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Wayward Children #4

In an Absent Dream

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This fourth entry and prequel tells the story of Lundy, a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should. When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she's found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.

187 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 8, 2019

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About the author

Seanan McGuire

469 books15.5k 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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Profile Image for Melanie.
1,174 reviews98.8k followers
July 25, 2020

ARC provided by Tor in exchange for an honest review.

1.) Every Heart a Doorway ★★★★★
2.) Down Among the Sticks and Bones ★★★★★
3.) Beneath the Sugar Sky ★★★★

“Death wasn’t fair value for anything…”

In An Absent Dream stars Katherine Lundy, the therapist who leads the group sessions in Every Heart a Doorway. She is Eleanor’s second in command, and claims to be eighty-years-old, despite only looking around eight. And this is her story, about her time in her world, the goblin market. And, friends, this might be my favorite book in the entire series so far.

“She had been able to find a doorway and disappear into an adventure, instead of living in a world that told her, day after day after grinding, demoralizing day, that adventures were only for boys; that girls had better things to worry about, like making sure those same boys had a safe harbor to come home to.”

Lundy is only six years old when she realizes that her entire life is going to be planned for her. She is going to be quiet, and studious, and keep to herself, and maybe one day she will be a librarian (because she loves books), and then become a wife and a mother. I mean, this is the dream, right? It’s for sure her parent’s dream for her. But even at six, Lundy knows this isn’t the life she wants, even if it is the life that is expected of her. And one day, Lundy finds a door, her door, and it completely changes her life.

Rule One – Ask for nothing
Rule Two – Names have power
Rule Three – Always give fair value

And in the goblin market Lundy learns so very much about herself and who she truly wants to become. And Lundy is also able to travel back and forth between the market and home throughout this glimpse into her life. There is a such a beautiful theme of the power of love between siblings, both found and blood, and that thread is carried through for each visit. Lundy, Moon, and Diana each have a piece of my heart that I won’t ever get back, and I’m a better person because of it. Friends, I loved this. It’s a magical masterpiece and a perfect addition to this series that Seanan has given book lovers everywhere. I know the release date isn’t until January 8th, 2019, but preorder this now. Trust me.

Each and every book in this series is not only expertly crafted, but also the theme will be hard hitting and impactful. Every Heart a Doorway is about asexuality and realizing how important it is to surround yourself with people who unconditionally love and accept you, all of you, because you’re worthy of it. Down Among the Sticks and Bones is about gender norms and stereotypes that the world horribly puts onto us, and how it’s a horrible cycle that never stops. Beneath the Sugar Sky is about loving yourself and no matter what your body looks like, that it’s perfect; fat, skinny, with scars, with hair, with modifications so that you can be the person that you want to be. And In An Absent Dream is about how we live in a world that has completely lost the meaning of what is fair and what is just and what is right.

Like, the price of peanut butter, something that I buy constantly, is $4.00 at my local supermarket. $4.00 for protein filled goodness that my mouth and the rest of my body loves to consume. But spending $4.00 on something when I have $100 dollars in my purse is a lot different than if I was spending $4.00 if I had $5 in my purse. And this is such an easy to see concept, but so many humans fail to see that tremendous difference. People want to condemn others for being lazy, or uneducated, or whatever else gross thing they want to say when they refuse to check their privileges (that they have mostly received from just simply being born), but the simple matter is that this isn’t fair. Jeff Bezos’ kids walking into Walmart and buying food isn’t the same as an underprivileged kid in Flint, whose family is on a fixed income (and still forced to buy their own bottled water), walking into Walmart to try to buy groceries for their family. But no matter how easy that is to see, I can’t teach people to have empathy. We all need to do better, and we need to change this obviously broken system.

“That’s because you don’t know what fairness means. You’ve been in a place that wasn’t fair for so long that the things we’d been trying to teach you have been driven back into the shadows.”

Just, be good humans, friends. Try to learn, try to do better, try to break these gross cycles that reinforce these gross entitled mindsets. And read Seanan McGuire’s books, which not only are such amazing escapism works of art, but they beautifully shed light on all these important topics that a lot of people wish to keep ignoring. And maybe, just maybe, we will one day live in a world where we don’t need a goblin market to remind us to be fair to other humans. But I hope that world is also filled with more books from this once in a lifetime series.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Trigger and content warnings loss of a loved one, death, abandonment, and one quick scene with parental physical abuse (slapping of a child).
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,993 reviews298k followers
January 14, 2019
“What’s the Goblin Market?”
“It is a place where dreamers go when they don’t fit in with the dreams their homes think worth dreaming. Doors lead here. Perhaps you found one.”

When I read Every Heart a Doorway, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, and Beneath the Sugar Sky, I thought I knew what it was to fall completely, utterly, in love with fairy tales. I knew nothing.

This is my favourite book yet in this gorgeous series. If I could rate it higher, I would. It's a beautiful, evocative fairy tale. It's about outsiders, not fitting in, and - most of all - about how it is to live in a world that is so terribly unfair.
“If you give everyone fair value, no one wants. If no one wants, no one has to take. The Market makes sure we don’t take advantage of each other.”

Through McGuire's magical and eerie past tense, we follow Katherine Lundy through a door and into another world. The world here is based on Rosetti's Goblin Market, and the author captures all the magic and the mayhem of the poem, as well as bringing her own spin to the tale. I was afraid I may not like it as much as the other books because Laini Taylor also wrote a spectacular Goblin Market-inspired short story - Goblin Fruit - but they are very different and both can be enjoyed without competing with each other.

