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Every Heart a Doorway tells the story of a school for the recovery of children who've been subject to portal fantasy stuff, specifically people wanted to stay but were cast out for some reason. It's pretty good; I felt it could have embraced the premise *better*, but it still did a pretty good job.

I have lots of different thoughts about this.

Returning from portal fantasy

One of the biggest is probably that, it's written as if people being cast out is a central feature of secondary worlds, whereas originally I think it's more like, the authors didn't think about it much either way, they just tacked on a happy ending even if it didn't really make sense in the book.

But as liv points out, many people found portal fantasies incredibly moving as children because they wanted to escape somewhere else from where they were, and returning was horrible, and this story serves very very well as an emphatic rejection of that trope.

Funnily enough that was never me. Lots of my friends overcame a lot of childhood problems, but though I was nerdy and bad at making friends, my parents were great, and I never wanted to get away from here, even if I was drawn to the idea of going somewhere where my strengths could blossom. I got some of that by going into maths and programming.

Flaws

I enjoyed this more than most of the other Seanan Mcguire I've read, even the Mira Grant. I think the strengths were similar, but the bits where "the characters go where the plot says, completely disregarding logic, common sense, emotion, characterisation, survival, or physical possibility" were much less prominent.

At least to me -- I know some people didn't find that a problem in any of her books, and some people were bothered by it in this one. But there are going to be *some* rants in the spoiler section.

I wasn't bothered by some things that bothered other people. To me, the variety of sexualities etc didn't feel shoehorned in, except occasionally (and I was pleased it was there). I wasn't bothered by shifts in narration from tight third to omniscient (I actually quite like little omniscient asides).

Strengths

The diversity of characters. The description of the secondary worlds: the harsh "high logic" faerielands; the "high nonsense" nonsense worlds; the ones with rhymes, the underworlds, etc etc. It is all very memorable.

Random thoughts

I know I can be too optimistic here, and it can be impossible to stop bullying, but I also just despair at how it's taken for granted in so many situations fictional and real. Here there's a fairly small group of children, with several adults present full time. Can't they at least TRY to prevent at least physical attacks? And ideally violent threats?

Spoilers

I think focussing more on the secondary worlds and not trying to do a murder mystery would have been better, but I was ok with it.

I feel like trying to do more worldbuilding might have failed: what there was was very good, but not consistent enough that trying to fill in the gaps would have worked.

There were some holes that bothered me. We never really found out much about Nancy's underworld before she went back there. To me it screamed "horribly abusive". Maybe it was a good escape from her family. But, there's constant screams. At least some of which are not just background noise but are people in serious pain or threat. There's nothing to do, nothing to aspire to except looking pretty for the queen and king while completely inert. There's no *fun*, or no mention of it. It sounds like the quiet peace of despair into which someone escaped from something worse, which is... something, but not exactly a good eternity.

And I can't really tell. Is that *supposed* to be ambiguous? Or are we supposed to just assume that everyone who wanted to return, that was basically good for them? My impression was more "the book didn't consider how this could potentially look bad". But it could also be on purpose. Many of the other worlds are similarly ambiguous.

Jack

Not because of the name. But I do often really identify with really emotionless characters, especially super science-y ones. I don't think that's something to be concerned about, I don't seem to lack empathy as such. But I do often default to being matter-of-fact about things happening rather than being filled with SOLIDARITY OUTRAGE. With the exception of certain things that happen to bother me a lot.

Like, I'm not concerned about Jack not being squicked by death and bodies. But it does seem disturbing she can't seem to get what things would be disturbing for other people. Is that just because they exclude her and she doesn't care about being polite? Or does she not get that talking about ripping people's organs out disturbs people, even if she doesn't understand why? She doesn't show any desire to *hurt* people. But she does show an almost aggressive indifference to it, with things like "pulled a man's lungs out while he was trying to talk". Was that doctoring? Or made up? Or just, she killed someone?

There's a kind of inconsistency in how seriously to take some of this, which is mostly not a problem as the reader just follows along, but occasionally stands out. They clearly came *from* a very dark home, and where they went helped them a lot. But "young teens benefit from a home environment without a lot of killing" isn't just nanny-state bureaucracy, there's good reasons it's more healthy.