Advanced Review by El: Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire

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Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire
Series: Wayward Children, Book 2
Publisher: Tor.com
Release Date: June 13, 2017

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

Fairy-tale/Alternate World
(F/F Pairing)
Queer (Unspecified) Character
Gender Roles
Twin Sisters

Warnings For:
Dark
On-Page Murder

This is not a direct prequel to Every Heart a Doorway, but instead a book set prior to that one, featuring some of its secondary characters. I highly recommend reading EHaD first, but this book does stand alone. (But it’s much more delicious if you know what happens after!)

“ Your village?” asked Jack, forgetting to be afraid in her awe. “The whole thing? You own the whole thing?”

“Every stick and every bone,” said the man. “Why? Does that impress you?”

“A bit,” she admitted.

Jack and Jill’s story fascinated me when I read Every Heart, but admittedly was not the backstory I really craved. I would much rather have seen Kade’s story, or even Sumi’s. (Though it looks like we’ll get more of Sumi in 2018!) So I wasn’t as excited going into Sticks and Bones as I might have been.

The first part of the book really, really did not help with that.

The first 1/5 of the book is backstory. It’s about Jack and Jill’s parents, about how they were raised. And while it’s really fascinating– it explores gender roles as assigned by parents, and societal stereotyping, and flirts with concepts of “male” and “female” cultural identities– it was also so boring. The twins’ parents are boring two-dimensional characters, and the distanced POV made it a struggle to get through this part.

The thought that babies would become children, and children would become people, never occurred to them. The concept that perhaps biology was not destiny, and that not all little girls would be pretty princesses, and not all little boys would be brave soldiers, also never occurred to them.

Once the twins go through their Doorway and into the Frankenstein-esque world of The Moors, things get interesting! I won’t go into too much here, because spoilers, but it’s riveting and the last 80% of the book is fantastic.

At its core, this is a book about identities: about the identities that other people put on us, and the ones we forge for ourselves. Its combination of elegant prose and vivid imagery make it easy to picture the strange fantasy world that Jack and Jill find themselves in. I wish the book had been a bit more grounded in their POVs though, to better understand and feel the struggles they faced and the relief of finding their own paths.

When Alexis kisses her for the first time, out behind the windmill, Jack realizes that she and Jill have one thing in common: she never, never wants to go back to the world she came from. Not when she could have this world, with its lightning and its blue-eyed, beautiful girls, instead.

This is a story (and a series) for people who wished they were Alice, falling down the rabbit hole, or who dreamed of finding a way to Narnia. It’s brutal and unflinching at times, but also utterly relatable.

Seanan lives in the Pacific Northwest with her cats, a vast collection of creepy dolls and horror movies, and sufficient books to qualify her as a fire hazard.

She was the winner of the 2010 John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and in 2013 she became the first person ever to appear five times on the same Hugo ballot. She doesn’t sleep much, but she spends a lot of time in the corn.

O, the corn.

Find her online at http://www.seananmcguire.com

You can purchase Down Among the Sticks & Bones from:

Publisher
Amazon
Barnes & Noble
iTunes
Google Play

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I received an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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