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Wayward Children #2

Down Among the Sticks and Bones

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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.

187 pages, Hardcover

First published June 13, 2017

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About the author

Seanan McGuire

495 books15.2k followers
Hi! I'm Seanan McGuire, author of the Toby Daye series (Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, An Artificial Night, Late Eclipses), as well as a lot of other things. I'm also Mira Grant (www.miragrant.com), author of Feed and Deadline.

Born and raised in Northern California, I fear weather and am remarkably laid-back about rattlesnakes. I watch too many horror movies, read too many comic books, and share my house with two monsters in feline form, Lilly and Alice (Siamese and Maine Coon).

I do not check this inbox. Please don't send me messages through Goodreads; they won't be answered. I don't want to have to delete this account. :(

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 8,395 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,964 reviews294k followers
June 29, 2017
Some adventures require nothing more than a willing heart and the ability to trip over the cracks in the world.

I love McGuire's dark little fairy tales so so much.

I was captivated by Every Heart a Doorway last year, and couldn't wait to get into more of the author's weirdness with Down Among the Sticks and Bones. It doesn't disappoint. This second in the series is a completely new story, so it can be easily read as a standalone. But also has all the unsettling atmosphere of its predecessor.

In this book, Jacqueline and Jillian (or Jack and Jill) have been brought up to fit a mold created by their parents. Jacqueline-- her mother's pretty princess, who wears pink dresses and never plays outside where she might get *gasp* dirty. And Jillian-- the short-haired tomboy to replace the boy her father wanted but never got.

This is how they've always known it. But as they get older they start to wonder a single, old question: why? That's when they find the impossible staircase with the door that disappears behind them. That's when they enter a different world - one of magic and death and different paths.
She had tried to make sure they knew that there were a hundred, a thousand, a million different ways to be a girl, and that all of them were valid, and that neither of them was doing anything wrong.

It's both an eerie, dark fairy tale and a takedown of ideas about what it means to be a girl. Because, of course, in the end, there is no one way to be a girl. And you can make a girl wear a dress, just as you can make a girl wear jeans and cut her hair, but that doesn't change anything. Not really. Not where it counts.

It's a short, fast read, full of beautiful writing. The impression left by it should just about see me through until the next book - Beneath the Sugar Sky. But if the author wants to write faster, then that's good with me too.

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Profile Image for Jesse (JesseTheReader).
468 reviews169k followers
July 9, 2019
I loved this so much! If the series continues to explore the depths of different characters, then I'm already expecting to love every installment. It was so great getting to know Jack & Jill's characters, despite the frustrating childhood they had to endure. Someone get these children new parents ASAP! It was also nice to get to see the world their door lead them to & how it altered them in different ways. Can't wait to pick up the next book!
Profile Image for Elena May.
Author 11 books692 followers
July 26, 2017
I loved Jack and Jill in Every Heart a Doorway , and I was so looking forward to their story! But now I’m sad it’s over!

Serena and Chester are obsessed with order and appearances. They have to be a perfect couple with a perfect house in a perfect neighborhood, perfect at work and at various roles in society. But one thing is missing. They can’t be an image of perfection unless they are the a perfect, nuclear family. And so they decide to have a kid...

Bad idea. They are terrible, terrible parents. They have complete, unchangeable images in their minds, of what their twin daughters, Jack and Jill, will grow up to be like, and they force the girls into these narrow boxes. The twins’ grandmother tries to fix the damage, but they never let her:

She had tried to make sure they knew that there were a hundred, a thousand, a million different ways to be a girl, and that all of them were valid, and that neither of them was doing anything wrong.

Jack’s and Jill’s lives are so confusing that when they end up in a word of horrific monsters – vampires, werewolves, Drowned Gods, gargayoles, a world, where everything wants to hurt you, a world, where the moon herself appears a threat, a world, where creepy doctors who reanimate the dead are the nicest and kindest guys around, they finally feel like home.

Their paths in the Moors separate. While Jack indeed finds her own way, Jill is still haunted by the damage her parents have inflicted. She ends up worshipping an abusive predator and twisting herself into a terrifying image of what she thinks he expects of her. And yet, in the end this is their world, the world, where Jack and Jill can finally explore who they are.

The messages on bad parenting in the beginning were a bit heavy-handed, but they were important and many still need to hear them, so it didn’t bother me.

Beautifully written, in a style of a fairy-tale that tries to teach is something. And it does!
Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,478 reviews19.3k followers
January 3, 2020
Re-read 1/3/20: Undoubtedly still my favorite installment in the series. I am SO excited to head back to the Moors in Come Tumbling Down!!!

Re-read 2/6/2019: Honestly Jack might be one of my favorite characters of all time. This is hands down my favorite of the series bc it is just SO GOOOOOOOD.

