In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
Publication date: 08 January 2019
Page count: 208 pages
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
The Wayward Children series has been such a rollercoaster for me so far. Every Heart a Doorway is basically perfect, Down Among the Sticks and Bones was infuriating and disappointing, and Beneath the Sugar Sky was a good read but nowhere near as great as the first book. I was so apprehensive about reading the fourth instalment in the series, In an Absent Dream, but I knew I had to give it a try because I love the concept so much. I’m so pleased to say that In an Absent Dream really turned the series around for me and is such a beautiful book.
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.
In an Absent Dream is a prequel, much like Down Among the Sticks and Bones, but the two books lie on opposite ends of the spectrum for me. One of the reasons I disliked Sticks and Bones is that I felt we didn’t get any new information –we didn’t learn anything new or get better insight in to the characters and their actions. In that sense, I felt like the book was disappointing and pointless. In an Absent Dream, however, makes up for what Sticks and Bones lacked. Lundy is a side character in Every Heart a Doorway — we know what her future holds, but not her past. To keep things vague, Lundy is a character who stuck out in my mind because of her characteristics and I always wanted to learn more about her. This book gave me exactly what I craved. In an Absent Dream provided a wealth of information about this wonderfully intriguing and mysterious character and is so beautifully written.
I love any and all books that are tied to Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market, and altough I haven’t read nearly enough, I think this might be my favourite. The world building is, as per usual, exquisite and lush. McGuire has her own take on the Goblin Market, from the rules the citizens must follow to the way it gets under your skin and changes you. I think that this is my favourite world featured in the Wayward Children series and the one I would most like to visit.
What made this book particularly appealing to me is that we get to watch Lundy grow up over the course of the book — it isn’t just a snapshot of a particular period. The book takes place over the course of about 12 years and Lundy grows and changes based on her experiences in both the real world and the Goblin Market. She is bookish and quiet, but with such a fierce loyalty to the friends she has, and I absolutely adore her as a character. She’s never boring, always relatable, but in constant conflict. I think this conflict that made me love her so much — she feels so real and I think I would make the same choices Lundy makes in the books. I don’t think I’ve seen so much of myself in a character since my 11-year-old self picked up Harry Potter for the first time and discovered Hermione Granger, and that makes this book so meaningful to me.
I don’t want to say too much because this novella is best enjoyed when you can discover it on your own. With McGuire’s trademark lush world building, beautiful imagery, and lyrical writing, In an Absent Dream is a beautiful addition to the Wayward Children series. If you haven’t read these books yet, I’d highly recommend them. Every person has a different reaction to each book in the series, and this book really got under my skin. Now that I have a couple of weeks distance between my reading this book and writing this review, I think I can confidently say that In an Absent Dream is my favourite book in the series, and possibly a new favourite of all time.
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