Book Review – ‘Come Tumbling Down’ (#5 Wayward Children) by Seanan McGuire

A more integrated story for the Wayward Children as they go to rescue Jack and Jill.

Genre: YA, Fantasy, LGBTQIA+

No. of pages: 206

When Jack left Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children she was carrying the body of her deliciously deranged sister–whom she had recently murdered in a fit of righteous justice–back to their home on the Moors.

But death in their adopted world isn’t always as permanent as it is here, and when Jack is herself carried back into the school, it becomes clear that something has happened to her. Something terrible. Something of which only the maddest of scientists could conceive. Something only her friends are equipped to help her overcome.

Eleanor West’s “No Quests” rule is about to be broken.

Again.

I felt this novella was definitely ‘serialised’ in this instalment. While it had elements of a story – and introduced objectives that were resolved at the end after our protagonists faced many obstacles… on its own, there was so much missing context that a reader would have had to completed the previous sequels to fully appreciate ‘Come Tumbling Down.’ I guess were getting close to the series concluding, so the individual stories following different characters have to end; it’s time to interact, and solve overarching storylines.

The characters are fun, diverse, and wonderful; so too is Seanan McGuire’s writing style – it’s melodic and suits the fantasy genre. Though overall, I just didn’t get into it as much as I had previously in the series. I have always said I’m not that big into fantasy anymore, so maybe my interest is wanning?  Plus the first half of the novella fell a little flat for me, for an already established universe and characters, we should be able to jump into the fray much quicker. Though in having said that, I did enjoy the pacing to appreciate the world… it’s got me at a stand-off as to what was missing for me. Were the characters a little flat? Was it the fact we were revisiting a world we’ve been to before and a lot of the time spent of describing the ambience of the Moors repetitive? Possibly a little of both.

Come Tumbling Down’ sees Jack return to the home and ask the rest of the Wayward Children help her get her body back and stop Jill from tipping the power of balance in the Moors causing mass destruction. In previous volumes, when Jack and Jill were exploring their identities and redefining themselves in the world of the Moors, layer that over with action and discovering a new world and there is a complexity to keep me interested. I didn’t get that this time. Much has already been established and all that’s left is a plot based storyline. I think that’s why this felt lacklustre in comparison to other books in this series.

There weren’t any new personal inner turmoils to overcome to provide depth to the characters. There wasn’t anything new explored in the Moors – some was lightly introduced, but it was just a brief touch to collect Cora and get the gang together before facing down Jill and her Vampire father.

So while it was a quaint read, it did not offer what I’ve come to expect from Seanan McGuire and the Wayward Children series. I see book 7 (‘Where the Drowned Girls Go’) looks to be dealing with Cora and maybe we’ll get that expansion on the Moors, or will she return to her own door world? I’m getting the feeling that we will be resolving all the remaining Wayward’s children’s fates in the remaining books of the series… though ‘Across the Green Grass Fields,’ the next sequel, follows a new protagonist.

Now that we are over halfway through the collection, I’ll see it through to the end no matter what.

The storyline was very predictable, I didn’t get any surprises, which I guess is another factor in this feeling like a pretty ordinary read.

Overall feeling: She cute…

© Casey Carlisle 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#bookquotes

The Wayward Children collection has got me into reading fantasy again. I love how the metaphor of portals for other worlds in this instance plays with the concept of predetermination… sometimes our fate is decided no matter what path we chose.

I don’t know if that a good thing or a bad thing? I always say we make our own future.

#bookporn #coverlove

Another addition to the Wayward Children collection. This diverse series has got me interested in reading fantasy again.

For some reason I had too many fantasy titles in my TBR about five years ago, I got oversaturated and the genre fell out of favor. Has this happened to you?

Luckily things come back around again. No need to panic. Any book on my shelves will eventually get read.

Book Review – ‘In An Absent Dream’ (#4 Wayward Children) by Seanan McGuire

Another interesting world introduced, but one that had me scratching my head.

