I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. While I appreciate the gift, the giving of it in no way impacted my opinion.
“Your name is your heart, and you don’t give your heart away.”
In an Absent Dream is heartbreaking in the most beautiful way. McGuire gives us a story that early readers of the Wayward Children series already know ends in tragedy, but she does so in a way that maintains both interest and, amazingly, hope. I honestly didn’t think Down Among the Sticks and Bones could be topped, but I stand corrected. What a way to start off 2019.
“It is an interesting thing, to trust one’s feet. The heart may yearn for adventure while the head thinks sensibly of home, but the feet are a mix of the two, dipping first one way and then the other.”
The Goblin Market is everything I dreamed of as a child. Even before we reach the Market for the first time, I was in love. The description of the magical tree containing Lundy’s door captured my imagination on its first appearance. I felt that it was a perfect visual representation of the spirit of the Market. It is a “good tree,” one made for enticing children to play in its shade and climb its branches. Its leaves are every possible shade of green, with no two exactly the same shape. It is blatantly magical before the door it holds is even revealed.
“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.”
While I was a happy child with an amazing home life, I related to Lundy deeply on multiple levels. I was a very social kid, and yet I had an insanely hard time developing relationships with children who weren’t relatives. Adults loved me, but there was something about me that made me easy for kids to overlook until I hit the age of twelve. I think one of the major reasons for this stems from the other way in which I relate to Lundy: an insane love for and attachment to the written word. Until she stumbled into the Goblin Market, Lundy walks through life with her head perpetually stuck in a book. However, Lundy’s entire worldview changes when she steps into the Market for the first time and finds her true home. The question is, can she stay?
“Your life is the biggest bargaining chip you have. Before you choose where to spend it, be sure you understand what you’re getting in return.”
I loved the descriptions of the Market. It was lush and enticing but left plenty to the imaginations of the readers. The rule of fair trade, as well as the other rules that govern the Market, are interesting in their duality of simplicity and complexity. But my favorite aspect of the Market is the idea that it is actually its own entity, whose interpretation of the rules is law. There is both a freedom and a rigidity to the Market that would have absolutely captured me as a child, as it has evidently done with so many other children. Believe it or not, kids thrive on a certain amount of rules as long as they aren’t stifling., and the Market hits the perfect balance. Everything has a price, and debt makes itself visible so that you can’t claim that what you owe slipped your mind. But is the Goblin Market really an incredible haven, or does it set out to entice and ensnare? If it’s a haven, why does it only call children to itself, and close its doors to them if they don’t decide to become citizens before the age of eighteen? If the Market truly wanted them to be sure, wouldn’t it call them as adults instead? There are so many questions raised by and about the Market, and yet it’s hands down my favorite of McGuire’s portal worlds so far.
“Following the rules didn’t make you a good person, just like breaking them didn’t make you a bad one, but it could make you an invisible person, and invisible people got to do as they liked.”
There was nothing I didn’t love about this novella. The characters, the motivations, the settings, and the concept were all amazing. (Side note: I want to be the Archivist when I grow up. She’s warm and cool, motherly and friendly while still maintaining the aloofness and lack of bias needed to fulfill her role in the Market. I thought she was perfection.) While all of these elements were beautifully rendered, what grabbed me once again was McGuire’s prose. She has such a stunning way with words. I kept reading the same sentences over and over again, sometimes even reading them aloud because they felt so velvety on the tongue.
“No one serves their friends by grinding themselves into dust on the altar of compassion.”
What blows my mind about In an Absent Dream is the fact that, going in, I already knew how it was going to end. And yet the ending still absolutely wrecked me. I’m baffled by how much Lundy’s story impacted me emotionally. Do I recommend this book? Without reservation, to anyone and everyone. Whether you read fantasy or literary fiction, whether you love YA or hate it, whether you’ve read the preceding books in the series or not, In an Absent Dream is absolutely worth reading. While having read Every Heart a Doorway first is suggested, as you will first meet this book’s protagonist within its pages, it’s not required. And if you happen to be a fan of the Labyrinth, Bowie’s cult classic film, you will undoubtedly have a soft spot for the Goblin Market as presented in these pages.
“It was not, perhaps, a happy ending. But it was what they had, and so we shall leave them to it as we head on, ever on, toward the next, patiently waiting door.”
This is a stunning story exquisitely told, and it deserves to be read.
In an Absent Dream will be published January 8th, 2019. You can order your copy here, with free shipping to anywhere in the world!
All quotes above were taken from the uncorrected proof, and are subject to change upon publication.