Monthly Archives: March 2017

Review: Every Heart a Doorway

We all know what a portal fantasy is, even if we’ve never heard the term. The Chronicles of NarniaAlice’s Adventures in WonderlandThe Wonderful Wizard of OzThe Magicians, etc. We all know the beginning of the adventure. We all know the adventure. But what about after?  What happens to the boys and girls who go on impossible quests and return, irrevocably changed?  That is story Seanan McGuire’s short novel Every Heart a Doorway seeks to answer.

Nancy Whitman is the newest student at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a school/ sanitarium for children who have disappeared and returned claiming to have been whisked away to another world. In Nancy’s case, she has returned from the Halls of the Dead where all but five strands of her hair have turned white. She is desperate to return, though return is a very rare thing. But the desperate often turn to extreme measures to get what they want. Even murder.

I want to like Every Heart a Doorway. I really do. But while the short novel has a good central idea, there are too many flaws that suck out any real enjoyment I have.

The writing is flowery and literary in a young adult style. It works for readers who like that style, but for readers who are not terribly fond of the young adult style, the writing can be off putting.

The biggest problem with Every Heart a Doorway is that McGuire tries to condense a significant amount of ideas into too small a narrative space. Part of the story is orienting Nancy to her new school. The majority of the story, however, deals with surviving a serial killer running loose in the school. Neither story thread gets the space it needs. The orientation provides only sketches of characters save for the eventual (spoiler alert) antagonists. The horror story is very predictable. Ultimately, everything falls flat.

(A part of the problem, I think, is that Every Heart a Doorway is trying to be a literary fantasy, which focuses primarily on explorations of character and character growth, but cannot escape the fact that it is a fantasy and must have a more exciting plot than portal fantasies being nothing more that living metaphors of the individual’s psyche).

Another major problem with the story lies with representation. The main character is asexual, although said asexuality had to told to the audience rather than shown in a very clumsy scene that also revealed one of the four boys in the school as being transgender (transforming the scene into the young adult equivalent of Jerry Springer after the fact).

Furthermore, the explanation as to why there are only four boys out of a school population of forty is deeply problematic. And I will leave it at that. (Though if any one wants to comment with their interpretation, please do so. Just remember to be respectful and not abusive or bullying).

In conclusion. I found the story to be deeply unsatisfying and poorly constructed despite the good ideas. Perhaps if the story had been split into two stories of nearly two hundred pages each, I might be writing a far different review.

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2017 Book Haul One

The books I have bought recently have started to pile up. Therefore, I need to sort them and put them in my bookshelves. While I’m doing that, I thought it might be fun to list all the books I got recently.

From the book sale nook at West Waco Library:

Dr. No by Ian Fleming

Pursuit of the Screamer by Ansen Dibell

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

From Golden’s Book Exchange:

The Mirror Prince by Violette Malan

The City in the Glacier and The Destiny Stone by Robert E. Vardeman and Victor Milan

From Alibris:

Miss Marple Meets Murder by Agatha Christie (an omnibus that includes: The Mirror Crack’dA Pocket Full of RyeAt Bertram’s Hotel, and The Moving Finger)

Finally, from Amazon, I picked up:

A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Hero by Perry Moore

Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell

The Root by Na’amen Gobert Tilahun

The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

An impressive haul, if I do say so myself. I’m aiming for my next haul to come in April after I’ve hit Golden’s during their bimonthly half off sale.