Re-read 1/19/18: Re-read this to prepare for Beneath the Sugar Sky and it was still SO DAMN GOOD. I stg, I like live and breathe for this series. I’m obsessed. Can’t believe I have something new in the series to pick up now! Shshshhebehshsj

Re-read 8/1/17: YES, I did re-read this two days after my original read. I loved it THAT much. Also I was in line for the audiobook to listen to during BTAT but didn't get approved until just today so I decided to re-listen while tidying up my house. This was just as, if not more, fantastic the second time around. Pardon me while I read everything Seanan McGuire has ever written.

Original read 7/29/17: BooktubeAThon Challenge #6: Read 7 books (okay I know this is only my 6th book but this doesn't apply to a challenge for me. Leave me alone!!!!) - COMPLETE!

This book was utter perfection. Holy fuck. I loved this SO MUCH. SOOOOOOOOO much. I might have even liked this more than Every Heart a Doorway???? Omg
Profile Image for Zoë.
328 reviews66.2k followers
January 3, 2019
I absolutely love the worlds that Seanan McGuire creates and the overall concepts of her novels, but both this and Every Heart a Doorway fell just a little bit flat for me. This isn't because of her writing style, which is beautiful, but simply because the books are too dang short for me!
I will say that I enjoyed this more than Every Heart a Doorway as the plot was more focused. I actually was really loving it and invested in the story! BUT IT WAS TOO SHORT. This led to several instances of being told about a plot point rather than seeing it for ourselves, such as .
If this was only 100 pages longer or so and we were able to experience and understand everything from the character's relationships to the magic/science system first-hand rather than being told, I could easily have given it 5 stars.
This was still very enjoyable despite my complaints, and I do recommend this series if you want a quick fairytale-like read!
P.S. I've heard from multiple people that it's best to read this book before Every Heart a Doorway because otherwise the entire plot will be spoiled for you. Because of this, I read it before re-reading that book and then moving on to Beneath the Sugar Sky.
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,172 reviews98.2k followers
June 21, 2017

ARC provided by Tor in exchange for an honest review.

1.) Every Heart a Doorway ★★★★★

This book is beyond words. No amount of word combinations I could possibly string together could do this book justice. This series is truly a gift from above, and I can't urge you enough to drop any and everything you're reading to pick up this or Every Heart a Doorway.

I didn't think it would be possible, but I actually enjoyed Down Among the Sticks and Bones more than Every Heart a Doorway. Once I turned that last page, I immediately ran to my bookshelves and read Every Heart a Doorway. Then, I just laid there on the ground in awe, while trying to convince myself to not reread Down Among the Sticks and Bones at 2 o'clock in the morning. Seriously, this series is that amazing.

If you've read Every Heart a Doorway then you know how Jack and Jill's story ends in that book, so I was absolutely ecstatic when I found out that the next book in this series was their back-story about their magical world.

The twin sisters' doorway is very different than Nancy's in Every Heart a Doorway. Their doorway, the Moors, is a place of neutral territory surrounded by vampires, werewolves, gargoyles, Drowned God worshipers, and more in the paranormal vein. And a few individuals in the Moors are very excited when children stumble through from portals from different worlds.

Jack and Jill stumble through when they are only twelve years old, and stay for another five years, even though they wished to stay forever. In those short five years, they discover who they are and who they want to be. They thrive in this scary world because they are able to be themselves, not what is forced upon them.

The tone of this book just feels so dark and eerie, while also being so magical and lovely. My body feels such a vast array of feelings and emotions reading Seanan McGuire's work. The writing is so atmospheric; you will feel like you stumbled upon your own doorway.

“She had tried to make sure they knew that there were a hundred, a thousand, a million different ways to be a girl, and that all of them were valid”

The discussion on gender roles and the impact they have when we force them on our children, sometimes knowingly and other times unknowingly, is so important. It's okay to be a tom-boy, it's okay to be a girly-girl, and, most importantly, it's okay to be both. We should never be defined by the world's gender stereotypes. This is something that I have personally struggled with a lot growing up, and I could write about this topic until my fingers bled, but Seanan McGuire perfectly executes this point in such a perfectly crafted story that is under 200 pages! I am seriously so awestruck.

“The concept that perhaps biology was not destiny, and that not all little girls would be pretty princesses, and not all little boys would be brave soldiers”

There is also amazing representation and explanations on how it feels to suffer from Mysophobia/Germaphobia. I actually do not think I've ever read a book about someone dealing with their Mysophobia, and it just made me love and admire Down Among the Sticks and Bones even more.

If you've read Every Heart a Doorway you will know that there is lesbian representation in here, but the depiction of first love was something I wasn't expecting, and it was so beautiful I can't possibly put it into words.