In this version of the Market, everything must receive its fair value. The world of the Market enforces this rule and there's no way of escaping it. Fair value differs from individual to individual. A coin to someone with a thousand coins is worth less than a coin to someone with five coins. McGuire deftly offers a critique of a world where everyone is selfish and tries to capitalize on others, especially those who cannot afford what others can. It hits close to home.
It is so often easy, when one has the luxury of being sure a thing will never happen, to be equally sure of one’s answers. Reality, it must sadly be said, has a way of complicating things, even things we might believe could never be that complicated.

Like all the stories in this series, there is something very bittersweet about In an Absent Dream. The stories offer doorways to worlds where these characters can find love, acceptance, alternatives... but something is always lost at the same time. This one, especially, crawled inside my heart. It is sad in the best way a book can be sad-- without manipulation or something obvious like death. It is sad because change can be sad. Choices can be sad.

I loved everything about it. It can be read as a standalone, but you should at least familiarize yourself with the premise of Every Heart a Doorway. Or, you know, just read them all :)

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Profile Image for Emily (Books with Emily Fox).
554 reviews60.5k followers
January 16, 2019
Wasn't planning on reading it.... yet here we are!

This was probably my favorite story/world to explore in this series.

I've read a few of McGuire's books (6?) and in all of them I've felt like "something" was missing.

They're very atmospheric, the writing is beautiful and the world building is interesting but the stories always feel a bit empty. For example, in this one you totally get a fairytale but better feel but every time any action would happen we fast forward to after the events have unfolded. If you usually love character driven books this series might be for you.

I still connected to this one more than the other ones and do recommend it.
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
July 13, 2020

link here: https://www.tor.com/2020/07/13/juice-...

The Lundy who had stepped through the door for her second visit to the Goblin Market would barely have recognized the one who came stumbling through it for her second return to the world of her birth. This Lundy was thin, her arms and legs wiry with new muscle, rendered lean by physical labor and the rigors of questing. This Lundy had bruises on her ribs and a narrow scar down the middle of her back, tracing the outline of her spine, where the Bone Wraiths had tried to set their captive countryman free of the fetters of her flesh.

although i always look forward to a new book in this series with the anticipation of a thousand christmas eves, if i’m honest, i wasn't over-the-moon excited to learn that this was going to be lundy's story. lundy hadn't given me any heart-stirrings in the previous books, where she was a peripheral character at best while my eyes were drawn to flashier characters like kade or sumi.


but i should have known that seanan mcguire could make me love any damn character. i'm pretty sure her bookpages use paper made of a combination one part wood pulp, one part ground-up ecstasy, which leaches into the reader through our fingerpads, transporting us into states of wonder and rapture where even the horrible and sorrowful parts soften into o so tender heartache and everything just feels right.

so that's one reason to not read e-versions of these. 

when it comes to this series, everything she writes is a gift: exquisite characters experiencing fairytale-unique but still somehow relatable experiences strung together with the most bittersweet profundities:

-”You can’t save anyone if you neglect yourself. All you can do is fall slowly with them.”

-”Promises are their own form of fair value, as long as they’re kept.”

and i feel it all in my EMPTY HEARTCORE.

even the rules of lundy's goblin market are perfect, because it's 100% my kind of world:

Rule one: ask for nothing

Rule two: names have power

Rule three: always give fair value

Rule four: take what is offered and be grateful

Rule five: remember the curfew

and most importantly - BE SURE

and as it turned out, lundy's story was actually more gutting than some of the others because, unlike kids who experienced their just-right altworlds and were ousted once, lundy had the opportunity to experience a sort of dual citizenship until her 18th birthday, choosing her goblin market time and time again before the events that closed the door on her forever. plus, the extra heartsnap of a family member who had been there and chosen differently, which is also more than most of the other kids had, although it turns out that understanding it doesn't actually make things easier. at all.

neither does choice.

nor friendship.

nor being sure of what you want.


this series has all my love forever.


dear Seanan McGuire,

thank you for understanding that trilogies are never enough.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Elena May.
Author 13 books697 followers
February 10, 2019
After Beneath the Sugar Sky I was afraid the series had run its course and the new books would have nothing left to say. I was pleasantly surprised to see a fresh new story that rekindled my love for these books.

The main themes are still the same: children who cannot fit into their world because of parental neglect or other problems discover portal worlds where they feel at home. But unlike Down Among the Sticks and Bones, here the protagonist comes from a loving family, who at least tries to give her a good home even if they don't know how. This makes the choice between reality and fantasy much harder, and Lundy gets stuck between one world and the other, between family and freedom, childhood and adulthood. Her inability to make a choice leads to tragedy.

However, I had a few issues with this book. Most of all, the Goblin Market was underdeveloped, so much that I couldn't imagine how Lundy could possibly want to live there. From what I've seen of the Goblin Market, it's a dystopian society ruled by a benevolent dictator with god-like powers, where people have next to none free will. The concept of fair value might look good on paper, but in real life would turn into a disaster, and we've seen how regimes with similar ideologies have fared in the real world. Honestly, for me the place felt unpleasant and I would never choose it. Yes, I'm aware that's not the point--portal worlds are varied and what appeals to one would seem terrible to another, and that's fine. However, this book never showed me why Lundy would love the Market.

