Having recently finished The Man in the High Castle, and having exhausted my ‘To Read’ list, the timing for Tor publishing to share this series to its eBook club couldn’t have been better. I have to be honest here, I’m a member of this eBook club for the monthly free eBook downloads. Rarely do I load them up and actually read them. I read the premise, figured why not, and I’m glad I did.
Reading through the first couple chapters it would be understandable to say this book is a derivative or re-imaging of Alice in Wonderland or a new interpretation of classic fairy tails, think Grimms’ Fairy Tales, but by the time you reach the end I think you’ll have changed your mind. While there are certainly parallels, I mean there are a pair of twin sisters nicknamed Jack and Jill, I think overall this work, and hopefully the entire series, stands on its own.
An easy way to describe the premise is, what if Alice’s journey to Wonderland caused emotional and developmental scaring and permanently changed her? More importantly, what if Wonderland was the one place that Alice felt was truly home, despite it’s nonsensical nature? How would she be different upon her return? How might her parents react? What if Alice wasn’t the only one to go to Wonderland or another world for that matter? And what if these worlds varied from ‘nonsensical’ to ‘highly logical’? Perhaps Alice’s parents, and the parents of these other children, would seek out professionals to help ‘cure’ their children of their stories of visiting other worlds. Enter Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
The story picks up with new student Nancy joining Ms. West’s school after having visited ‘The Halls of the Dead’ and living with ‘The Lord of the Dead’ for years before returning home. It doesn’t take long after arriving before students are discovered murdered. From there the book follows Nancy and other students as they try to determine who is doing the killing and why. Won’t go into to much detail from there as it would get spoilery.
Overall, the book is solidly written with only a handful of characters who aren’t incredibly deep, but have enough depth to be relatable. There are themes related to sexuality and gender identification which are light touch and fit really well into the story. I feel the addition of these themes was really well thought out and helps add depth to the characters without being religious, political, or moral.
Every Heart a Doorway, and every book in the series, is incredibly short at less than 200 pages. If it grabs you, like it did me, it’s easy to finish in a single day. Pick yourself up a copy and enjoy a relaxing Saturday afternoon with an excellent read.