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Every Heart a Doorway: 07/13/18
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire is the start of the Wayward Children series. It's meta-fiction with hints of horror and urban fantasy. Nancy, the latest arrival at Miss West's home, brings darkness and change to the home. Children start to die and it's up to her to stop the killer.
Miss West's school is definitely set in a utopia — a non-place. It's a home reachable by those who need to reach it, but otherwise outside of normal space and normal time. It's not like Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs — a place with a fixed location but stuck in a time bubble. Instead it's everywhere and nowhere, now and never. It's more like the river in the Riverworld series by Philip José Farmer.
It's no error that the headmistress of this school is named Miss West. West is the direction one goes to die. It's the direction of the sun and the close of the day. These children are essentially living in a self made purgatory, waiting either for their door to return or long enough to forget about their time away from the real world (or the apparent world as it's called in Japanese stories of this ilk).
This home is for children who can't adjust to being back in the real world after spending time in a fantasy world. In the Wayward Children series, the way to these fantasy dimensions is through a door. It's always a door. What the doors do to you depends on the world that calls you.
Although this first book gives nods to classic children's fantasy stories, such as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the Narnia series, and similar, it's reliance on doors as the method of travel is, like the motorized vehicle of my "Getting There" essay, too limited in scope.
By this metaphor, Alice doesn't reach Wonderland until she gets through the door in the room with the cake, even though she has fallen down an impossible rabbit hole to get there. Likewise, the Darlings are in Neverland the instant they step out of their shuttered windows in London.
Long running series are especially problematic. Take Oz, for instance. Dorothy's door is the door to her aunt and uncle's house — even though the entire house has gone with said door to Oz. Later, her door is Bill's chicken coop. But in the Road to Oz, there is no door, just a road that makes no sense. Speedy, meanwhile, is blown into the skies above Oz by way of a geyser; where is his door?
Narnia, too, only works by way of a door in the first (going in publication order), namely the wardrobe. Just like the Oz books, there are entire books that don't involve children traveling to and from the land at all.
If I were to classify this novel according to my road narrative, spectrum, the traveler would be a metaphorical orphan (orphaned in the sense of having been removed from her family for a long time in the fantasy world, and now a second time at the the school). The destination would be utopia in that the school is explicitly outside of time and space. Finally the road would a blue highway as the school can be reached by conventional means when it needs to be and it is via a car that Nancy arrives at the school. Thus it falls into #FFFF33, a bright yellow, at the far end of the fantasy spectrum for two of the three axes. Thus thematically it is tucked between Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder and novels such as The Vacation by Polly Horvath and The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart by Mathias Malzieu.
Nonetheless, I'm curious enough about the dialog between reader and the travels through the fantasy landscape, to keep reading. The second book is Down Among the Stick and Bones (2017).