In the years before Lundy turned 18, she kept delaying taking the citizenship oath and going to her family for a birthday or for Christmas. I felt the author wanted us to be on the edge of our seats, rooting for her to finally make a choice and become a citizen of the Goblin Market. But, honestly, I was rooting for her to stay with her family. Then the book gives us a long lecture on how readers cannot imagine the character not choosing the fantasy world over the mundane, and I was sitting there, thinking Um, no, I actually can. Overall, I think this book had the potential to be much better if we had seen the appeal of the Goblin Market.
Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,479 reviews19.5k followers
January 4, 2020
Re-read 1/3/20: Excuse me while I continue to lay in bed crying for the rest of the night

Original read 2/19/19: Excuse me while I lay in bed crying for the rest of the night 😭😭
Profile Image for Maria.
67 reviews8,578 followers
March 18, 2020
4.8/5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

“If you want to help her, you need to help yourself first. No one serves their friends by grinding themselves into dust on the altar of compassion.”

YES YES YES! THIS WAS INCREDIBLE AND MY FAVOURITE ONE OF THE FIVE! This book was so so so good! I just can't describe it, I'm so so glad I kept going with this series despite not really liking the first book. Holy shit man. I know Lundy for 200 pages and I would do everything for her. Her story impacted me so much and I sympathized with her deeply. I honestly could see myself in her sometimes and I was affected by it. I just love this character so much now.

I feel this is the only book that could be more pages. It concealed from us many important parts and quests that could be said in a much bigger space. But I think this is this book's strength. It wasn't an adventure, it was deeper than that and they showed us the crucial parts in between. Yes, many people love to read the adventures and all that video games shit like the third book in this series, but I'm not like that. I'm literally a gamer, I'm writing this review after having played 5 hours of the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt but I like the more profound things in literature. Quests and adventures best be kept in other media. This is my personal opinion of course.

I think my preference over the backstory novellas in this series has solidified. I can't wait for more backstories of all the characters this series can offer, and they are many of them. I know they will be 8 books in this series, so I'm good for 3 more years haha. Keep writing Seanan, keep writing!
Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,309 reviews44.1k followers
April 6, 2023
Four enchanting, dreamy, fairly valued stars!

The door leads little Katherine to the world called Goblin Market where you go when you don’t fit in with the dreams your homes think worth dreaming.

Bookworm, introvert and smart Katherine realizes she does not fit in her own world, living friendless, restricted by her father’s overprotective walls, hold onto her books to breathe and exist.

Finally she sees, there are other worlds for the people who are sure enough to take risks and start their journey even if they’re only little children.

Katherine meets with term of fair value as soon as she takes her first steps to Goblin Market. This term is wise criticism of capitalism, about the greedy, power thirsty, selfish people who manipulate and capitalize on others who cannot afford the others effortlessly can.

This is so realistic look to the fairytales and main difference from classical written ones is the characters do not have to reach yo their happy endings. Everything is about choices, regrets, sacrifices, learning.

On each book characters walk from the doors for finding love, acceptance, happiness or freedom.

So this book was a product of innovative and creative brain and it helps us look through the glass and see the world from different perspective and better understanding.
It was incredible journey and I like to read more of this series.
Profile Image for Riley.
429 reviews21.7k followers
March 26, 2020
Rule One : Ask for nothing
Rule Two : Names have power
Rule Three : Always give fair value

Be Sure.

Welcome to the Goblin Market
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,096 reviews17.7k followers
August 11, 2020
In An Absent Dream is a story about a girl who does not fit exactly what a girl should be, who would rather dream than be a perfect girl. In this book, we follow her journey through the Goblin Market, where there are only three rules: Ask for nothing. Names have power. Always give fair value.

It is this final rule that becomes the undoing of so many characters.
To be a child is to be a visitor from another world muddling your way through the strange rules of this one, where up is always up, even when it would make more sense to be down, or backward, or sideways.

Lundy has appeared before, the eight-year-old-or-maybe-eighty-year-old therapist who leads the group sessions in Every Heart a Doorway. She doesn't quite fit in anything, and doesn't quite want to.
There was always a vague impression that they expected something different from her, and she didn’t know what to do with that. She didn’t want to know what to do with that. She suspected it would involve changing everything about who she was, and she liked who she was. It was familiar.

It is deeply sad how easily tragedy can be forced by circumstance, how even when you find a story that feels right for you, a narrative that wants you, the people around you can be too far gone. There are certain fair values that may take your life, and the world is sometimes cruel enough to try and take them. And when you come from a world that accepts unfair values, sometimes the consequences of not giving a fair value are darker than they may seem.

Melanie’s review puts this very well into words:
Jeff Bezos’ kids walking into Walmart and buying food isn’t the same as an underprivileged kid in Flint, whose family is on a fixed income (and still forced to buy their own bottled water), walking into Walmart to try to buy groceries for their family. But no matter how easy that is to see, I can’t teach people to have empathy. We all need to do better, and we need to change this obviously broken system.
We live in a society that tacitly accepts the mistakes of the rich while asking the poor why they can’t just bootstrap themselves out of poverty. And that isn’t realistic. We live in a world where fair value is not as simple as it sounds, where money always comes with baggage except when it doesn’t.
If something mattered enough for the author to write it down, it would come back before the last page was turned. It would always come back.

Imagine ending up in a world where something worth a lot to you cost, literally, all you had. For some, that’s terrifying. For others, it’s reality.

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Profile Image for Melissa ~ Bantering Books.
250 reviews1,006 followers
April 29, 2021
Be sure to visit Bantering Books to read all my latest reviews.

