Title: Down Among the Sticks and Bones
Author: Seanan McGuire
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars
For those who read the first book in this series, Every Heart a Doorway, this book follows the twins and the world that they found and spent 5 years living in.
For those who didn’t read the first book I would say that it’s probably not imperative that you do, especially since this book is actually set before. However, the first book does give some important information about the different doorways that children enter and the toll that it takes on them, which is why these children stay at Eleanor West’s. It’s a type of “home for troubled teens”, but it’s for the kids who come back and find themselves now lost.
In Down Among the Sticks and Bones, we get to see the way the twins, Jacqueline and Jillian (or Jack and Jill), were raised and the sort of upbringing they have. Their parents never actually wanted kids and thought they were altogether too messy, yet ended up decided they wanted children after seeing the way that some of their peers and coworkers received attention and recognition for their kids. They wanted a child that they could mold into whatever they wanted them to be.
Unfortunately, they didn’t allow their daughters to develop personalities of their own and instead forced Jacqueline to wear frilly dresses and be cooed and coddled, and Jillian to be athletic and boyish to replace the son they wish they’d had. Their parents didn’t seem to understand the complexities of their children and forced them into boxes, when Jacqueline would have loved to be more active and Jillian longed to be pretty and adored like her sister.
So when the sisters find themselves in The Moors, they’re given the choice to start anew, even if the new life they’re to lead is terrifying and full of strange and terrible things. They’re given the choice between the luxuries of the castle they are taken into or the hard work of an apprenticeship outside the city walls; Jack chooses to live under a harsh apprenticeship while Jill longs to be loved by the dark stranger who rules over the castle.
To see these characters grow, particularly Jack, was so interesting and satisfying. I was so happy to see Jack break out of the mold that her parents had forced her into and flourish. She had a thirst for knowledge and longed to learn everything she could from the man she worked under, who was a sort of doctor.
Jillian on the other hand, while having her wish to be beautiful and adored granted, had gotten a little more than she bargained for from her strange, terrifying new guardian.
Still, both sisters found happiness and belonging and acceptance in this new world and I think that is such a beautiful thing. This story was heartbreaking and creepy and beautiful and I enjoyed it so much more than Every Heart a Doorway.
Sadly, these books are so short that it’s hard to say much about them without revealing important, spoiler-y things, but this book left me feeling so sad and broken and torn up. I definitely prefer my happily ever afters so this book was a huge bummer for me, but I could still appreciate the way this was written. Seanan McGuire is a majorly talented writer, and I’d be so interested to read more of her work after this series is through.