I received a copy of this book from the publisher (Tor.com) in exchange for an honest review.
Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children novellas have quickly become one of my yearly highlights. I love having them to look forward to. I’ve been eagerly anticipating Come Tumbling Down since I read the final page of In An Absent Dream this past January. While I didn’t adore it as much as I have some of the previous installments, Come Tumbling Down is a fast-paced return adventure spanning two of McGuire’s worlds that I’ve come to love in recent years. It was an action-packed read that had me flying through its pages in one sitting.
“…the fact that I’ve been damaged doesn’t make me broken…”
I strongly suggest rereading not only Every Heart A Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones before picking up this book, but Beneath the Sugar Sky as well, as characters introduced in that book are key characters in Come Tumbling Down. Due to the fact that so much of this ensemble is comprised of returning characters, some of whom have departed the worlds of the living only to return again, I don’t really feel like I can discuss characters without inadvertently spoiling preceding volumes of the series. So instead, I’ll talk about the worlds.
“A tool is only a weapon when it’s held by people who want to use it the wrong way.”
We venture to two main locales here: our world, via Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children, which has been the hub shared by all of the stories; and the Moors, the land found by Jack and Jill in the novella dedicated to their adventure, Down Among the Sticks and Bones. We get to see more of this brutally beautiful world that is populated by monsters. Those monsters include those who find their doors in our world and stumble into the Moors, and find themselves finally at home. While Down Among the Sticks and Bones focused mainly on the land grudgingly shared between the vampiric Master and the mad scientist Dr. Bleak, we get to explore more of the Moors in Come Tumbling Down. We are shown the realm of the Drowned Gods, and spend some time in the village populated by their worshippers, as well as meeting the priests and acolytes who live lives consumed by the task of worshiping their cruel deities. We also hear a bit more about the realms of goblins and werewolves and others on the Moors.
“The world doesn’t stop spinning because you’re sad, and that’s good; if it did, people would go around breaking hearts like they were sheets of maple sugar, just to keep the world exactly where it is…We can be sad and we can be hurt and we can even be killed, but the world keeps turning, and the things we’re supposed to do keep needing to be done.”
What I found the most fascinating was a breakdown of how each monster is balanced by another in their realm. For instance, every vampiric Master or Mistress is balanced in power by a resident Mad Scientist, and if that balance is broken then the entirety of the Moors is in danger of consuming itself. The thought of maintaining balance being such a crucial piece of the puzzle that is this realm of monsters is kind of baffling. Seriously, can you imagine creatures who inspired the horror stories of our world, Dracula and Victor Frankenstein and the Wolfman and Chulthu, all carefully keeping a series of checks and balances so they don’t overextend their malice and wreck their home? The Moon keeps all of them under her watchful, imposing eye, and ensures that none rise above their place without being pulled back down. We also learn what makes a monster, and what makes a hero, and how closely the two can resemble one another to someone on the other side of things.
“Sometimes, after all, that’s what must be said to make a hero: the willingness to keep running even after it becomes clear that the entire exercise is doomed to failure. Sometimes heroism is pressing on when the ending is already preordained.”
Come Tumbling Down, like Beneath the Sugar Sky, is more of an adventure narrative than the other three novellas published thus far in the series. While there is character development and loads of depth regarding identity and struggles with conditions that are often written off by those who don’t suffer from them, these tales of adventure don’t have as much room for beautiful, nearly poetic prose as their slower-paced counterparts. The writing is still absolutely lovely and often profound, but it didn’t resonate quite as strongly with me as Every Heart A Doorway, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, and In An Absent Dream. That’s an incredibly subjective opinion, I know, but it’s what’s true for me.
“No one should have to sit and suffer and pretend to be someone they’re not because it’s easier, or because no one wants to help them fix it.”
As always, the idea of doors leading misfit children to realms that are their true homes, despite not being the world of their birth, is endlessly enchanting. Coming to understand why beautiful blond twin girls could call a world populated by monsters “home,” because they themselves are monstrous on the inside, is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to insights gained into their children throughout the course of the series. McGuire has also excelled in not only ensuring representation for those who feel like they don’t fit in, but in presenting an incredibly varied cast who demonstrate a plethora of both identities and conditions without allowing those things to be all that defines them. Finding yourself and your place are the most important quests any person can undertake, and that is shown on such a large scale in the Wayward Children novellas. The series is beautifully done, and I will be eagerly awaiting the sixth installment.
Release date: January 7th, 2020
All quotations were taken from an uncorrected proof and are subject to change upon publication.
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