I adore a good fairy tale.

I always have. I probably always will.

Fairy tales bring me back to my childhood. They fill me with such wonder. Such magic.

As does Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children series.

In an Absent Dream is the fourth installment in McGuire's series of short novellas -- and it is definitely my most favorite so far. I wish I could give it more than five stars; I love it so much.

This time, McGuire rewinds and tells the story of Lundy, who as a young, serious, and logical girl, has a bit more than marriage and motherhood in mind for her future. Constricted by the familial and societal constraints imposed upon her, she longs to be free and to one day live a life of her choosing.

Until unexpectedly, Lundy stumbles upon a door -- a magical door that leads her to the forested world of the Goblin Market. A world she comes to believe is her true home. But everything at the Goblin Market has a cost. Fair value must always be given in an exchange. And Lundy must look inward and answer difficult questions about what constitutes fair value for a home . . . and for her life.

Simply put, In an Absent Dream is gorgeous. Inspired by Christina Rossetti's poem, Goblin Market, McGuire has written a wonderful little fairy tale for our time. As in the three previous Wayward Children novellas, she tells yet another bittersweet story of an outsider trying to fit in . . . trying to find her place in the world . . . trying to find a world accepting of her.

And like all good fairy tales . . . I adored it.

Especially the writing --McGuire's prose is absolutely stunning. Her lyrical use of language completely envelopes the reader and creates a special sort of magic that few authors are able to replicate. In an Absent Dream radiates an aura of timelessness, a sense that a fairy tale of olde is being read.

But what amazes me most of all, I think, is McGuire's ability to pack so much punch into such a relatively short story. Each novella in the Wayward Children series is barely longer than 200 pages, but they are all so meaningfully written and filled with so much heart.

And a touch of sadness, too. For it is sad, to feel as if you don’t belong in the world in which you live. Is it not? Tragic, even.

With that, I will leave you. I'm off to read the next Wayward Children novella, Come Tumbling Down. I’m very much looking forward to discovering what Jack and Jill have been up to, if they went up the hill and what not. I will, of course, share my thoughts after I am finished.

In the meantime, why don’t you go ahead and give the first novella in the series, Every Heart a Doorway, a try?

Rediscover the magic of fairy tales for yourself.

Bantering Books
Profile Image for Caz (littlebookowl).
302 reviews40.2k followers
July 16, 2019
Rating: 3.5 stars

Probably my least favourite so far, but this was also the first one I listened to on audio so perhaps that influenced my enjoyment in some way.

I was SO intrigued by the Goblin Market. Loved the concept. My main issue was that I felt like all of the exciting things Lundy did and experienced happened behind the scenes. I understand that not everything could have been included in this as a novella, but so many of her adventures were mentioned in passing after jumping forward in time, and all I wanted to hear about were those adventures!

Anyway, I'm excited to continue with this series but I'm a little sad I didn't love this installment more.
Profile Image for emma.
1,869 reviews54.6k followers
December 13, 2019

I basically only want to read magical realism about strong bookish girls going on adventures and exploring unapologetically.

I could do without the bittersweet endings that make my heart hurt, but I get the appeal.

Even though this series is, on paper, perfect for me (magic and murder and Candyland and books and mystery and rabbit-holes and all of it in a world where Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is real, and also all of the books are short), I haven’t loved it all.

I did love the first book, so so so much (I mean magical murder mysteries at magic boarding school are all I could ask for), but the second was a disappointment. The third, which takes place in a world of sweets and thus combines at least 6 of my top 10 favorite things ever, still didn’t completely do it for me. Truly the shock of the century.

This wasn’t everything, but it was damn close. Closer than anything since the first book.

ALSO, I WAS IN THE WORST SLUMP OF THE YEAR WHEN I READ THIS AND I FINISHED IT. Can't get more of a rave review than that.

Bottom line: HURRAY.


i don't know if this magically broke me out of my reading slump, but i do know this: I FINISHED A BOOK.

review to come / 4 stars


if a dark, fairytale-y fantasy book that barely hits the 200 page mark can't get me out of my reading slump...

nothing can.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
December 4, 2020
This Wayward Children book SHOULD NOT be missed, even though it's very bittersweet. Maybe my favorite of the entire series. Like the second book, this one is also by way of a prequel to the first book, Every Heart a Doorway, so you can read it without having read the earlier books in the series, though knowing what happens in the first book does add depth to this one.

I loved Seanan McGuire's concept of the Goblin Market as a fantasy portal world, and how Lundy adapts to that world. Lundy's father plays a far more interesting role in this novella than is usual for parents in YA fantasies.

Earlier post:
Emailed publicist asking for an ARC.
*no answer*

Requested book on NetGalley.
*crickets chirping*

Gets brand new copy from the library today.

*immerses self in book; emerges three hours later after reading the whole book in one sitting*

Amazing. Stunning. Beautiful. Heartbreaking. I loved it.
Profile Image for Nataliya.
784 reviews12.5k followers
September 3, 2020
“You forgot that sometimes, fair value comes from change, and death, and sacrifice. You can’t have everything and give fair value.”

Sometimes you can’t help but feel that you don’t belong in the world you were born into. Too much may be expected of you, or too little, or everything is just a bit of wrong and you don’t even realize it until you get a glimpse of the world where those subtle wrongs are replaced with undeniable sense of rightness. So what do you do? You’d like to think you’d abandon the wrong mundane and bravely step into the brave new world that is yours? Leave the old wrong world behind like a set of discarded clothes and never look back? But can you really be sure? Really really sure?