I, too, truly loved the Moors and wasn't ready to leave. I loved the village and the feel of this magical world. I loved seeing Jack grow into what she wanted to be, while seeing Jill grow into what could happen if your needs and wants are repressed to a dangerous point. I loved the representation and all of the feelings that Seanan McGuire was able to evoke from me. I loved this book and these characters, and I will cherish this story forever, while trying to get everyone I come in contact with to read it.

Also, I need Kade's story like I need air in my lungs. Please, Lord, make Beneath the Sugar Sky be his book. Also, please give me and my heart the strength to wait for it to come out. Beneath the Sugar Sky is about Sumi, or more so her prophesied daughter, but I am still so here for it and cannot wait! 💗

“A man who has lived his entire life in a cave does not mourn the sun until he sees it, and once he has he can never go back underground.”

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,538 reviews9,831 followers
May 3, 2023
((Singing: Hello, darkness, my old friend...))


Wow! I am so glad I gave this book a second chance.

I started this last summer, put it down to participate in a Readathon and just kept neglecting to pick it back up.

Now that I have completed it, I have such a strong urge to go back and read the first book again.

This story helps to explain so much and to my delight, expanded on my two favorite characters.

Jack and Jill.
Born, Jacqueline and Jillian.

Jacqueline the perfect princess, prim and proper, just as her mother wants.

Jillian, a tomboy, a diamond in the rough, just as her father wants.

I feel it's important to note, both Mom and Dad are absolutely wretched human beings.

Jack and Jill are 12-years old when they descend down the staircase to the Moors. Once there, they realize they each have a chance to reinvent themselves. They can live their lives as they see fit.

To live as the people they identify as. This is in complete opposition to who their parents wanted them to be; forced them to be.

One with a vampire, one with a mad scientist, what could go wrong? A lot, but the truth is, the girls really enjoy their new lives.

Eventually, tragedy strikes, however, and they are forced back together and out of the Moors.

This story offers some great commentary on gender roles and societal expectations of children. Also, how much early parenting can affect a child's feelings of self worth and identity.

I really enjoyed the lyrical quality to the writing and definitely plan to continue on with the series. I have a strong feeling that this story will continue to be my favorite.

The world of the Moors, how it functioned and how it was described are just completely my aesthetic. I loved it!

Profile Image for Maria.
65 reviews8,495 followers
March 17, 2020
4.6/5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“Some adventures require nothing more than a willing heart and the ability to trip over the cracks in the world.”

And now this series finally begins! I don't consider the first book the beginning of this series... I consider this one. At this moment, I have read the entirely of it in like... 3 days. I can wholeheartedly tell you that I would much prefer if she started the series off with this book which feels much too personal and beautiful and have the first one be the third of the fourth of something. Focusing on one of two people and their stories is this series' strength and where the length of the books lies upon. Focusing on two many people loses me. It loses its grip on me.

This book follows Jack and Jill's adventure in the Moors and their life in our world before they found their door. Before this book, Jack and Jill to me was Adam Sandler's movie Jack and Jill. Now... it's these two so complicated and interesting twins who I could read their stories forever. This now is the time these books and this world starts to get actually deep and meaningful. We dig deep into gender roles and family dynamics and we also get a f/f relationship which was an amazing plus. We get corruption and expectations and love and hate and it felt truly special and beautiful. I fucking loved it.

There was something weird happening with Seanan's writing in this that didn't happen in her other books, I think. She used too many brackets... which, when I notice them, annoy the living shit outta me. I don't know why she only did that here, but there were distracting and long at times. But, obviously, didn't diminish my love and enjoyment of this book.

To sum it all up, I was pleasantly surprised, and now after having read the entire series, know I could read these books forever. This is my second favorite one of this series... you'll see why. Keep em' coming Seanan, the world you have created is truly wondrous. Reviews of the next 3 books coming soon. K bye!
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
June 22, 2018

this woman….

according to miranda, between her two author-personas; Seanan McGuire and Mira Grant, this woman has SIX books coming out in 2017. which is crazy. and some of them, like this one, are on the short side, but they are in no way flimsy, tossed-off sketches. the amount of thick detail and lingering emotional resonance here’ll make your head spin.

‘cuz while this one may be short, it sure ain’t sweet.

i mean, it’s sweet in the “OH MY GOD, MY HEART IS BREAKING” way that appeals to me as a reader, but it isn’t a sugar and spice fairytale - this one’s got teeth for miles.

it takes place before the events of Every Heart a Doorway, and tells of the circumstances that brought jack and jill to eleanor west's home for wayward children. fans of that book already know the basic outline of their journey, but here we get the entire story in all its blood-soaked majesty.

like most of her work, this is both an excellently-built story that entertains, but it also delivers a serious message it its focus on issues of identity - from the familial and personal to identities based in gender or sexuality; what is imposed, what is chosen, what is inherent. there’s maybe a smidgen too much of a preachifying tone to this exploration here, and it’s drilled in a bit too hard and often for such a short piece, but it’s interesting and important enough to bear repeating for people who don’t get it the first time, and repetition is a genre standard of the fairytale, so it’s not wholly off-putting, even if it does obstruct the narrative flow a bit.

