Source: Netgalley & the Publisher – Many thanks!
TL;DR: Ultimately felt as if trauma was present for nothing besides the sake of trauma. This caused the story to feel disjointed and lacking.
Plot: The first five chapters ultimately felt needless to the larger plot – Antsy forgets everything that happened for the next 90% of the book (and even when she does remember it’s just a moment of ‘oops’)
Characters: Antsy was interesting enough, but due to the nature of her World we didn’t get much as far as development from her.
Setting: It’s a magic thrift shop
Magic: Very standard Seanan McGuire magic
I was genuinely very excited for this entry in the Wayward Children series. I really liked the brief glimpse of Antsy and the idea of her world that we got previously and I wanted to know more about this Thrift shop and more about the Doors themselves. Sadly the book immediately went off the rails in the first chapter and failed for me ultimately.
***The next paragraph may not be suitable to read for anyone who deals with Death or Death of a Parent anxiety, but I think it’s necessary to describe why I feel the way I do:
Within the first chapter we see the vividly rendered death of Antsy’s beloved father from her eyes. Seanan went out of her way to describe the way his shoes pointed, the glazed ’empty’ look of his eyes, etc. A lot of effort is put into this scene, from the way Antsy focuses on the lights in Target and how she fixates on the one Target employee she knows. Furthermore after her father’s death she refuses to go into that store, and it is mentioned on multiple instances of her aversion to any lights similar to those of Target. ***
This death is the reason that Antsy’s mother remarries the man who ultimately gaslights and attempts to groom Antsy which causes her to flee her home and stumble into her Door. This door leads to the Thrift shop idea of ‘where Lost things go’ and the actual story of the plot unravels.
Where I take issue with this book is the unnecessarily vivid and brutal rendering of that death, especially after Seanan writes a message at the beginning of the book giving a Trigger Warning for the attempted grooming but mentions nothing about the Death. Furthermore that death, as impactful as it was to the reader seems to be nothing to Antsy. Once within her Door it is never brought up again, in fact she forgets it because of the nature of where she is. When she does eventually remember that death the only thing we get is one line of regret then there is nothing else. No acknowledgement of the trauma that sort of event could and likely would cause, or no catharsis for the reader. It was traumatic for the sake of trauma, and handled badly.
From there the story continues and in the end of course Antsy finds her way home to see some closure on her Mother and the Evil Step-Father (which I also don’t completely buy) before she continues on to the School. The story comes swinging at the reader with a traumatic experience, possibly mirroring experiences readers might have had with no warning at all, then leaves it. It felt as if was there only to prime the readers to be sad, to connect to Antsy even if that trauma was never handled, or even addressed adequately. The detail that bothered me the most was the seeming fixation on the lights from Target – yet once through the Door and even once she was within our world again – it was never brought up.
This ruined the entire reading experience for me. As someone who deals with intense anxiety surrounding Death of loved ones, and with several loved ones with similar anxieties and triggers this felt like a punch to the gut. I can handle my anxiety and triggers when they’re presented with care and respect, in fact I read a novel just prior to this that did that. That book also hit my trigger in a bullseye but did so in a way that felt respectful and I ended up loving the novel overall. This did not do that. For my friends and anyone else with these concerns, I advise(d) against reading the book or at least skipping to Chapter 5.
In the end that first portion, because it’s not actually handled anywhere else in the story, made the book fell like the story of Antsy in the Thrift shop with some drama tacked on the beginning because it wasn’t long enough or an editor thought it needed it. It felt like two disjointed halves and I left feeling angry I’d experienced it and like it was lacking overall.
2 Magical Doors out of 5