Or would you, a serious and thoughtful and logical person, stop and think really hard - about what it means to be sure, about the weight of your choice, about the painful need to extend your choices, have it both ways, find a loophole?
“The Market does love me. It loves us all. It just ... loves the rules more. It doesn’t let any of us break them. It punishes us when it has to, because the rules have to be for everyone if they’re going to be for anyone.”

If you read the lovely Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, you already know what happens to a serious and thoughtful girl Lundy who one day went through a strange door and ended up at the Goblin Market , where “everything was lovely, and everything was terrible.” It was a place or rules and consequences and penalties, and above it all, strict uncompromising fairness. You know how her story - and even her life - ends. You know that she tried to cheat, to have it all, to not - in the words of the Market itself - give a fair value. We know she suffered a cruel punishment and lost her world. We know there is no happy ending.

This is the story of what happened.
“Home always shrinks in times of absence, always bleeds away some of its majesty, because what is home, after all, apart from the place one returns to when the adventure is over? Home is an end to glory, a stopping point when the tale is done.”

I liked the first and only book of ‘Wayward Children’ series that I read - McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway. It was sweet and lovely, and I never felt the need to look deeper into this world, until this year I decided to read all the Hugo awards nominees - and lo and behold, this sequel/prequel In an Absent Dream was promptly featured. I figured I’ll fly through it, short as it is, and move on.

I did not expect to like it so much — better than the first one, certainly. I did not expect to actually care about the story whose conclusion I already knew and did not care that much about. And yet care I did.
“There is wanting and there is needing, and when you want, you can make good choices, but when you need, it’s important the people around you not be looking to take advantage. When there are no clear prices, only the nebulous idea of ‘fair value,’ people get hurt. People get cheated.”

This is a stronger book than its predecessor — and that’s not because I’m at all enamored with the series. It’s less syrupy and sweet — instead, banking on us already know the inevitable unhappy ending, it basks in bittersweetness and unexpected sharp edges and teeth (or maybe beaks and claws?) and provides a bit of a mean bite. A book asking its heroine to be *sure*, it does seem to have a much more sure footing than its predecessor does — perhaps a benefit of an author that over the years became much more sure herself?
“This, then, was Katherine Victoria Lundy: pretty and patient and practical. Not lonely, because she had never really considered any way of being other than alone. Not gregarious, nor sullen, but somewhere in the middle, happy to speak when spoken to, happy also to carry on in silence, keeping her thoughts tucked quietly away. She was ordinary. She was remarkable.”

We — or at least I do — like protagonists who are similar to what Katherine Lundy is — serious, thoughtful, deliberate, bookish and reasonable; the ones that stop to think of the consequences and weigh their decisions and make smart educated choices. Perhaps it’s because that’s what many of us, bookworms, lean towards and are. These are the children than can get overlooked in favor of those who conform easier and provide easier delight and seem to be the world’s darlings. I wanted Lundy to succeed so badly while knowing that it was not in the cards for her. And despite knowing the outcome in advance, it still broke my heart.

There are things that you can’t take back. There are decisions that will always have consequences and you can’t wish them away. There’s not always a magical door waiting for you in the end to take you back to where you actually belong. And that’s terrible and cruel — and apparently a really good book.

4.5 stars.

I’d be painfully lost in the Goblin Market, by the way.
“The Goblin Market had seemed like a beautiful adventure on her first visit, a place where the rules made sense and the penalties were fair. Then it had become something terrible, a place where friends could die and not come back. Maybe the truth was somewhere in the middle of those two things, but now she understood how much there was to lose, and she was afraid.”


My Hugo and Nebula Awards Reading Project 2020: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,616 reviews10.7k followers
May 3, 2023
**3.5-stars rounded up**

This crushed my heart a little bit, not going to lie.

I found Lundy's story to be so incredibly sad. It truly hit me hard, y'all. The choices she had to make were really powerful.

The idea of childhood innocence being dashed upon the rocks of reality, it was tough to read. Also, I found the dichotomy between Lundy's serious-side, paired with her rebelliousness, just so dang relatable.

You cannot outsmart the market; you cannot have it all. I felt that was so heavy, you know? Am I making any sense? McGuire does this to me.

In an Absent Dream, a prequel novella, tells the backstory of Katherine Lundy, Eleanor West's Assistant.

Her world was a Goblin Market; the door to which first manifested to her in a large, mysterious tree which suddenly appears in a place it had never been before.

Talk about every child's dream!

A portal world accessed through a tree that probably only you can see.

The description of the Goblin Market itself, not just the vibrant atmosphere, but also the system's function, was fascinating. I think a lot can be taken from that as a social commentary on our own economic system.

That's one of the things I love about McGuire's writing, the stories hold so many different layers depending on how far you want to look.

There's something for every Reader within the pages.

I thought this was a super solid addition to this series. I enjoyed the relationships and how Lundy got to travel back-and-forth between the two places.

I'm looking forward to continuing on my Wayward Children journey. I wish this series would keep going on forever and ever!
Profile Image for l..
490 reviews2,137 followers
January 6, 2022
It would almost feel too cliché to use the title of a book to describe it, but in this case, it’s too fitting, too accurate, it too perfectly captures its essence, so as not to.

