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review 2018-01-16 02:55
Delightful, tragic, magical -- basic Wayward Children goodness.
Beneath the Sugar Sky - Seanan McGuire

Children have always tumbled down rabbit holes, fallen through mirrors, been swept away by unseasonal floods or carried off by tornadoes. Children have always traveled, and because they are young and bright and full of contradictions, they haven’t always restricted their travel to the possible. Adulthood brings limitations like gravity and linear space and the idea that bedtime is a real thing, and not an artificially imposed curfew. Adults can still tumble down rabbit holes and into enchanted wardrobes, but it happens less and less with every year they live. Maybe this is a natural consequence of living in a world where being careful is a necessary survival trait, where logic wears away the potential for something bigger and better than the obvious. Childhood melts, and flights of fancy are replaced by rules. Tornados kill people: they don’t carry them off to magical worlds. Talking foxes are a sign of fever, not guides sent to start some grand adventure.


But children, ah, children. Children follow the foxes, and open the wardrobes, and peek beneath the bridge. Children climb the walls and fall down the wells and run the razor’s edge of possibility until sometimes, just sometimes, the possible surrenders and shows them the way to go home.


So begins Beneath the Sugar Sky, the third installment of McGuire's Wayward Children series. If you'd asked me why I was excited about this book before reading it, I could've given you a list of reasons -- but I'd forgotten just how magical the books are. By the time I got to "ah, children" not only did I remember the magic, I was under its spell.


Sometime after the events of Every Heart a Doorway, two residents of Eleanor West's Home are down at the pond (they returned from water-worlds, and this is the best they can get), when a naked girl lands in the pond (falling from apparently nowhere), demanding to see her mother, or at the very least, someone in charge. It turns out that this girl is Sumi's daughter -- the problem there is that Sumi died during Every Heart, so she didn't get to mature a bit, go back to her world, defeat the evil Queen, get married and have Rini. Now, the Timeline is catching up to her, and faster than you can say Marty McFly, Rini is starting to disappear, finger by finger, limb by limb. This doesn't sit well with her, as you can imagine.


I like existing. I'm not ready to unexist just because of stupid causality. I didn't invite stupid causality to my birthday party, it doesn't get to give me any presents.


So, four of the residents set off on a quest to bring Sumi back to life. This takes them across the U. S., into one of the worlds of the dead, and all around Sumi/Rini's nonsense world. There's heroism, mystery, sacrifice, triumph and cleverness all around, without which none of this would work, but with it all -- and a healthy dose of magic -- it's a plan so crazy that it just might work.


I don't want to talk too much about the characters apart from what I've already said (which is essentially nothing). In addition to Rini -- we have a nice mix of new to us and returning friends -- with one character that's new to the Home as well as to us. I absolutely enjoyed getting the bonus time with the returning characters, the new (to us) characters were exactly the kind of kids you hope to find in these books. Also, some of the revelations about some secondary characters serve to explain a lot about the way this particular multiverse came to be and it's pretty cool. So, basically, the character material in this novella is almost perfect.


I wasn't as taken with Down Among the Sticks and Bones as I was with Every Heart -- Every Heart was a wonderful mix of tragedy and violence with a sense of play (especially in the ideas and words) -- there was hope throughout the book, even when it was dark for everyone and there was little reason for it. Down Among was about dashed hope and tragedy in a world of tragedy, dashed hopes and violence; yes, there as a little play with the language, and some moments of triumph, but they were all overshadowed. Which was fine, it was the story that needed to be told, and I'm not complaining, but Beneath the Sugar Sky was more of a return to the tone of Every Heart, so I liked it more than Down Among -- I think it was a better book, too, but I could be wrong about it. I just know it was easier to like. There's definitely tragedy, there are hard choices to be made -- and I did say something about sacrifice -- but there's a strand of hope throughout that makes it so much easier to carry on.


