[Book Review] Down Among the Sticks and Bones

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2) / Seanan McGuire

Previously Reviewed
Every Heart a Doorway

In Every Heart a Doorway we meet Jack and Jill, two sisters bound together yet alienated.  Both exiled from their realm and their different masters, both seeking to return home.  But for all of their core participation in the events of that novella, it was not their story nor even a story of any specific realm.  Down Among the Sticks and Bones lets us peek at what shaped the Jack and Jill we meet in Every Heart a Doorway, and lays bare the motivations for their actions within.

The story starts with a couple having children for the wrong reasons.  Falling in love with the idea of having children, of parenting, but being unable to discern the difference between a dream and reality.
"It can be easy, in the end, to forget that children are people, and that people will do what people will do, the consequences be damned."
It's a story about love, hate, and the thin line between.
"At the top of the stairs there was a door that they weren’t supposed to go through, leading to a room that they weren’t supposed to remember. Gemma Lou had lived there when they were little, before they got to be too much trouble and she forgot how to love them. (That was what their mother said, anyway, and Jillian believed it, because Jillian knew that love was always conditional; that there was always, always a catch. Jacqueline, who was quieter and hence saw more that she wasn’t supposed to see, wasn’t so sure.) The door was always locked, but the key had been thrown into the kitchen junk drawer after Gemma Lou left, and Jacqueline had quietly stolen it on their seventh birthday, when she had finally felt strong enough to remember the grandmother who hadn’t loved them enough to stay."
And, perhaps, it's a story about the monsters we love and the monsters we can become.  But more than anything, it's a story about two young women and the trauma that shapes them.

I had to take some time away from this novella after finishing it.  I found it absolutely captivating to read and incredibly emotional.  There were tears, or at least very close to them.  I need to revisit Every Heart a Doorway to be sure, but right now I feel like Down Among the Sticks and Bones surpasses it.  You can read this novella as a standalone, but reading it first would destroy some of the mystery of Every Heart a Doorway.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Macmillian-Tor/Forge via Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.


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