BWW Review: COME TUMBLING DOWN by Seanan McGuire
"I warn you, this isn't a tale for the faint of heart. It is a story of murder, and betrayal, and sisterly love turned sour."
~COME TUMBLING DOWN
One of the best things about long-running series is also one of the worst things: They're over too soon, albeit with the promise of more to come. Every time a new book is picked up, it is like coming home and reuniting with loved ones. You can pick up right where you left off. But saying goodbye is so, so brutal and devastating. Time wears away the ache, and then you see those friends and family anew, and fall in love all over again, and the vicious cycle repeats itself.
Seanan McGuire's award-winning series Wayward Children is one such series. Every book is a delight, something original to be cherished and held. Some are terrifying and bleak, while others are full of wonder and whimsy. Readers finish these books and wish there truly were other worlds to explore so they don't have to go back to the mundane.
The concept of the series is deceptively simple: What happens to children who have explored other worlds and return to our reality? What happens to Alice when she is pulled from Wonderland -- some versions have her landing in a mental institution. What about the Pevensie children after they grow up in Narnia, only to step through the wardrobe once more ad adults and revert back to children? There are so many novels and movies about children who explore other worlds and come back transformed. How do they re-acclimate to the world they left behind when their adventures have changed them so fundamentally?
Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children is disguised as a fancy boarding school that will "rehabilitate" children mentally disturbed who believe themselves to have gone off on amazing adventures. Parents leave their children with her content that the rigorous program will set them good as new over time. In reality, however, Eleanor was once a wayward child herself and takes in other such children who are homesick for lands no longer accessible to them, and teaches them to re-adapt to the world they were born into. For some, the doors will return and sweep them away once more. For others, they will never step out of this world again, and forever mourn their loss.
BroadwayWorld has previously covered more on the first four books on the series, which you can read more about here. Today, the focus is on the brand-new book in the series, COME TUMBLING DOWN, with a sneak peek at the end of this review at the next brand-new book -- and world -- in the series.
While most of the books in this series stand alone and don't need to be read in order, COME TUMBLING DOWN is not one of them. Each book builds upon the last and gives a little more about the rules of the worlds and the lives of the children and teens in the boarding house that we come to know more about over the course of several books. The first book, EVERY HEART A DOORWAY, introduces the schools and the world. Some of the books are set in our world, and others feature adventures in alternate worlds. COME TUMBLING DOWN builds off of previously established characters, twin sisters named Jacqueline and Jillian Wolcott. The twins are introduced in the first book, EVERY HEART A DOORWAY, and their story ends in an astonishing way. The second book in the series, DOWN AMONG THE STICKS AND BONES, is a prequel that tells how Jack and Jill discover their world and grow up amongst its terrors. Then, the third and fourth books focus on other students at the school, creating bonds between them and endearing them to readers. Everything collides in COME TUMBLING DOWN when Jack begs her former classmates for help and brings them back to her world.
Jack and Jill come from one of the darkest, deadliest worlds that any student has been too. Their stories are always more macabre and tend to be a little more violent and gritty. The sisters are frequently at odds in ways that are hard to talk about without spoilers to earlier books in the series, but needless to say, are once again at an impasse. Jill has found a way to switch their bodies, wanting Jack's for nefarious purposes, and Jack wants to stop her sister and be back in her own body before balance is destroyed in the Moors and her entire world collapses.
Readers have frequently asked for more books featuring Jack and Jill after the way their first adventure ended. Instead, they were treated to a second book featuring their start. Now, five books into the series, readers finally get the closure they have waited for and return to the moors with the twins one last time.
McGuire's writing style is one of the stand-out elements of this series. The language is quotable, with readers wanting to clutch sentences to their hearts and pin them to the walls. There's also humor, even in worlds as desolate as the Moors. One of the reoccurring characters, Sumi, is from a land of nonsense and confectionary sweets, and she can say things such as, "It's like the sugared cherry on the biggest murder sundae in the whole world" or, "This is the awful sprinkles on the sundae of doom," and it both makes sense, gets to the heart of the horrors surrounding everyone, and creates a humorous moment.
Each book is more like a novella, topping out around 200 pages, easy to read in one sitting, especially the ones that take place in other worlds and introduce readers to sights and notions they've never before considered.
The next book in the series, ACROSS THE GREEN GRASS FIELDS, already sounds like it will be another immersive character origin story set in a new world, though fans of the series will have to wait until January 2021 to get their hands on a copy. Tor just released details of the novel, stating, "In book six of McGuire's multi-award-winning portal fantasy series we meet Regan. She loves horses. And when she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to "Be Sure" before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines-a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes."
For now, COME TUMBLING DOWN is a triumphant return to the world of Wayward Children to tide fans over, while a year is plenty of time to catch up and read the first five books in the series.
COME TUMBLING DOWN by Seanan McGuire was published on January 7, 2020 from Tor Books, and is available in bookstores everywhere.
ABOUT COME TUMBLING DOWN:
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. Again.