Monday, 11 February 2019

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire is the fourth published book in the Wayward Children series, and is another prequel. It does not particularly require having read the earlier published books to make sense, but I feel like Every Heart a Doorway is a reasonable introduction to the world, if one is desired.

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

I started reading this book without actually remembering who the protagonist, Lundy, was. The name was vaguely familiar so I knew she'd shown up in other stories, but I completely misremembered her future story. This was an enjoyable read despite that, which suggests to me that this novella stands alone completely, if necessary. I think the only thing that would be lost to someone who hadn't read any of the other novellas in the series is the background of the school and the sheer number of different types of doors to different worlds that exist. But that's almost completely irrelevant to this story about Lundy and her life travelling to and from the Goblin Market.

Lundy was a mildly unhappy child before she found her door and her particular fairyland wasn't everyone's idea of a good time. But she liked it and she made friends and she felt like she belonged. She even made several trips between the two worlds, which isn't something we've seen close up before. The story spans years as Lundy goes back and forth and is more the story of her transitions than the story of adventures had on the other side of a door. It's the story of choices made, of fair value — because that's what the Goblin Market is all about — and of family.

I really enjoyed this book. It had its melancholy and bittersweet moments, but overall I found it less depressing or distressing than the other prequel, Down Among the Sticks and Bones. Overall, it was an interesting conversation with the idea of portal fantasy, focussing on a subset of the ideas raised in the first novella, Every Heart A Doorway. I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in the concepts. And generally to fans of deconstructing fantasy tropes and/or portal fantasies.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: January 2019, Tor.com publishing
Series: Wayward Children, fourth published book of ongoing series. A standalone prequel.
Format read: ePub
Source: Purchased from Apple Books

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