One thing that has been on display throughout this series is a sense of play, a sense of fair tale worlds and logic reflected in the language McGuire uses -- you've seen bits of it already above, just one more and I'll call it good:


There was a door there, tall and imposing, the sort of door that belonged on a cathedral or a palace; the sort of door that said "keep out" far more loudly than it would ever dream of saying "come in." 


You know exactly what that door looks like, and you have a great sense of the environment around it, too. Just from that one sentence. McGuire has a great sense of style on display in the Toby Daye and InCryptid books, which is turned up in the Indexed serials, but is probably best seen in these books -- capturing the feel of preternatural worlds has pushed her to unleash all of her pent-up linguistic magic. Even if I disliked the characters and stories she's telling in this series, I think the language would bring me back.


I'm obviously a pretty big Seanan McGuire fan -- just a quick glance at the archives will tell you that. But I'm willing to bet that even if I wasn't predisposed to like her work, this series would've made me one -- Beneath the Sugar Sky is a slice of literary perfection and I can't encourage you enough to try it.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2018/01/15/beneath-the-sugar-sky-by-seanan-mcguire
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review 2018-01-12 15:59
McGuire's Wayward Children is my own personal door to Whimsy and Logic, Fairyland and Underword and I LOVED every minute of it!!
Beneath the Sugar Sky - Seanan McGuire

THIS BOOK WAS PURE NONSENSE!! It was also a dabbler...a sweet sweet dabbler that dabbled (obviously my word of the day) in areas that most authors either steer clear of or try to tackle and too often fail. Seanan McGuire presented many cases of Adversity and how 4 brave kids overcame the troubles that plagued them. This book also touched on body issues and anxieties dealing with someone's mass as opposed to their Being. She broached topics such as what a true friend is and what it means to fit in somewhere, especially when you are being the most authentic you, 100% real. Other topics arose like the (mis)handling Of people with disabilities and how they themselves, as well as those around them, cope with the truth of what they deal with and how they wish they were treated. The very fabric of Reality was examined and it was determined that Reality is real/right in different ways for different people. I loved seeing kids of Logic deal with a Nonsense world and everything that entailed. Things like Death and what it means to truly be Alive are placed under the litterary microscope and dissected in the most beautiful ways. The writing was exceptional, as always. The development of the Worlds was phenomenal! You could feel the magical air in the Land of the Dead and taste the sugary sweetness in the Land of Confection. The character's flaws, anxieties, strengths and epiphanies were so tangible that my heart skipped, raced, broke and recovered in all the right places.


If you are already a fan of this amazing series then you'll be richly rewarded with this new addition! If you are on the fence about whether or not to pick up this gem, I hope this review convinces you to jump off that stodgy old fence and open your own door to lands you couldn't possibly imagine without a tour guide. THIS BOOK IS SURREAL and CAPTIVATING!! I feel like McGuire's Wayward Children is my own personal door to Whimsy and Logic, Fairyland and Underword and I LOVED every minute of it!!

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text 2018-01-10 15:20
Beneath the Sugar Sky, Wayward Children #3 by Seanan McGuire
Beneath the Sugar Sky - Seanan McGuire

Beneath the Sugar Sky is the third book in the 'Wayward Children' series, but this is my first experience with Seanan McGuire's work.

Cora is a recent arrival at Eleanor West's home for Wayward Children. It is a boarding school for children who have come back through the looking glass or the wardrobe or the pond in the back garden and can't quite adjust to everyday reality. They desperately want to go back. Sometimes they do.

Cora's world was underwater, she lived as a mermaid and participated in wonderful adventures, but now she's back in a world where she's self-conscious about her body and obsesses a lot about what everyone must be thinking about her, the fat girl.

So she's self-absorbed. But, she is a teenager.

At the school Cora is beginning to settle in, despite the fact many of the other children are recovering from a horrific experience where a few of their peers murdered a girl to make their doorway reappear, and make friends. Suddenly, a girl in a gown made of cake drops from the sky and demands to see her mother. Her mother, Sumi, was the young girl who was murdered. She can't possibly have had a child so grown up.

