Review: Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire

Rating: 4 out of 5


Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.


Once again, Seanan McGuire excels at condensing an incredible concept into a short, strange, sweet story.

This is my third McGuire book, after Into the Drowning Deep (Mira Grant) and Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day. Every Heart a Doorway (EHaD) struck me as a fun concept: what if Alice came back from Wonderland? What if she had to go to school with other kids who had been to their own private worlds? Nancy had lived in her own version of Wonderland, except hers was the Land of the Dead, full of an icy pallor and stillness that Nancy can no longer find back in the “real world”. She longs so much to go back, but once you’ve come back through the door, all evidence points to you being back in the real world to stay.

“When I danced with the Lord of the Dead for the first time, he said (my hair) was beautiful, and he ran his fingers through it. All the hair turned white around them, out of jealousy.”

Once Nancy gets to the school, we’re introduced to a bevy of characters who have had a similar experience to Nancy. Maybe the world they lived in was full of whimsy, maybe their world was logical. Maybe the world they lived in was lawful, maybe wild. But each of the children longs to go back to the worlds they were spirited away to. Mrs. West, the headmistress of their small school, is in charge of helping the children move on from their experiences and integrate back into the real world.

Not everything is schoolbooks and semesters though. On one of Nancy’s first nights at the school, as student is murdered. The plot transforms quickly into a murder mystery as Nancy and her friends look to uncover the secretive murderer in their midst.

This is probably my favorite McGuire book. It’s short, has an interesting concept, the plot is brisk while still taking time to develop the characters. Nancy is a fun perspective to read from, with her odd behaviors she picked up from the land of the dead. McGuire’s prose is sharp and fun to read. And the audiobook is very good, narrated by the talented Cynthia Hopkins. I just wish the book were longer, but as of me writing this review it looks like it’s the first in a series. Huzzah!

Give Every Heart a Doorway a shot if you’re into quick and interesting reads. You won’t want to stop once you start. If you’ve got time on your hands you could probably read this one in a couple days!

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