Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Publication date: 05 April 2016
Genre: Adult fantasy/horror
Page count: 169 pages
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
This review is spoiler-free.
I didn’t really know what to expect from Every Heart a Doorway, but I liked the concept well enough. I didn’t actually read the synopsis because from what I had heard around the bookish community, this seemed like one of those books that you should just tumble into. I am so glad I went into this book blind. I never, ever, EVER say this, but I feel like this book was written for me.
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
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.
Ever since I was little, I’ve loved the idea of slipping off to a fantasy world. I could fall down a rabbit hole like Alice, drive through a tollbooth like Milo, maybe even peek into a wardrobe and find myself in Narnia. Alas, this never happened to me, but I’ve held onto my love of portal fantasy and the concept of worlds just a doorway away. What Every Heart a Doorway does is take those children who have slipped through their portals and examine what happens to them when they have to return to our world. Eleanor West’s school is for children who desperately wish to return and must learn to cope with being ‘home’. I absolutely loved this concept — I love seeing what happens beyond the words ‘happily ever after’.
McGuire’s writing has a dreamlike quality to it and it fits the narrative so perfectly. I really loved her writing style and the way she built not just the world of Eleanor West’s school, but the places that each child went to. She did in 170 pages what it takes some writers 300 pages to do — she created a vast, intricate, and compelling world for her characters to live in. Of course, the reader wishes to explore the fantasy worlds more, and the sequels do just that. I thought the establishment of the world and its rules and the setup for sequels that dive deeper was so cleverly done. She manages to breathe new life into portal fantasy and the tired tropes that fit into that subgenre.
Like with the world building, McGuire manages to do in 200 pages what other authors sometime struggle with in full length novels — she manages to create fully fleshed out and complex characters with background stories and motivations and personalities. I think that this is truly the greatest feat of this book. The connection the reader feels to each character is truly wonderful — I understand the motivation of every single student in the school, I get why they are there and why they so desperately want to return to the world beyond their doorways. While I absolutely loved Nancy and her longing for the Halls of the Dead, the secondary characters are just as wonderfully written, particularly when they could have fallen flat in such a short book. McGuire creates characters the defy tropes and expectations.
Overall, Every Heart a Doorway is a beautiful, gory, magical read that is exactly the kind of fantasy I want to read — I couldn’t recommend it more highly. I don’t think I’ve ever connected to a story so strongly or had a story match my imagination so well. I cannot wait to read the next two books!
Pick up a copy of Every Heart a Doorway at the following sites (affiliate links):