McGuire takes us through the logic and unlogic of magical worlds and we follow five teens on a quest to bring Rini's mother back from the dead and save more than a few lives in the process.

I loved it. I read this in a single sitting and must at some point check out the previous books in the series, it has a fantastically diverse cast and settings and straddles horror and fantasy while maintaining a sense of wonder that's often missing from genre novels these days.

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review 2017-12-26 23:15
Magic for Nothing (Incryptid #6) by Seanan McGuire
Magic for Nothing - Seanan McGuire

Antimony Price, youngest of the Price siblings is Not Happy. I mean, she’s never been her older sister Verity’s biggest fan but after she effectively declared war on the Covenant and revealed their continued existence to their old enemy she’s effectively put the whole continent - and her family in particular - at risk


They need to know what the Covenant is planning. They need a spy - and Antimony is the only current family member who doesn’t LOOK like a Price, she has to be the one to do it.


Of course being American - and with her skillset in travelling fairs - she’s also prime recruitment material for the Covenant which has never succeeded in getting a foothold in the US… but being a Price pretending to be Covenant pretending to be a performer certainly doesn’t make things simple


To me this book really proved just how well established and developed the main characters of this series are.


Because I didn’t like Antimony at the beginning of this book - I actively disliked her. Why? Because she doesn’t like her sister Verity and is very angry with her. I’ve read 3 books with Verity as the protagonist; I’ve followed her story, I’ve invested in her, I’ve cheered her on, I’ve loved the Arboreal Priestess. So when Antimony expresses her dislike I’m here on a firm “Excuse you, are you coming for my lady, Verity?! Oh hell no, you go through me Annie!”


Because this is how good those books were and how good Verity is: I’d invested in her sufficiently that I have a knee-jerk need to stand up for her against another fictional character.


(And, honestly, I’m not entirely over it by the end of the book - because while I didn’t dislike Antimony by the end, I still very much like Alex and Verity more).


I quickly grew to like Antimony, of course, because she’s also awesome and her beef with Verity is based on reason. I don’t agree with all of it but there’s more of a kernel of truth to it and it also underlines the great differences between the two sisters (It also means we can look back at Verity and Alex and their opinions of Antimony and see their views of their hostile and excessively violent sister are in turn skewed). Antimony has never had the same conflict as her sister. She has always known who she is and what she wants to be. She has takes her duty and family legacy extremely seriously alongside her dedication to weaponry and skills; she never had Verity’s conflict over what she actually wanted to be and do. Her views of her sister come from this lens and they’re not wrong - nor entirely right - but from such very different perspectives.


From that nuance I also love Antimony’s work with the Covenant. This is the first time we got to see inside the Covenant and learned a lot more about their training regime, their obsession with bloodlines and more of their hatred of all things supernatural and cryptid. I like the way they’re balanced - I expected them to be shown as human rather than cackling maniacal monsters, that kind of is expected now. I even expected Antimony to be somewhat sympathetic to a couple of characters (especially the layers of complexity towards her cousin, the Covenant loyalist who is treated appallingly simply because of the Price family’s defection). But so often when you have these “oh look the evil bigots are human!” it’s used to forgive or forget their bigotry and evil (a habit followed by news media as much as books). But while Antimony can see the humanity of the Covenant, at every single point of introspection she remembers that these people want to murder other sentient creatures just because of what they are. That is never forgotten, that is never downplayed no matter how human the covenant can be. Newspapers should take note.



I also like how it really highlights the viewpoint of the Price family - from looking on a classic picture of George slaying the dragon and seeing the horror of a murderer killing a sentient being just because of its species. While also being clear that the Price’s are themselves not all fluffy and kind - when she finds a clear murderous cryptid she doesn’t hesitate to fight and kill. But even then we have an excellent piece of examinations as to the why - including isolation and lack of knowledge of how to BE a cryptid when most of your species have been wiped out.


