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“Down Among the Sticks and Bones” by Seanan McGuire

Among the many fascinating characters in Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway, readers were introduced to the twins Jack (Jacqueline) and Jill (Jillian). In her new novella, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, McGuire tells us about the parallel world in which Jack and Jill spent several years of their childhoods.

In Every Heart a Doorway, we first meet the characters after they’ve already journeyed to other worlds. Sticks and Bones shows us what a couple of those children were like before that experience and raises questions about why the doors appear for the children they do. It also gives us a more in-depth look at one of those worlds. We learned a bit about the cosmology of the setting and the general categories into which worlds can fall in Every Heart; here we see what some of that means in an “on the ground” perspective. I also found it interesting to see what the inhabitants of the parallel worlds think of the doors and the children who occasionally come through them.

While it does a lot to expand the universe of Every Heart, the new novella stands on its own as well. The world is well-constructed, and I loved its use of horror movie tropes. The characters we meet there are compelling, as is the changing relationship between the two sisters. The climax of the story was exciting, but at the same time, I didn’t want to reach it because I didn’t want the story to be over.

The next story in the series, Beneath the Sugar Sky, will be dealing with a very different secondary world. I’m hoping that it will be rendered with the same vividness as the setting in this novella was.

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