Published by Tor.com on January 7, 2020
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Bantering Books Rating:
The fifth installment in Seanan McGuire's award-winning, bestselling Wayward Children series, Come Tumbling Down picks up the threads left dangling by Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones
When Jack left Eleanor West's School for Wayward Children she was carrying the body of her deliciously deranged sister--whom she had recently murdered in a fit of righteous justice--back to their home on the Moors.
But death in their adopted world isn't always as permanent as it is here, and when Jack is herself carried back into the school, it becomes clear that something has happened to her. Something terrible. Something of which only the maddest of scientists could conceive. Something only her friends are equipped to help her overcome.
Eleanor West's "No Quests" rule is about to be broken.
Bantering Books Review
Those of you who read my last review of In an Absent Dream know how much I admire Seanan McGuire and her Young Adult fantasy series, Wayward Children. In fact, I believe I have given all but one of the previous four novellas in the series a full five stars. It’s not typical of me, as I tend to be a critical book reviewer and am unafraid to point out a novel’s flaws. It’s also not typical for a long-running series such as this one to consistently be excellent.
And I do not believe I can give Come Tumbling Down any less than the highest of marks.
In this installment, McGuire continues the story of twin sisters, Jack and Jill, whose narrative arc is the focus of the second novella in the series, Down Among the Sticks and Bones. The two teens were last seen in Sticks and Bones, leaving Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children and returning to their beloved home on the Moors.
But now Jack is back. (Although, not feeling fully like herself.) She is in desperate need of assistance from her friends – and Christopher, Sumi, Kade, and Cora, as all good friends do, agree to help Jack as she faces what may be the most difficult challenge of her life.
I feel it is important to note that, much to my surprise, Come Tumbling Down does not seem to be quite as well received by readers as its predecessors. The singular most common criticism being that the story isn’t “needed.” It is “unnecessary.”
Am I seriously the only reader who has been dying to know what happened to Jack and Jill since their departure for the Moors?!?!
I mean, really?
The commonly shared sentiment of the supposed pointlessness of this novella is just so puzzling to me. I have been WAITING for this. (Very patiently, I might add.) Jack is my absolute favorite of all the Wayward Children, and when I discovered that McGuire was finally giving us a continuation of her and Jill’s story, I was ecstatic, to say the least.
Apparently, I’m in the minority. (shoulder shrug)
I won’t take too much time rehashing here, all the thoughts contained in my review of In an Absent Dream — thoughts about the beauty of McGuire’s writing and the magical, fairy-tale-like quality of these stories. Just know that all I wrote in my previous review holds true, as well, for Come Tumbling Down. It’s gorgeously crafted.
And once again, McGuire tackles her favorite reoccurring theme of what it means to be an outsider, to be someone who is struggling to fit in and meet society’s standard of normalcy.
But this time, McGuire seems to also be focused intently on the subject of heroes. She uses her amazing story-telling abilities to not only define what it means to be a hero, but also to show us that we are ALL heroes and there are many . . . so very many . . . different ways to be heroic.
”It’s all right,” said Sumi, helping Christopher to his feet. She kept her eyes on Kade. “He’s a hero too, remember? We’re all heroes here. Sometimes a hero has to fall.”
Just rereading that quote, as I am typing it, punches me in the gut. The simplistic beauty and poignancy of it brings tears to my eyes.
I don’t believe McGuire could’ve written it any more perfectly. Do you?
And finally, I would be remiss, I think, to write this review without ever saying much about Jack.
As I wrote earlier, Jack is, by far, my favorite character in the Wayward Children series. She is complex. Unapologetic. Various labels and adjectives have been applied to her in the novellas – mad scientist, heartless, cold, twisted, monster.
Monster – such a harsh, harsh word.
But I don’t see Jack as a monster. To me, she is a young woman who sees black and white – there is no gray. She is exceptionally intelligent. A logical thinker, often to the point of coldness. She is bluntly honest. She has an extremely strong, innate sense of rightness. She’s fair. She does not allow her emotions to best her. But at the same time, she feels. She loves fiercely.
And she will do anything . . . and I do mean ANYTHING . . . to do what is just and protect who she loves.
I like her. I respect her. I see myself in Jack.
Does that make ME a monster, too?
I think not. At least, I hope not. (wink)