“Rule 1: Ask for nothing
Rule 2: Names have power
Rule 3: Always give fair value”

In an Absent Dream takes you on a journey to a whole new world that is curious, and whimsical, and leaves you feeling like you woke up from from a deep slumber with a wondrous tale faintly imprinted in the back of your mind—it gives you the same feeling as that of waking up with faint remnants of a dream, which, the harder you try to hold on to, fade from your grasp all the more quickly, too far gone, too absent to remember clearly, but still there, subconsciously threaded through every fiber of your being.

What sets this book apart from all the other books I’ve read before can’t be narrowed down to merely one thing—and if I were to add up all the aspects that made this book so brilliant, and important, there is one thing that needs to be said upfront;

This book is more than than the sum of its (extraordinary) parts.

And my quoting Aristotle is most definitely a nod towards how this book not only tells a story that is eerily reminiscent of a dark fairytale, with a dash of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, but also a reflection of a deeper theme that is seamlessly woven into the story, without much fanfare, but still all-present.

In an Absent Dream is about friendship, loyalty, family, about staying true to yourself, and about doing what is just; it’s about looking out for not only yourself, but others, too, and it’s about not only equality, but equity.

Above all, I was completely entranced by the lyrical and atmospheric writing. Seanan McGuire creates a world that teems with suspense and mystery, and she weaves a tale that completely, and wholly fascinates, and captivates.

“(…) everything was lovely, and everything was terrible.”

I wasn’t spell-bound by merely her writing, however, but also by all the little details that make the characters so memorable, and real, and the world come to life in front of my eyes. You just know that the author gets her characters, and understands their motives, and you are made to experience everything the characters go through, as if they were your close friends.

I can only encourage you to read this book, all the other books in the Wayward Children series, and probably everything else Seanan McGuire will write in the future.

Thank you to Tor.com for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. The quotes above are subject to change upon publication.
Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,743 reviews5,291 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 ★★★★★

When a very serious little girl finds a magical door in the woods, she decides to leave behind a life of loneliness to go off in search of adventure, never expecting to find a mystical Market on the other side—where anything can happen, as long as you pay your debts.

If you know me, you already know that Seanan McGuire is one of my all-time favorite authors in the world, and I adore this series, so I was beyond excited to read In An Absent Dream. It was one of those books that I received and then proceeded to spend a couple of months swooning over it on my shelf without reading it just because I wanted to savor the anticipation (which might sound silly, but isn’t uncommon for me), and wow, did it deliver!

→ L I K E S :

Of such commonplace contradictions are weapons made. Katherine Lundy walked in the world. That was quite enough to set everything else into motion.

As always, the writing is positively stunning. Seanan excels at crafting these incredible, atmospheric worlds and building up characters I can fall in love with effortlessly. Despite having already known Lundy from previous titles in the series, she becomes an entirely different character—in a good way—thanks to how fleshed-out and complex she feels throughout this novella.

“Your name is your heart, and you don’t give your heart away.”

While our environments were different, I related easily to so much of Lundy’s childhood—particularly her quiet loneliness that she didn’t even full recognize as such, and her all-consuming need to lose herself in the world of stories—so, I’ll be the first to admit that my adoration of her character comes from a personal level. Then again, it seems like every book in this series has held at least one character who could hit me in my bones like Lundy did, so maybe Seanan is just that magical.

She had been able to find a doorway and disappear into an adventure, instead of living in a world that told her, day after day after grinding, demoralizing day, that adventures were only for boys; that girls had better things to worry about, like making sure those same boys had a safe harbor to come home to.

The world of the Market is, in my opinion, the mosh fleshed-out portal world we’ve met thus far in the Wayward Children series; it follows very clear and defined sets of logic, and is easy to fall into in a way that made me never want to leave. I know we typically don’t revisit Doors in this series, but I wouldn’t mind another entire novella based in Lundy’s world; despite it not being a clear favorite of mine in atmosphere and setting, it was easily the most three-dimensional and “real”-feeling one to me.


“No one serves their friends by grinding themselves into dust on the altar of compassion.”

As usual, In An Absent Dream is yet another Seanan McGuire title I simply cannot complain about. I have nothing negative to say, and the only thing I would change is that I wish I had the 5th book in the series in my hands already, because I am always ready to return to this beautiful universe of doors and worlds.


“You could be happy here, if you wanted to be. But you don’t have forever to decide, and you must follow the rules, or you’ll surely pay the price.”

If you’ve enjoyed the prior books in the series, I heartily recommend picking this one up; however, even if you haven’t read any of the Wayward Children books, you can read this at any time as it’s a prequel that takes place totally separately from the events of the first 3 novellas. Even if you aren’t a major fan of the series, if you enjoyed Lundy as a character, or if you are looking for a delightfully fresh take on the Goblin Market, this one’s for you.

All quotes come from an advance copy and may not match the final release. Thank you so much to TorDotCom for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
967 reviews6,852 followers
September 30, 2023
The Market does love me. It loves us all. It just ... loves the rules more.

A good fairy tale opens up the world and society the way a reader opens up, lets say, a fairy tale book and reads the deeper complexities hiding under the surface of its cover. What we find there is often both strange yet familiar, and like the hero’s journey we embark into these fantastical realms to return with a lesson for our own world. In an Absent Dream, the fourth novella in Seanan McGuire’s enchanting Wayward Children series, discusses how ‘reality, it must sadly be said, has a way of complicating things, even things we might believe could never be that complicated,’ and that concepts of fairness and markets might be complex no matter how we fair we try to make them. Enter the world of the Goblin Market, ‘a place where dreamers go when they don’t fit in with the dreams their homes think worth dreaming,’— it is surely inspired by Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market poems both for the market and the shared theme on the importance of sisters—a place where “fairness” is enforced and those who violate are transfigured into birds. Readers will remember Katherine Lundy from the first book, and here we see exactly how the mysteriously backward-aging girl came to be. Always a dark delight, this fourth volume of the series is another excellent look at fantastical logic and magical lands, this time probing the difficult decisions not only around if one would actually want to stay or return home, but what home even means.

