Down Among the Sticks and Bones – Seanan McGuire

Synopsis: Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

“She rested her head against Jack’s shoulder. Jack inhaled, breathing in the salty smell of her lover’s hair, and thought that there was something to be said for worlds of blood and moonlight, where the only threat more terrible than the things that dwelt in the sea were the things that lived on the shore. Beauty was all the brighter against a background of briars.”

More than a few people have told me that they bought Every Heart a Doorway because of my (incessant, word vomit, raving) gushing review from earlier this year. Which.. I mean. Don’t blame me for the emotional damage it has cost you, people! That’s all thanks to the glorious Seanan McGuire. (Also, you’re welcome!)

Seriously though, the Wayward Children books are wrecking me! Fucking hell.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones takes place before Every Heart a Doorway. It’s about twin sisters Jacqueline (Jack) & Jillian (Jill). We first meet the twins in Every Heart a Doorway at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Childrena school for kids who have traveled through doorway portals to fantasy worlds where they spent some length of time in.

In this prequel, we learn Jack & Jill’s backstory. They were born to selfish parents who truly should not have reproduced, but alas they did & now the twins are nothing more than accessories. It doesn’t take long before they realize that having kids just to flaunt around at work for attention isn’t all they thought it would crack up to be. Having no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into, they enlist Gemma Lou (the twins’ grandmother) to help. By “help” I mean “raise” the girls. She moves in with the family & takes over most of the responsibilities for many years.

Louise is seemingly the only one that gives a damn about the girls. She tries to teach them that it is okay to like one thing, while enjoying another. You don’t have to fit any rigid mold set upon you. That you should be your authentic self. She does everything in her power to show them the love they deserve. But her time with the girls is cut short. Suddenly she isn’t needed anymore.

The girls are 12 years old when they stumble into their own personal portal. The Moors. Their lives will never be the same.

“The trouble with denying children the freedom to be themselves—with forcing them into an idea of what they should be, not allowing them to choose their own paths—is that all too often, the one drawing the design knows nothing of the desires of their model. Children are not formless clay, to be shaped according to the sculptor’s whim, nor are they blank but identical dolls, waiting to be slipped into the mode that suits them best. Give ten children a toy box, and watch them select ten different toys, regardless of gender or religion or parental expectations. Children have preferences. The danger comes when they, as with any human, are denied those preferences for too long.”

Jack & Jill were being shaped & molded into something they weren’t. Jacqueline the princess & Jillian the tomboy. The sheer intensity of this alone is heartbreaking to read. It also hits close to home. I’m finding a lot of this series is impacting me in ways I never expected it to. Oof. My parents wanted a boy first, which I am not. SURPRISE, GUYS!! Instead of trying to shape me into that so-called male role, they expected that I would be a princess. Which I am not. SURPRISE, GUYS!! It’s something that I’ve struggled with growing up. Embracing who I am. Owning the fact that I’m a weirdo.. that I’m more than okay with that. Finding my place in the world. I had a lot working against me in my childhood, which wasn’t always the easiest to deal with. I’ve been someone that has had to fight for most of what I have & what I’ve accomplished in my life. Especially because I am a woman. Especially. Gender roles are alive in well in the world today, still. Unfortunately. This installment deals with that issue throughout. Gender norms & what society unfairly expects from each of us. McGuire does such a brilliant job writing this series, which appear like a fairytale at first glance, but that then quickly turns dark. The deeper meaning behind them & what they stand for. Because life is both light & dark. This series is the perfect representation of that. It’s just so fucking gut-punchy & incredibly beautiful to be a part of!

The rich tapestry of magic & worldbuilding within these portal worlds is just mind-blowing. Down Among the Sticks and Bones features mad scientists & vampires & werewolves & reanimated corpses & gargoyles & Drowned Gods. It’s a coming of age story about finding where you fit in the world. Learning to accept who you are as an individual. How experiences shape us. Most of all, it’s about love in various forms. McGuire has this magical talent to create massive worlds in small spaces, which is no easy feat!

Poignant, captivating, atmospheric & brilliantly realized. Down Among the Sticks and Bones is a scary & beautiful place. One that I am better off for having visited. I couldn’t love this more!

“There are moments that change everything, and once things have been changed, they do not change back. The butterfly may never again become a caterpillar. The vampire’s daughter, the mad scientist’s apprentice, they will never again be the innocent, untouched children who wandered down a stairway, who went through a door.

They have been changed.

The story changes with them.”

PS. Can we please get a story on the Master & Dr. Bleak feud?! I bet that would be bonkers & I AM HERE FOR IT!

-Holly

4 thoughts on “Down Among the Sticks and Bones – Seanan McGuire

  1. Down Among the Sticks and Bones is one of the first books in a long time that undone me. I will forever be exhorting people to read all of the books, but especially this one. Especially this one.

    Like

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