Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire – A Review

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire
Fantasy | Novella | Young Adult
Published by Tor.com
Released April 5, 2016
Goodreads | Amazon

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Fantasy is full of stories of people going through doorways or portals into fantasy lands. We’ve all read and loved those tales. What is less common, however, is telling the story of those people once they’ve come back to reality.

Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series does just that. Set in a boarding school for “wayward children”, the novellas follow young adults after they’ve been thrust back into the real world from their unique fantasy worlds. The school serves to help them adjust to their realities and to the knowledge that most of the students will never go back “home” to the lands they grew to love.

Currently, there are six books published in the Wayward Children series, with four more currently planned. This first installment, Every Heart a Doorway, won a Hugo Award in 2017.

Every Heart a Doorway is told from the perspective of Nancy, who was sent back to our world after living in an Underworld with the Lord of the Dead. Upon her arrival at the school, a series of murders start to take place. While trying not to alert the outside world, the students and teachers have to keep one another safe with a murderer among them.

I enjoyed this novella. While it didn’t blow me away, I did like it enough that I’ve already requested the second book, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, from my library.

My favorite part of the book was watching the students adjust to our “normal” world after coming from a plethora of distinct and strange worlds. The worlds are so bizarre and intriguing – from a candy world to lands of skeletons, there’s a world for everyone. I do wish more time had been spent on Nancy’s Underworld, but seeing as this story is about the students adjusting to their normalcy, I understand why the focus was on their day-to-day lives.

At under 200 pages, it can be hard to fit a well-rounded story into a novella. Seanan McGuire did a great job, however. I never felt like the story was rushed or that parts were sacrificed for brevity. It felt much more like reading a full novel, just one that I was able to complete in less than a day.

Every Heart a Doorway has a diverse cast of LGBTQ+ characters. Mental illness and trauma are also represented, with many of the students suffering from PTSD. There wasn’t a ton of time spent with that, but considering how short the book was I think that McGuire did a good job of showing the difficulties of adjusting after something traumatic occurs.

While I was reading this story, I was reminded of Laura Weymouth’s The Light Between Worlds, which is another story about people trying to get back to their fantasy worlds. If you love one, definitely read the other. Both books are dark and magical and wonderful.

If you’re looking for a quick, quirky, magical, dark read, then I absolutely recommend Every Heart a Doorway. I finished it in just a couple of hours and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. If you end up enjoying it, you’ve got a whole series to keep you occupied! I’m looking forward to reading the next books!

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor – A Review

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Binti (Binti #1) by Nnedi Okorafor
Science Fiction | Novella
Published by Tor.com
Released September 22nd, 2015
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_2_and_a_half_stars

Binti is the first in a trilogy of science fiction novellas written by Nigerian-American writer Nnedi Okorafor. The series has been wildly successful, winning both the 2015 and 2016 Hugo Award for best novella.

The story is centered around Binti, a member of an ethnic group known as the Himba based on Earth. She is the first of her people to be accepted into an intergalactic university, called Oomza Uni. Her family does not wish for her to go, as they would rather she stay and assist her father in his astrolabe shop.

Nnedi Okorafor
Nnedi Okorafor

One night, Binti makes the decision to go to the university, hoping her family will one day forgive her. She can’t pass up such a unique opportunity. On the spaceship to take her to the university, things don’t go quite as planned when a hostile alien race, known as the Meduse, takes over the ship and Binti is the only one left alive.

As this is a novella, obviously there’s not much room for backstory, which is one of the reasons I had a great deal of trouble connecting to this story. The plot, structure, and world (or universe)-building is all easy to understand, but I didn’t find myself enjoying any of it, even as a die-hard science fiction fan. I know I’m in the minority with this opinion, but the story felt really flat and simplistic to me, and I don’t have any interest in continuing the series.

Despite the short length, Okorafor did a wonderful job of Binti’s character development. While the plot of the story is definitely important, Binti’s character is the main spotlight here. She has to protect herself against the Meduse and learn a great deal in a short period of time. Binti is immediately likable and carried the story. It was also nice to see a talented math-loving female character.

I loved the concept of this story and the importance that Okorafor placed upon cultural differences and acceptance, which is undoubtedly an important lesson. However, I found it hard to be sympathetic to the Meduse, who commit an act of terrorism and mass-violence upon boarding Binti’s ship. I get it – misunderstanding between cultures, language barriers, and all that – but damn, it was hard to feel much pity for them.

Despite not loving this novella, I’m still very much intrigued by Nnedi Okorafor’s writing. I have a copy of one of her other novels, Akata Witch, that I’m really looking forward to reading. This one just missed the mark for me.


Have you read Binti? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!





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The Land of the Beasts by S.F. Claymore – A Review

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The Land of the Beasts by S.F. Claymore
Fantasy | Novella
Self-published
Published
Goodreads
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_1_and_a_half_stars

Note: I received a free ebook of this novella from the author in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinions.