In An Absent Dream (#4 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy

No. of pages: 204

goodreads banner by Casey Carlisle

This fourth entry and prequel tells the story of Lundy, a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.

Page border 2020 by Casey Carlisle

In An Absent Dream’ is my least favourite of the series so far. It took a while to get the story moving, and then kind of went nowhere. For a novella this is not a great start.

Sean’s melodic writing is there and still amazing, but I did not get the complexity of characters I’m used to from this series. This felt very… vanilla. Plus I think my portent for fantasy is wanning again.

In An Absent Dream (#4 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey CarlisleOur protagonists (Lundy) arc was more subtle in comparison to its prequels; plus there was always an amount of crossover – dealing with other characters previously introduced – but there was none of that this time. ‘In An Absent Dream’ is a true standalone… and subsequently left me feeling isolated from the established narrative. I guess that’s the risk you take in writing a sequel; I’m hoping that this has gone a long way to set up the next few instalments in the Wayward Children collection, but I’m just not seeing those aspects just yet. Maybe some stronger hints would’ve done this story more justice, or even an afterward?

In An Absent Dream’ is still a quaint little read, but in comparing it to predecessors it fell slightly flat. I put the novella down many times, and even read another two books in between starting and finishing this fourth novella in the Wayward Children collection.

The world the door lead protagonist Lundy to was not as interesting as many of the others we’ve visited between the pages… and the stakes did not seem as high for Lundy to either evade and escape, or want to stay. A bland Sophie’s choice.

Lundy is a pretty plain girl – bookish and rule following; not anything like the diverse cast I’ve come to expect from McGuire.

The story is predictable – following the same plot as all the previous novellas but lacked the tension and pacing.

So this turned out to be a so-so read for me, and hopefully the relevance of this story is yet to come to light in the franchise, but it’s not one I would recommend at this point in time. I am hoping McGuire will make me eat my words because this is a series I have come to love.

Overall feeling: a bit of a let down

In An Absent Dream (#4 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

In An Absent Dream (#4 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

Critique Casey 2020 by Casey Carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

#bookporn

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Haven’t been into fantasy novels for a long while, but have to say I’m loving this series and the Carry On series of late… hope I get the itch again soon because there are so many fantasy books sitting on the TBR shelf that I feel guilty every time I look at it.

Does anyone else suffer genre fatigue of is it just me?

Book Review – ‘Beneath the Sugar Sky’ (#3 Wayward Children) by Seanan McGuire

Trip into Confectionery…

Beneath the Sugar Sky (#3 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 174

From Goodreads:

Beneath the Sugar Sky returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the “real” world. 

Sumi died years before her prophesied daughter Rini could be born. Rini was born anyway, and now she’s trying to bring her mother back from a world without magic.

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

I’m not a huge reader of the fantasy genre, but I like to indulge every now and then. And ‘Beneath the Sugar Sky’ is a great addition to the Wayward Children family. But maybe I was getting a little tired of the genre after the previous two novels? Or maybe it’s that we jump about with the timeline, new and old characters? Introducing new worlds… or maybe it was because Confection is a nonsense world, and I love order and logic? I enjoyed ‘Beneath the Sugar Sky’ a touch less than its predecessors. It’s the first book in this collection I had to pressure myself to read at some points – but not to fault of the writing or the story, but more my personal preference of genre.

Seanan’s whimsical writing style is a delight. I am completely entranced by her turn of phrase. I loved her continuing representation of diversity: body shape, ethnicity, gender identity, amputees… But these aspects are a part of a character – something that is a part of the whole – not something that makes them ‘other,’ or a point of difference. I have to commend in how these characters are written and how their outlook is crafted. True genius.

A notable mention to the character of Cora who was a determined and strong protagonist with a heavy burden of insecurity due to her body shape. It was so juxtaposing and created inner conflict that made her feel real, complex, and interesting. It was like a lesson on how to write great characters. The same goes for the world building; so imaginative and unique. I can’t fault this book in any way.

