlds in the next. Yet, it never feels jarring. This peculiar little story caters directly to my very soul. My only complaint is that it should be longer, as I found the ending slightly abrupt.
Do you like stories about portals leading to otherworlds? Have you read this magical book? Chat with me below!