apart from that, it’s truly masterful - the way character is shaped by the tyranny of parental expectations and how either submission to or rebellion against these expectations informs future choices and values, the bone-deep loyalty of sisters despite diverging paths, first love, loss, jealousy; everything that makes a person tick, where each of those ticks signifies the bomb’s inevitable explosion.

it’s a perfect follow-up to Every Heart a Doorway, and it’s maybe a vegetable-peeling’s width less awesome, but it’s a welcome explanation of these characters’ backstory and could absolutely work as a standalone story. however, if you haven’t read every heart, you’re really missing out on something special.



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Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
December 2, 2020
4.5 stars. This is my favorite of the whole Wayward Children series, along with In an Absent Dream. This is a prequel to the first book (and I actually liked this one much better) so if you missed the first book, you're good to start here ... but if you keep going with the series, you actually do need to read Every Heart a Doorway. :) Review first posted on Fantasy Literature:

Since Down Among the Sticks and Bones is a prequel to Every Heart a Doorway and since I was going into it already knowing where the story of Jack and Jill ends in this fantasy portal story, I was initially a little reluctant to pick it up. But it surprised me! Seanan McGuire tells this story so engagingly that I couldn’t help but savor it, despite some horrifying and heartbreaking aspects of it. I definitely liked it better than Doorway … the story here made much more sense than the bizarre murder mystery in Doorway, and has a less timeworn plot.

Seanan McGuire spends the first quarter of the book relating how Jacqueline and Jillian are raised, or mis-raised, by their well-to-do parents, a story that could be painful and tedious if McGuire didn’t tell it with such wit and relish. Their parents, Chester and Serena Wolcott, are caught up in their own concerns, and decide to have children only because they envy all of the attention their friends’ children get when their parents periodically bring them to work, dressed up and on best behavior. They have no idea what they’re getting into, and once they get into it, they do it with complete incompetence.

McGuire leavens the sad tale of the twins’ upbringing with her wry humor and insight, often offered up in parenthetical asides:
(The thought that babies would become children, and children would become people, never occurred to them. The concept that perhaps biology was not destiny, and that not all little girls would be pretty princesses, and not all little boys would be brave soldiers, also never occurred to them. Things might have been easier if those ideas had ever slithered into their heads, unwanted but undeniably important. Alas, their minds were made up, and left no room for such revolutionary opinions.)
Jacqueline becomes her mother’s project, always dolled up in frilly princess dresses, while Jillian is encouraged by her father to be a rough-and-tumble tomboy. But the girls don’t fit into these rigid molds quite as easily as their parents think.

One day, when the girls are twelve, they open an old trunk in an empty bedroom and find a long, impossible stairway that leads them to a fantastic land, where their love for each other (already strained) will be tested in terrible new ways, and they will be faced with choices that children shouldn’t have to make, and events and people that will divide them.
There are worlds built on rainbows and worlds built on rain. There are worlds of pure mathematics, where every number chimes like crystal as it rolls into reality. There are worlds of light and worlds of darkness, worlds of rhyme and worlds of reason, and worlds where the only thing that matters is the goodness in a hero’s heart. The Moors are none of those things. The Moors exist in eternal twilight, in the pause between the lightning strike and the resurrection. They are a place of endless scientific experimentation, of monstrous beauty, and of terrible consequences.
The nicknames Jack and Jill ― which their parents refused to acknowledge ― are backwards from the roles the twins are given in their youth: Jack is the princess and Jill, the tomboy. I never did get used to that, though I applaud Down Among the Sticks and Bones for taking the unexpected route with their names. There’s a seismic shift, however, when the girls arrive in the Moors, where their characters develop in stunningly different ways than their parents had anticipated. Those unexpected developments nevertheless make sense, since McGuire has carefully laid the foundation in the way their younger personalities and characteristics were described.

The plot of Down Among the Sticks and Bones is intriguing, and it explores themes of parental expectations, gender roles (it may surprise you which of the girls is gay), and fraught sibling relationships with sharp perception. But it’s Seanan McGuire’s resonant writing that will particularly remain with me. The frequent humor and sarcasm lightens what might otherwise be an oppressively dark story, and the omniscient narrator’s insights into human motivations make for a compelling story.

Even though Every Heart a Doorway, to some extent, spoils the ending of this tale ― I still think it might work best to read Sticks and Bones before Doorway, if you haven’t read either yet ― it’s definitely worth stepping through the magic portal with Jack and Jill and tumbling down some (real and metaphorical) hills with them.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Thank you!!