Beneath the Sugar Sky (#3 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

I had been hoping we would return to the Home for Wayward Children, pick up some of the story of the school and other characters, ‘Down Among the Stick and Bones’ felt like a solitary tale mostly disconnected to the continuing storyline of the School, and was thankful to get that connection and glimpses of the characters futures that I had already met in the first two novellas.

Beneath the Sugar Sky’ was mostly predictable – it’s a hero’s journey. A quest. So for the story to be any part satisfying, the objective needs to be obtained. But the happenings along the way are truly extravagant.

Clearly this is YA, the cast are all teens and the subject matter is in the demographic wheelhouse; though with Seanan’s writing style, the intelligent wording, I sometimes think she had high-brow lexicon that many readers would need a dictionary to understand. I actually love reading books like this – exploring the English language and expression. Educating me in adjectives. But can see how some readers in the YA demographic might glaze over with a bit of a ‘huh?’

Definitely recommend this – it’s deliciously fantastical. Looking forward to ‘In an Absent Dream’ due out next year and what characters it is going to deal with, and what new additions it is going to show in the Wayward Children universe.

Overall feeling: such a sugar rush.

Beneath the Sugar Sky (#3 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Beneath the Sugar Sky (#3 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Book Review – ‘Down Among the Sticks and Bones’ (#2 Wayward Children) by Seanan McGuire

Jack and Jill went up the hill… well in through the bottom of a trunk in the attic, one hanging out with a vampire, the other studying under a crazy scientist who likes to bring back the dead. You know, a wholesome child-like tale.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (#2 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 01 by Casey CarlisleGenre: YA, Fantasy, LGBT

No. of pages: 187

From Goodreads:

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children

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.

page-border-by-casey-carlisle

Again, I enjoyed the fable-like writing style of Seanan McGuire. As if some unseen television compare was sitting in a leather wingback chair by a fireplace re-counting the tale of twins Jaquline (Jack) and Jillian (Jill). Their journey through a portal into a world of vampires, werewolves, and mad scientists. It was also a tale that included a running commentary on gender roles and how we change ourselves to fit the labels other thrust upon us.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (#2 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 02 by Casey Carlisle

Such a brilliant novella, beautifully written, with interesting characters in an imaginative world.

I did struggle a bit with ‘Down Among the Sticks and Bones’ though – for some reason I wasn’t as engaged as I was with ‘Every Heart a Doorway.’ Quite possibly it was the subtext of Dracula and Frankenstein… something making it feel less original. Also, I’m not the biggest fan of fantasy, especially re-hashed material. So I was putting the book down frequently for a rest.

The other thing is that the novella just ended once the twins returned to the real world – a tale of their past – and did not tie into the narrative established in ‘Every Heart a Doorway.’ I was anxious for that storyline to continue a bit. It’s got me wondering if ‘Beneath the Sugar Sky,’ the third book in the series will follow the same format. That we will get individual back-stories of the main cast before the plot picks back up from where it left off at the end of the debut. I’m not sure how this sits with me. On one hand I’m very curious, but on the other, I desire the plot to move forward…

I also found it difficult to relate, to or sympathise with, either Jack or Jill. They were so single minded and I almost felt like their characters were somewhat two dimensional. Too heavily shaped by parents and mentors that they never really got to discover themselves free of influence. My head felt tight as the story of their childhood, and years on the moors were just different shaped cages. It make me squirm and want to scream. I guess that’s what you get delving into a darker place.

The ending, though surprising, was more so because I couldn’t rationalise it. It didn’t make sense to me. Only time will tell with further exploration of these characters and their relationship in future novellas as to whether or not I can accept them, or simply remain a thorn in my side.

A great story, interesting characters, but a story that annoyed me somewhat. But still a highly recommended read. Looking forward to discovering what ‘Beneath the Sugar Sky’ has in store for me.

Overall feeling: Creeptastic.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (#2 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 03 by Casey Carlisle

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (#2 Wayward Children) Book Review Pic 04 by Casey Carlisle

critique-casey-by-casey-carlisle

© Casey Carlisle 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Casey Carlisle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.