Every Heart a Doorway

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In Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire wants you to imagine.

Imagine that Alice in Wonderland wasn’t a children’s story, but actually happened. Imagine that the Egyptian Halls of the Dead weren’t a myth, but an actual place. Imagine Narnia was real.

Imagine you’re a young person out of place and time. You feel foreign to the world you were born into, and wish you could leave. And then one day, you find a doorway. You step through that doorway and you find a place. It might be a good place or a bad place, a logical place or a fanciful one. But the one thing you know is it feels like home.

You spend time in that place, your new home. Days, months, years even. And then for some reason or other, you cross through that doorway again, by choice or more likely not, and you find yourself back in your original world, and all you know is that somehow, you’ll find a way to the world you belong in.

If so, you might end up at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. Eleanor is on your side, though; she’s a door walker, too. And she’s created a haven for people like her who don’t fit in this world, to help them come to terms with the reality that they are very unlikely to ever find their door again.

The story is told through Nancy, a willowy young woman recently returned from a stay with the Lord of the Dead who only wants to return. She’s a very different girl than the one that stepped through that doorway and her parents want the old Nancy back, so they trundle her off to Eleanor’s school. She meets a strange collection of children, some attuned to logic, some to fantasy, some to light and laughter, some to darkness and screams. And the story is about how these incompatible and struggling personalities learn to work with and support each other in the common goal of going back.

And then one of them is killed.

This book is an enjoyable read. A combination of Fantasy (think every alternate universe ever written about being behind one of those doors) and Horror (not everyone is coping well with not being able to go back, and then children start dying). The plot moves along at a nice pace, but what really drew me was the characterization. The children really came to life for me, and I found myself rooting for them. Well, some of them.

Then the book shifts into horror, as children start dying, and the race is on to discover the killer before more people die or the school is destroyed by what’s happening inside it. While I did along the way guess the killer, McGuire does a good job of foreshadowing that identity while at the same time making you look everywhere else first.

So we have a fun premise, great characters, a good story and mystery and some well handled horror elements in what rolls up to a great story that I really enjoyed reading. This is the first time I’ve read McGuire, but not the last. I plan on diving back in quickly.

Highly recommended.