Content note: This novella, like the first, is engaged with gender issues and alternative sexuality. No explicit scenes, though.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
April 26, 2019
Childhood dreams are fun to return to, aren't they? Until you remember that childhood isn't always an easy walk through the wildflowers. Until you remember that some of those dreams can turn to nightmares quick as a flash.

This was definitely better for me than book one. While I thought book one had the same amazing atmosphere and a fantastic concept, this book had far more solid character work.

If any of you remember my review of Every Heart a Doorway, you'll remember that Jack was by far my favorite character. While I wanted to love Nancy, I found her a fairly bland character with not much of an arc. I also felt that Every Heart A Doorway had no middle. But this book has both a middle section and significant character work. Seanan McGuire has definitely ironed out the kinks in her novella-writing talent.
With another sigh, Alexis took it and slid off the bed. “Those ‘village oafs,’ as you like to call them, will have houses and trades of their own one day. You’ll have a windmill.”
“A very clean windmill,” said Jack. “They’d be able to give me children. That’s what Mother says.”
“I could give you children,” said Jack, sounding faintly affronted. “You’d have to tell me how many heads you wanted them to have, and what species you’d like them to be, but what’s the point of having all these graveyards if I can’t give you children when you ask for them?”

Jack is probably my favorite thing about this tiny book. She's a mad scientist and she's brave and she's hilarious. I could read eight books about her.

The relationships of this tiny book were all so intriguing. I absolutely loved the banter between Alexis and Jack. I also really enjoyed the relationship between Jack and Jill; their character clash is perfectly written.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Jack raised her head, reaching up to adjust her glasses as she did. “I thought it was a stray dog knocking the door open. Where I come from, people knock.”
“You come from the same place I do,” said Jill.
“Yes, and people knocked.”

This book is a lot darker than Every Heart A Doorway. The Moors are not on the same level as Nancy's odd but lovable world. Jack and Jill are in a dangerous, scary world, but they're owning it. I loved the eerie atmosphere to this story; I found this book incredibly unputdownable.

I also just really love how feminist this book is. The discussion on how forced gender roles fail is one of the best I've ever seen.

“The concept that perhaps biology was not destiny, and that not all little girls would be pretty princesses, and not all little boys would be brave soldiers.”

One final note before I go: I really desperately need answers on that ending. Answer my questions, Seanan McGuire. Please.

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Profile Image for Emma Giordano.
317 reviews116k followers
November 3, 2017
4.5 Stars! This was definitely a satisfying sequel. I think I may have enjoyed book one slightly more, but nonetheless, I adore this series and would highly recommend books one and two!

I believe it is written in third person-omniscient, which I find is not the most common form of narration in YA. It’s always a bit tricky to get fully immersed at first, being the prose is also quite elaborate and flowery, but I’ve consistently grown addicted to her writing style with both books.

I do feel Down Among the Sticks and Bones is a tad more complex than Every Heart A Doorway , which I loved! This book deals with the influence of a parent’s wishes/expectations on their children, sisterly dynamics, and identity crisis/development. All themes explored came across extremely well and I believe it differs from so many fantasy YA books for this reason.

As a lover of book one, it was interesting to delve deeper into the stories of two side characters before we meet them in the first book (this is a prequel!) I was fascinated reading the development of Jack & Jill, especially since I kept confusing the two of them from their personality from the first book (An obvious, but genius addition to this novella). I was also pleased that one of the main characters is involved in a relationship with another girl in this story – I’m not sure if Every Heart A Doorway mentions this, and I don’t believe her exact sexual identity is stated, but yay for more books with WLW protagonists!!

The only thing I feel is lacking in this novel is the plot isn’t as exciting as book one. For most of the story, we examine the relationship and differences among these two girls as they explore their identity for the first time in their lives. There wasn’t as severe of a looming threat like in book one, and I wish there were a few more significant events to propel the story.

In conclusion, I adored this book. I always have a soft spot for sequels that really do compare to book one because I think it’s a hard feat to accomplish! I cannot wait for book three to come out this January. If you’re looking for a short yet deep fantasy novel, this series is for you.
Profile Image for jessica.
2,535 reviews32.6k followers
December 7, 2021
jack and jill arent my favourite characters from the first book, but what i really enjoy is how the reader gets an opportunity to finally experience life beyond a doorway in this sequel.

this has all of the world building and character development that i so desperately desired/is missing from first book. and i appreciate how this stuck to one genre (it didnt throw in a mystery/thriller element into a fantasy story, like its predecessor does). i think that really helped sell the storytelling quality of this book.

overall, this a decent addition to the series. i just really hope we get a kade backstory/doorway adventure now!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Caz (littlebookowl).
301 reviews40.3k followers
January 21, 2018
Rating: 4.75 stars

Really enjoyed learning more about some of the fascinating characters we met in book #1, and exploring a new world!