Nothing is taken simplistically - the causes and effects are examined and questioned and the cryptids are treated as people. Even a cryptid that eats people will get the Price family asking “well why is it eating people?”


This is this excellent world setting that really works with perfectly developed characters to create something truly fascinating - all the while with a good amount of fun action and hijinks. I also love how much research and thought is put into things like giving Antimony a cover identity - all these little details really make the story real. And it’s why I love them so much (and the Aislinn Mice of course. Hail!)



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Source: www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2017/12/magic-for-nothing-incryptid-6-by-seanan.html
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review 2017-11-24 00:01
Chaos Choreography (Incryptid #5) by Seanan McGuire
Chaos Choreography - Seanan McGuire

Verity has changed her life dramatically recently. She’s married Dominic, a former member of the Order of St George, which was definitely a surprise (though a family tradition). And she has finally made her decision to follow the family business of crypto-zoology rather than pursuing her career in dance.


At least until the producer of the dancing reality TV show she almost won calls her asking her to come back for a very special season. It’s a last chance at her dancing dream, one last chance to see if this is really what she wants… and one last opportunity she cannot turn down


Except when her fellow contestants turn up dead - and it looks like woo-woo and cryptids may be involved.

Hail! Hail the return of the Arboreal Priestess!


It’s been a long time since we saw Verity and I agonised for a little while about whether I wanted to see more of the rest of the family or welcomed the return of Verity. I know, I’m awkward because I lamented moving from Verity in the first place- and then I discovered Alex, The God of Scales and Silence and much preferred his storyline


But at the same time I love that we are returning to Verity. One element of series with shifting protagonists I’m not a great fan of is we tend to forget the older characters. They just vanish or fade into the background - characters which were once compelling enough for entire books are now seemingly reduced to irrelevance. So I love that we have established this precedence, I love that we can revisit these characters and that no-one with be forgotten. More series really need to take a lesson from this


And despite liking Alex’s story - that doesn’t mean I don’t love Verity, I do. And I especially love how this book is coming back to one of the main conflicts of Verity’s story that wasn’t entirely finished was her conflict over whether she wanted to dance or follow the family business. I mean she made her decision, but it felt vaguely like the decision was forced on her. And that’s not bad - sometimes circumstances over take her dream, but it was nice to see that her passion, her dream hadn’t completely left her and it was important to her to revisit it. I really liked how this was done, seeing her connect to old friends, having her both see the things she loved so much about dance but also seeing them with a new light and, perhaps, with less nostalgia. I really really liked the many excellent, subtle ways

I was a little disappointed by Alice, the Noisy Princesses; mainly because my expectations were so high having heard so much about her but the focus was very much on Verity so her terrifyingness was not the focus. Which was probably the best way to go and she did bring so much of her character with just lots of hints and references which was restrained and excellently done


I’ve mentioned a couple of times that I prefer Alex’s story to Verity - but this is nothing to do with Alex or Verity - it’s to do with Dominic. I find Verity’s husband to be… bland? Who is he? What interests him? What is he doing with his life other than being Verity’s husband? Does he have hobbies? Ambitions? Plans? What conflicts is he experiencing given his huge shift of opinions from being a member of the Order? He just seems… hollow.. Especially next to the excellent characters that are already in this book.


The world building, as ever, remains excellent with a whole lot of research, supernatural creatures and the excellent blend of science and mythology working so well which makes this series so unique and so awesome. Even if it needed more Aislinn Mice (hail! Everything needs more Aislinn mice). Honestly I could write many many paragraphs of how awesome this world building is, but I’ve already said repeatedly in the last 4 books because it is just that awesome. I love it so much I really cannot praise it enough - the different cultures, the way they interact how inhuman some of them are, it really works.



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Source: www.fangsforthefantasy.com/2017/11/chaos-choreography-incryptid-5-by.html
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