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In an Absent Dream: 01/25/19
In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire is the fourth in the Wayward Children series. Like the second book, Down Among the Sticks and Bones it serves as a backstory of one of the students. This book covers the adventures of Katherine Lundy in the Goblin Market over the course of ten years.
Katherine Lundy is presented at the start of the novella as the middle child with an older brother and a baby sister. She doesn't want to be a Kate or a Kitty or anything but Katherine. She likes rules. She likes knowing the plan. She prefers to read and it is reading that sends her in the direction of the Goblin Market.
The Goblin Market works on the concept of fair exchange. Given that the path too this world is through an ornately carved door sent in the trunk of an impossible tree, I can't help but think of the tree of knowledge and the concept of equivalent exchange in Fullmetal Alchemist.
Here, though, rather than losing part of yourself (or all of yourself in Al's case), people who don't give fair value for exchanges incur debt. Debt is paid in loss of humanity and transformation into some kind of bird. What kind depends on the person.
In terms of the road narrative spectrum, book four sits in the fantasy end of things, but is approaching horror. This one I'm placing at a 99FF99 because of the threat of transformation because of debt and the ticking clock of curfew (one's eighteenth birthday).
Lundy, as she is known in the Goblin Market, like her friend Moon, does spent some of her time as a bird. I read her transformation, physical, emotional, and psychological as if she is becoming a minotaur (99) — someone trapped within the world by its rules and by her transformation. Had Lundy not been so affected, I would have rated this farther down, at a 33 for the fact that she and her father have both traveled to the Goblin Market.
The Goblin Market, reachable any time a child is in the right frame of mind, is a utopia (FF). It is a magical, other worldly place — even if it is a magical world that follows a rigid logic.
The tree with its door can show up anywhere that it senses a child is "sure." It meets Lundy in the berry patch, in her elementary school, at the boarding school, and at home. Yet each time the door opens, the path is the same winding, impossible but one way path through the tree. In this regard, it is like a labyrinth (99)
Looking at book four in comparison to the other three, it is in the top row of the fantasy neighborhoods, but the one with a traveler with the least magical agency. Lundy is affected by magic but she has no control over it beyond the strict ideal of fair value. Only Beneath the Sugar Sky falls lower into the horror section of the spectrum because the story centers on a family cleaved by for its time.
Book Five, Come Tumbling Down is scheduled for release early next year.