So dark and heartbreaking.
Profile Image for April (Aprilius Maximus).
1,093 reviews6,576 followers
November 3, 2020
1.) Every Heart A Doorway ★★★★
2.) Down Among The Sticks and Bones ★★★★.5
3.) Beneath The Sugar Sky ★★★★.5
4.) In An Absent Dream ★★★.5
5.) Come Tumbling Down ★★★★
6.) Across the Green Grass Fields ★★★★


Great discussion on gender roles and a beautiful but heartbreaking fairytale-like story.
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,662 reviews5,144 followers
January 12, 2023
#1 Every Heart a Doorway ★★★★★
#2 Down Among the Sticks and Bones ★★★★★
#3 Beneath the Sugar Sky ★★★★★
#4 In An Absent Dream ★★★★★
#5 Come Tumbling Down ★★★★★
#6 Across the Green Grass Fields ★★★★★
#7 Where the Drowned Girls Go ★★★★★
#8 Lost in the Moment and Found ★★★★★

I genuinely did not think that anything could top Every Heart a Doorway for me, and then this book came in and blew my expectations out of the water. Seanan’s writing is always masterful and poetic, but the underlying messages she wove into this novella made it even more meaningful to me.
This, you see, is the true danger of children: they are ambushes, each and every one of them.

If you’ve read the first book in this series, you’ll recall the disastrous, eventful time we spent with the twins, Jack and Jill. In this entry, we get to revisit what happened before Nancy met them, starting before their births and leading all the way up to their exit from the Moors. Jacqueline and Jillian are the uncherished children of two busy, haughty adults who wanted dolls, not human beings. Through their upbringings and the effects their parents’ choices have upon them as teens, it feels as though the entire story’s innermost purpose is to remind the reader that children are humans, deserving of respect and love, and that forcing any child into an unsuited mold is a recipe for bleakness and tragedy.
The thought that babies would become children, and children would become people, never occurred to them. The concept that perhaps biology was not destiny, and that not all little girls would be pretty princesses, and not all little boys would be brave soldiers, also never occurred to them.

My favorite aspect of Down Among the Sticks and Bones, besides the poetic scenery Seanan creates with apparent ease, is the level of importance it places upon doing away with gender roles and expectations. As twins who are pushed into the most opposite directions possible, we see how each girl is taken so far from who she wants to be, that she will give anything to become her own, autonomous person—even at great cost.
She had tried to make sure they knew that there were a hundred, a thousand, a million different ways to be a girl, and that all of them were valid, and that neither of them was doing anything wrong.

There are some real gems in the cast of this story, though, and I’m not ashamed to admit that the sweeter moments made me cry more than once. There’s the twins’ doting grandmother, who sees the error of their parents’ ways and does everything in her power to reverse the damage. There’s Alexis, a delightful love interest who is a perfect little queer, plus size cinnamon roll. And, of course, there’s Dr. Bleak, the eccentric scientist who raises little Jack into his assistant, and who is one of the only genuinely sensible, caring beings in her world (both on Earth, and in the Moors). These novellas are full of so many complex, intricate characters with their own backstories and motives, and I constantly find myself wanting to spend more time with them. (Like, can I please get a whole novella on the feud between the Master and Dr. Bleak?)
The Moors exist in eternal twilight, in the pause between the lightning strike and the resurrection.

Lastly (but certainly not least), we get the root of the story: we learn what has happened to create the monsters within Jack and Jill, and what their motives are for the actions that conspire at the end of Every Heart a Doorway. Learning about their upbringings and the things they had done and been put through made me so much more understanding, and put the most shocking and fascinating spin on everything I thought I knew about them from the first book.
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 slipping into the mode that suits them best.

I know I say this about all of Seanan’s stories, but I truly cannot recommend this series highly enough. It is such a beautiful, dark, haunting, whimsical world full of paradoxes, curses and blessings, and nothing is ever exactly as it seems. I’m already dying to move on to the third installment, and so utterly delighted that she’s been signed for more books in the series, because I truly wish it would never end.


Buddy read with Julie! ❤
Profile Image for High Lady of The Night Court.
135 reviews5,056 followers
March 3, 2020
The Moors exist in eternal twilight, in the pause between the lightning strike and the resurrection. They are a place of endless scientific experimentation, of monstrous beauty, and of terrible consequences

It got even better. It’s honestly not fair that a series of books can be this good, especially when this book was the story of what Happened with Jack and Jill when they went into their world. Honestly, I usually get bored of a series when each book has a different narrator or different characters as the protagonist, but this book blew me away. It certainly justifies the characters’ personalities in the first book, and it goes past the fact that they simply went to deadly world. This book shows us what happened before the twins were pulled into a fantastical world full of monsters and that world wasn’t all rainbows and fairytales either, along with why they came back.