The Goblin Market had seemed like a beautiful adventure on her first visit, a place where the rules made sense and the penalties were fair. Then it had become something terrible, a place where friends could die and not come back. Maybe the truth was somewhere in the middle of those two things, but now she understood how much there was to lose, and she was afraid.

As always, McGuire presents us with a child for whom a trip into a magical land seems like both a curse and a blessing. Here we meet Lundy in her early youth—‘She was ordinary. She was remarkable. Of such commonplace contradictions are weapons made.’—which is all the more tragic knowing what we already know but McGuire tells such engrossing tales we can set that all aside and just enjoy the ride. Plus I absolutely adore when McGuire writes about bookish people:
In the way of bookish children, she carried her books into trees and along the banks of chuckling creeks, weaving her way along their slippery shores with the sort of grace that belongs only to bibliophiles protecting their treasures.

While this series already has a lot of world building at its disposal, I appreciate that each book dispenses with easy readymades and always creates something that feels very fresh for the series. The Market is fascinating and really challenges us to consider ideas of fairness and what “fair value” truly means. There is no currency, only a sort of barter system designed to keep people from taking advantage of each other.
There is wanting and there is needing, and when you want, you can make good choices, but when you need, it’s important the people around you not be looking to take advantage. When there are no clear prices, only the nebulous idea of ‘fair value,’ people get hurt. People get cheated.

At first glance it may seem like a critique of either capitalism or any anti-capitalist system depending on how you view it, but I feel it is not so direct and more a critique on how ideas of value and fairness are subjective and that a “perfect” system is an impossible idea. As Ursula K. Le Guin once wrote, ‘‘Every eutopia contains a dystopia, every dystopia contains a eutopia,’ for all the intentions on fairness here, things sometimes just don’t always feel humane. ‘Sometimes 'fair' is bigger than just you. Sometimes ‘fair’ has to think about what’s best for everyone,’ Lundy is told, but there is also the clever notion that our Earthly ideas of fairness are formed in a very unfair and unjust world so we couldn’t possibly grasp the exact meaning of fairness as the Market understands it. And the Market demands strict adherence to the rules ‘It doesn’t let any of us break them. It punishes us when it has to, because the rules have to be for everyone if they’re going to be for anyone.’ To me, this book recalls all those moments where children are told, as if a valid justification for anything, that ‘lifes not fair.’ McGuire is so good at capturing little childhood feelings, fears, or lessons and turning them into stories that are charming to a wide range of ages.

For there is no friend like a sister / In calm or stormy weather
- Christina Rossetti

Drawing from the source of Rossetti’s Goblin Market, a poem about the adventures of two sisters, the later portion of this book really pits the Market against the love of a sister and makes Lundy’s decisions a whole lot harder to make. While the idea of home seems tenuous at times—is it the real world where she feels outcasted, or is it the Market where things can go very wrong—we see her realize “home” can be a person as well. There are some lovely thoughts on sisterhood here:
Let us speak, for a moment, on the matter of sisters. They can be enemies to fight or companions to lean upon: they can, at times, be strangers. They are not required to be friends, or to have involvement in one another's lives, or to be anything more than strangers united by the circumstances of their birth. Still, there is a magic in the word "sister," a magic which speaks of shared roots and hence shared branches, of a certain ease that is always to be pursued, if not always to be found.

Moments like these really endear you to the characters and make the book all the more heartbreaking. Friendships are tested, pitted against sisterhood, and all the while we must wonder what is truly fair value.

You forgot that sometimes, fair value comes from change, and death, and sacrifice. You can’t have everything and give fair value.

These books are such brief but powerful little bursts of dark, delightful joy and I’m so glad I have many more left. While perhaps not the strongest so far this was still a wonderful, wild, and mind bending ride and I can’t wait to read the next. McGuire is masterful at fairy tales and I’d encourage everyone to try this series out.

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1,048 reviews1,383 followers
January 22, 2019
This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found @The Book Prescription

“Enjoy yourself. There are many good things in the world, and each of them happens for the first time only once, and never again.”

🌟 This is the 4th Novella in the Wayward Children series and it is still getting better. I think this is the one that spoke to me most and I will mention why later.

🌟 I am so picky when it comes to books and I try to choose books that I am sure I will like. That is one of the reasons that makes me like the writing style of most of the books I read and although there is a variability between the writing styles, there are always things that come and surprise you as this one did. I did not know that I missed the writing style so much until I read this! Seanan McGuire has such a beautiful & poetic prose!

🌟 The Characters were great and there is always a theme the book is discussing. This was the story of Lundy who we met in the first book. The book involved Gender roles and the parental roles in life. Then there were the sacrifices that we make in order to reach a certain thing in life we want. Lundy was well written and I can’t wait to see how her story will continue.

🌟 The Pacing in these books is just right! It is not too fast or slow, it is so appropriate for a novella of this kind.

