“This world is unforgiving and cruel to those it judges as even the slightest bit outside the norm.”
Nancy is one of the many children who has found her “true home” through a doorway to a magical world. Not unlike Alice and her Wonderland, Nancy has found a world that suits her perfectly, and she never wanted to leave it. But the Lord of the Dead asked that Nancy be perfectly sure that the Land of the Dead is where she truly wants to live forever, so he sends her home. Unfortunately, no one at home believes her story, and she is sent to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children — a place where children just like herself are grieving for the fantasy worlds that they once knew and loved, and are searching for doors that can take them back. Shortly after Nancy’s arrival at the school, a tragedy strikes that threatens the entire school and what it means to its students.
The storyline was so original and examined an aspect of fantasy worlds that we really never think about — what happens to kids after they travel to other realms? The writing was so beautiful, insightful, and delightfully dark. It was flowy and articulate without being incoherent and was riddled with unexpected snippets of wisdom.
The characters were charming and likable and had such distinctive voices, personalities, and backstories. However, due to the length of the book, it was difficult to really connect with them on a level that would have been possible in a longer story.
The murder mystery aspect of the story added intrigue, excitement, and a level of foreboding; however, I felt that it was a bit too much to introduce along with all of the worldbuilding and characters. It was also difficult to truly care about the characters who died, and it was even harder to figure out the identity of the culprit or their motive. It would have been better had the murder mystery been introduced in the second book of the series.
While I had no issues with the sexual/gender identity subplots, I felt like they were unnecessary and a bit out of place in a story that already had so much going on. In that same vein, I wished the book was a bit longer. This was such an interesting and original storyline, yet the length of the book could allow it justice.
While I had a lot of thoughts as to how to improve the book, I really did like it a lot. It was so easy to get engrossed in the story, and I’m very likely going to continue on with the series.