They were starting to feel, in a vague, unformed way, as if their parents were doing something wrong. Both of them knew kids who were the way they were supposed to be, girls who loved pretty dresses and sitting still, or who loved mud and shouting and kicking a ball. But they also knew girls who wore dresses while they terrorized the tetherball courts, and girls who wore sneakers and jeans and came to school with backpacks full of dolls in gowns of glittering gauze. They knew boys who liked to stay clean, or who liked to sit and color, or who joined the girls with backpacks full of dolls in their corners. Other children were allowed to be mixed up, dirty and clean, noisy and polite, while they each had to be just one thing, no matter how hard it was, no matter how much they wanted to be something else.

As I already mentioned in my review of the first book, Seanan Mcguire shines light on the fact that not all people are built the same and that forcing children to fit stereotypes that do not align with their personality could damage their fragile mental states. Here, faced with parents who, clearly, should have never become parents, Jacqueline and Jillian face deep mental and emotional trauma before ever being thrust into a world of nightmares. While one finds who she is, the other loses herself to her greed, which was clearly a result of her life before the vampires.

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.
Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
531 reviews58.6k followers
July 4, 2017
(3.5) I'm not 100% sure how to rate this book...

I liked it but not as much as the first one. I'm definitely planning on reading the next one since I want to hear more about the other worlds!
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,976 followers
January 5, 2020
Re-read 1/4/20:

I relaxed into this re-read, enjoying the story of the twins more this time, immediately after seeing them in the events in Every Heart a Doorway and feeling the tragedy a bit more.

I'm still a bit ambivalent about reading order, but I have to say I probably prefer the standard order.

On to the next!

Original Review:

Even though I knew this was somewhat a prequel to the first Wayward Children, I still kinda hoped for more.

HOWEVER, as a straight story and judging it on its own merits, I can find absolutely no fault.
This is a story of twins being mirrored darkly, rather messed up by their short-sighted and self-consumed parents, twisted by circumstance and then later by their own choices, this entire novella is a frame and a mirror to highlight the differences between gender expectations and how it can pull a big number on these poor kids.

Later on, we're given some rather nasty service when we add a vampire Master and a necromancer Doctor into the mix. Separating the twin sisters by their own desires adds a separate mirroring effect... in effect of how to create a monster or how to heal one, applying it to great story effect.

It's a story of identity and love, of influence and choice, and all told, it's quite beautiful to behold.

But to be honest? I still love the first one more for its sheer imaginative effects. :)
Profile Image for Warda.
1,154 reviews18.4k followers
April 1, 2019
As gorgeous and as delicious as the first book. My heart feels full. I love character development, character study so it was awesome to find out more about Jack and Jill who appeared in Every Heart a Doorway.

I adore the eerie vibe this series has, how whimsical and dark it is. I believe this world exists. I’m completely enveloped in it whilst I’m reading it. But what I love more is what the undertone of the stories represent for me and as a whole.

To be who you are in a world that’s telling you to be otherwise is something worth fighting for. That it is enough regardless of the complications or the misunderstandings that come with it. Your experiences are valid.
Profile Image for emma.
1,825 reviews48.6k followers
May 7, 2018
Ughhhhh. Why didn’t I love this book?

If there were absolutely any justice in this world at all, I’d be singing its goddamn praises right now. I’d be clambering to rooftops so I could shout my love from them. I’d be buying rhyming dictionaries (or, more realistically, googling rhymes) in order to better write my sonnets. I’d be baking cookies with stick-and-bone icing.

Scratch that last one. Sounds gross.

But it’s all a moot point, because there is no justice in this world, and instead of doing any of those things I’m here. Right now. Writing a three star review.

The worst kind of review of all.

Three stars means there’s nothing distinctly wrong with the book (which there wasn’t) but also it’s not a thrill ride on the level of the film A Quiet Place, or what I imagine it must be like to make eye contact with America’s sweetheart and professional babe John Krasinski (also definitively not that).

So here we are. At the “this book was meh” capital of Goodreads ratings.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones is the sequel-ish to Every Heart a Doorway, one of my favorite reads of this year (so far!). It’s the more detailed (but still novella-length) back story of two supporting characters from EHaD (horrible acronym), a story we kind of knew already but not completely.

These characters are twins named Jacqueline and Jillian. (Like Jack and Jill, you may be saying. NO, say Jacqueline and Jillian’s parents.) Jacqueline was forced into a very feminine gender role, while Jillian was forced into a very tomboy one. As a realistic portrayal of parenthood and appearances and gender, it’s a bit overdone; as a hyperbolized somewhat satiric examination of what gender does to children, it works.

In other words: fairly rad in my book.

When Jack and Jill discover a hidden stairway to a mysterious world, they’re like, Hell yeah. Let’s do it. And they end up in the Moors, a place containing both immense evil (vampires!) and like, normal sh*t. A village. An inn. You get it.

