Thanks to a friend, one of my goals for this week is to kick off the review section of this blog. I’ve got several books that I just finished reading and some that I am halfway through, so I thought I’d start with a more recent one by an author that I’ve read for years.
I have a semi-long and quite emotionally-charged association with the works of the person who writes under Seanan Mcguire and Mira Grant. If you read this blog before the great site crash, you might have noticed my review of her Newsflesh series. What you should know first is that I’m addicted to the way her dark surrealism feels like absolute reality. In Newsflesh, the realism had to do with the zombie Rising and the world that emerged from that terrible time. It made sense that isolation and xenophobia ran rampant and that blogs replaced CNN. The science was interesting and it seemed plausible because she’d done her research.
Recently, this author won the Hugo for Every Heart A Doorway. The setting greatly resembles a refugee home for mythological figures. It is something like a place where Persephone could deal with her guilt for having to leave her mother for part of the year or Io could have talked about how she has to learn how to stop acting like a cow. The students at this school have all experienced the supernatural and are trying to move on from it in most cases. The central figure is someone who, like Persephone, served at the pleasure of the lord of the dead and has to find her place among the living. A central conflict evolves around the fact that, very plausibly, people don’t always understand that they should have escaped the terrifying circumstances that were their realities.
I love this for many reasons. It’s psychologically complex and somewhat allegorical. The “normal” is abhorrent to the reader and the characters’ loved ones. Most of all, I love this because I am absolutely sick and tired of the benevolent alternate reality. Let me explain using Narnia. Sure, Edmund is deceived by the White Witch and Lucy’s good friend Mr. Tumnus is abducted for his collusion in Narnia, but the animals are willing to help the daughters of Eve and the sons of Adam. They speak English. They eat food that you could find in Britain and even have my personal favorite, Turkish Delight.
I have, for years, been developing an idea in which a girl finds her magical other world and the ruinous consequences give her PTSD and malnutrition. She was treated as a spy and condemned to be a prisoner of war because she was not one of them. I feel like Seanan approached with great finesse the idea that the magical is very often a malignant thing to be suffered, survived and then subdued.
The characters are rich, yet flawed. The plot keeps you guessing, but comes to an intriguing ending.