🌟 The plot was maybe my favorite for a personal reason, I usually refrain from including those in my reviews but I have to explain this time. I feel like we all live in our own Goblin Markets and we struggle to choose things sometimes. As a medicine student who is graduating soon, I have a choice to stay as a GP or to travel abroad and get a specialty. I am leaning toward the later but the “Fair Value” that the book mentioned is what’s making me hesitant. Maybe I am overseeing things and I am just consumed by that thought that I saw it in this book or maybe we all have things that we try to wight the “Fair value” of. That’s why this plot was my favorite in the series so far!

🌟 Summary: In an Absent Dream was as good as the rest of the series, If you liked them then there are high chances you will like this one too. The writing was so good and the experience was satisfying. If you are looking for something deep, well written and fast-to-read then I highly recommend this series.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,104 followers
January 5, 2020
Re-Read 1/5/20:

I admit that I like this one the best out of all the Wayward Children books. Yes, Lundry is staff, but before she was staff, she was also a child.

A child I see a lot of myself in.

I mean, BOOKS! Fairness! It's all right there in a nutshell! *sigh* But I still think it's the best and maybe the most tragic out of the lot.

Even if it's only my opinion. :)

Original Review:

These Wayward children are all pretty damn awesome.

It's not hard to love a land built on your heart's wishes, a heavy dichotomy between fantasy and reality, and the rules that go along with it.

Lundry, in this one, feels damn important to me. It's almost like I was her. :) Bookish, reliant on rules and in love with Fair Value. She never wanted to game anyone. She only wanted to get by and remain invisible within the rules... and she eventually got her wish.

So pretty, poignant, and full of heart. This is the story of Moon and Lundry. A cautionary tale. A tragedy. Some hope.

And above all, this is one of the best fairy tales out there. YA? Yes. But but this is one of the GOOD ones. :)
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,838 followers
January 14, 2019
In an Absent Dream is so beautifully heartbreaking.

it's the tale of a girl who loves rules and logic and reason and loopholes. she loves books and reading and knowledge and dreaming and this world just can't offer that with its very strict ideas of what a little girl should be

and then she finds the goblin market and little lundy feels like she's reached home

seanan mcguire gets me EVERYTIME with her incredibly atmospheric writing, descriptions, and the whimsical worlds she builds from nothing

now i just want to find a door and fall into a world with delicious meat pies and fruit pies and that's trade currency is pencils (can i avoid the scary debts though??)


what i love most about this series is that theyre so connected together. each characters means something to us bc we've met them before and they carry a dark history that we discover and WOW IT'S SO GOOD

can this series never end??

buddy read with the hase & probably the marshmallow
Profile Image for Warda.
1,209 reviews19.7k followers
April 6, 2019
[4.5 ⭐️]
This book was a dream to listen to.

[Completed my Herbology exams for the OWLs Magical Readathon. 🧙🏼‍♀️✨]
Profile Image for Trish.
2,019 reviews3,436 followers
January 4, 2020
This is definitely my favourite volume so far of this enchanting series.

We follow Katherine Lundy, a girl of (at first) 8 years of age, and experience how the little bookworm doesn’t have any friends anymore because her father is her school’s principal. She’s fine though since she has fictional worlds to escape into. Sounds familiar? Exactly!
One day, as with all the wayward children, a door opens. In Katherine’s case, it’s the door to a world full of her beloved rules. The world is called the Goblin Market. You only get if you give in return and fair value is most important of all. The market itself ensures that nobody gets taken advantage of.
For a girl already liking rules and hating the world of her birth where she is told she's less because she’s a girl (that teacher - URGH!), that sounds like paradise.
Naturally, the world is not without its dangers but since Katherine befriends Moon right after stepping through the door, it’s ok.
Until the years pass and with them her chance to travel between the worlds; until she has to make a choice.

This time, we didn’t start with Eleanor’s home but followed Lundy (the name Katherine chooses at the Goblin Market as real names have power, which every bookworm reading fantasy already knows) back and forth between the worlds throughout her childhood and teenage years.

I don’t think I have to say anything about the author’s impeccable craft. There is nothing else I can say that I haven’t mentioned in my reviews for the previous three books and I, in the meantime, have highlighted some of my favorite lines now that I have my hardcover edition (I listened to a wonderfully narrated Audible audio version first). I needed to stop (for now at least) though, because otherwise I might have ended up quote the entire book. *lol*

The author has an uncanny way of making these strange and magical worlds come to life and just make sense to us. And, what I really appreciate, she isn’t trying to tell the readers how it is OK to be stranded here and that we simply haven’t seen the hidden beauty of this "real" world - she makes it clear that she, too, would much rather barter some pencils for pies.

What got to me the most was that in the end !

Yet another fantastic reading experience that was over far too soon. *goes looking for the door back*
Profile Image for April (Aprilius Maximus).
1,110 reviews6,574 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 ★★★★


Definitely my least favourite in the series so far :(
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,327 reviews2,145 followers
May 23, 2020
I had forgotten about this series for a while but picking it up again at #4 was easy and I was straight back into the story.

In an Absent Dream is actually the backstory of Katherine Lundy and we discover how she ended up the way she appears in Every Heart a Doorway. There are many doorways open to Lundy as she tries to navigate an unhappy childhood in her own world at the same time as being offered am alternative in the form of the exciting Goblin Market.

I enjoyed the way the book was written in the manner of a fairy tale and also liked the author's frequent ominous forewarnings. If it had been a play the audience would be shouting "Don't do it Lundy, don't do it!"

Now I am back into the series I believe there is a book 5. I must go look for it!
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