I’ll read pretty much any book that includes dragons, so when S.F. Claymore reached out to me to review this fantasy novella, I immediately said yes. It’s a prelude to his novel Champion’s Rising (Champion of Psykoria Book 1)

I wanted so badly to like this, but it didn’t work out. This is a novella, so it’s a very short read, and obviously, novellas are not going to be as detailed as a full-length novel. Despite that, I just found myself thinking that the story felt unfinished.

There were several issues I found with this story that prompted me to give it just a 1.5-star rating. First, I felt like I was reading a first draft or an outline of a story, not something finished. The story progressed quickly, but at the price of sacrificing any kind of character development and world-building.

As a result, this story was very one-dimensional and flat. I had no connection to any of the characters, and King Breetor was just a generic fantasy king on a quest – a quest that made little sense due to the lack of world-building. Essentially, to prove his worth to his council, he has to find a dragon and bring back proof of their existence. Despite dragons helping them in a previous war. Despite his having soldiers that he could send so that he wouldn’t have to leave his kingdom for several years. The story just didn’t make sense to me.

Perhaps in the novel, Champion’s Rising, the story and world-building will be better. However, based on how I felt about this novella, I probably won’t be reading it.



Looking for some fantasy books to read?

Roar | The Tea-Dragon Society | The Way of Kings | An Ember in the Ashes | The Boneless Mercies




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10 Short Books to Help You Get to Your Reading Goal

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If you’re trying to meet your yearly Goodreads or reading goal during the final week of 2018, no worries: there are plenty of short books, novellas, and graphic novels that you can finish in under a day! Here are ten of my favorites.


The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

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128 pages

I read this entire book in less than three hours. It’s short, wonderful, and an easy read. The story is simple, as it follows a fisherman out on the ocean on a quest to catch a great fish. Its simplicity doesn’t make it less enjoyable – in fact, that simplicity makes the novel worth reading. The Old Man and the Sea is a great place to start if you’re new to reading Hemingway. If you want to know more, here’s my full review.

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A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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112 Pages

What could be more perfect to read during the holidays than this classic? This is one of those books that you can definitely finish in one sitting. If you don’t know what the story is about, it follows Ebenezer Scrooge, a greedy old man who values money more than anything else in the world. Things change when he’s visited by the ghosts of Christmases past, present, and future. Plus, if you would rather listen to it, there are plenty of audiobook performances, including readings by Neil Gaiman and Tim Curry.

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Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman

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248 Pages

This comic book is a unique take on the Marvel universe that you’re used to. Written by the incredible Neil Gaiman, this story takes place 400 years in the past and reimagines favorite characters such as Doctor Strange, the X-Men, Daredevil, and more. I also love the art in this comic book, which is done by Andy Kubert. There are other books in this series, but this is the first and collects issues 1-8.

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Black Bolt, Vol 1: Hard Time and Vol 2: Home Free by Saladin Ahmed

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272 Pages

For another comic book option, these two volumes by Saladin Ahmed are wonderful, plus you get to look at the colorful, trippy art of the best modern comic book artist, Christian Ward. I did a review of this series a while back, so check that out for a full review. This series follows Black Bolt as he tries to escape from an inescapable prison.

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Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl

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96 Pages

Honestly, any of Roald Dahl’s books would work for this, but Fantastic Mr. Fox is my favorite. It’s so short that you can finish it in a couple of hours, and it’s such an adorably fun story. Mr. Fox, along with a few other underground friends, works to outsmart a few nasty farmers so that he can feed his friends and family.

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Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

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96 Pages

This is one that I’ll probably read myself during this last week. Binti is the first book in a series of fantasy novellas by acclaimed author Nnedi Okorafor. Binti is the first of her people to be accepted into a renowned galactic university, and the journey is a difficult one. She leaves behind her family and enters a world of warfare.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Thriftbooks


Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

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204 Pages

Poetry is a great way to up your count of finished books, and it’s hard to think of a poetry collection better than Rupi Kaur’s milk and honey. There’s also an audiobook version narrated by the writer herself, and she puts so much passion into her words that it’s hard not to get sucked in completely.

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The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

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64 Pages

Shel Silverstein was one of my favorite writers as a child, and I read and reread his books constantly. The Giving Tree is undoubtedly one of his best, and the lesson taught in the book is one that everyone should learn. If you never read this book as a child or if it’s been too long and you’ve forgotten, it’s never too late to relearn.

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Coraline by Neil Gaiman

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162 Pages

Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is much beloved for a reason. It’s a great story as well as being fantastical and ridiculous all at the same time. Coraline goes exploring in her family’s new home, and discovers a door that opens onto a parallel universe where she’s in a house just like her own, only things are… quite different.

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Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson

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374 Pages

Don’t be scared off by the page count on this one. First of all, it’s a graphic novel, so it takes only a fraction of the time to get through the story. Second, it’s 100% worth reading. This is the graphic novel adaptation of Anderson’s famous novel Speak, and Emily Carroll does an amazing job with the illustrations. The story follows Melinda, a high school student who is raped and struggles with it during her freshman year of high school. It is a deeply upsetting book, but one that is all the more important because of it. If you want to know more I did a full review a couple months ago.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | Thriftbooks


What books are you reading to complete your reading challenge? Let me know in the comments.