Jack and Jill weren’t my favorite characters in Every Heart a Doorway - in truth they didn’t really stick out to me at all - and their world filled me with the same feeling of meh. Didn’t feel much of any emotion while reading this.

The good news about this series is that, to my understanding, all the books are standalone-y and follow different characters. Which is good! Because not loving this book doesn’t mean I can’t love the next one.

Is this...is this feeling…hope?

That’s new.

Bottom line: Not the best ever, but also like...not the worst? And the first book was the best ever so truly just a case of ya win some ya lose some.

Read Every Heart a Doorway!!!
Profile Image for ALet.
280 reviews241 followers
March 2, 2019
★★½ /5

This book was fine. I really liked the themes and ideas it brought up about parents, expectations put on children. I especially liked the beginning, writing style really fitted the story and but on the other hand, I didn‘t care for the plot. The story line itself wasn‘t that interesting for me and it struggled to keep my attention.
It wasn‘t a bad book, but simply not entirely for my taste.
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,797 followers
October 21, 2017
Full review posted

I’m honestly surprised at how underrated this series is. It one of the most fantastical, intriguing stories I have read in a LONG time and boi theyre short as heck you can finish them in less than an afternoon

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6 Reasons why this book is the BestTM

1. Epic narration of Jack and Jill’s backstory (yes the characters from the first book, who would have thought)
2. Creepy, dark, and eerie. Idk how the author came up with this world but it’s absolutely riveting. Ms. Plz let me in your brain
3. A story of betrayal and forgiveness and betrayal. There’s no love and happiness here kids, be warned
4. The writing is gripping, once you start there aint no stopping
5. The irony of the girl’s personality is exquisite. Really adds dimension to the characters and makes you THAT much more enthralled by who they are
6. There is featured art and it is beautiful


This book has rendered me wordless, so imma leave you with that

“Some adventures require nothing more than a willing heart and the ability to trip over the cracks in the world.”

4.5 stars!!


*lowers sunglasses*
*squints at horizon*
is that
is that
is that a slump approaching at record speed???

. . .nah boi, i didn't sign up for this
Profile Image for Philip.
500 reviews673 followers
July 18, 2017
4.25ish stars.

Creepy and concise in the vein of the most classic fairytales and with obvious comparisons to classic horror novels, this story has a timeless feel. It's both whimsical and disturbing with a healthy dose of dark humor.

It branches off from the brilliant Wayward Children novella series, separate but necessary reading (just because it's that good). It works perfectly as a standalone and although it doesn't have a direct connection to the storyline introduced in Every Heart a Doorway (for which reason I don't love it quite as much), it really deepened my affection for that book, which was already one of my favorites from last year.

There's not much else to say except that I love this series and hope McGuire finds a way to keep it going for a good long time introducing the world to a brand new set of fairytales. Everything from the book covers to the chapter titles is a little slice of perfection.

Posted in Mr. Philip's Library
Profile Image for Trina (Between Chapters).
858 reviews3,759 followers
July 1, 2017
The dreamy storytelling quality of this series is amazing. Some of my favorite audiobooks for sure. Loved the exploration of gender roles and how there's no wrong way to be a girl. There is a f/f romance included.
Profile Image for Tina Loves To Read.
2,460 reviews1 follower
March 21, 2023
This is the 2nd book in the Wayward Children series. This is my 2nd time reading it, and I listen to the audiobook this time around. This book is all about Jack and Jill, and my favorite character in the series is Jack so I love visiting their world they visit when they go through their door. Their parents are not the best parents, but that is part of the reason they are who they are. I have to say I loved it more the second time I read it.
Profile Image for Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~.
347 reviews932 followers
December 12, 2017
This is such a gorgeously haunting sequel to Every Heart a Doorway. I enjoyed Jack & Jill's story just as much as I did Nancy's.

The idea to tell the tales of children who have returned from their own personal fantasy worlds is both unique & nostalgic.

It strikes that chord of commonality in all of us who grew up devouring the boundaries of our own imaginations, finding emotional sustenance in the idea that an owl could fly through our window with a letter confirming the magic we always knew coursed through our veins.

McGuire skillfully tethers her audience to her characters by appealing to our sense of empathy. The idea of discovering a world that perfectly suits you & then having it ripped unceremoniously from your grasp evokes a painful kind of compassion.

We feel for these children. We are these children.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones is an eerie & enchanting installment to the Wayward Children series. It's superbly written with some enduring observations about the importance of letting others decide who they want to be in this life.

I would recommend this series for anyone & everyone!

This review and other reviews of mine can be found on Book Nest!
Profile Image for Kayla Dawn.
291 reviews896 followers
December 16, 2019
3,5* - I really wish these books were longer.
I love the writing style, the world, the characters. But there's just not enough of all of it.
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