Monday, February 5, 2018

Women in Horror: Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

After Jack and Jill go through their door, life goes on at Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children, a cover for children still looking for the doorway to whatever fantastical world they were expelled from too soon. Some have found their doors, others haven't, and more children arrive seeking their doors. Nadya and Cora are looking for a door in a pond when a girl in a sugar dress falls from the sky into the water. Her name is Rini from Confection, a nonsense world, and she's looking for her mother who was unfortunately killed by Jill. Cora, Nadya, Christopher, and Cade go on a quest to several different worlds to find Sumi and prevent Rini from disappearing bit by bit.

This world of fantastical worlds and portals is always a treat to read. Each book is a novella but packed full of dynamic characters, their development, and the best world building I've read. More worlds are seen in this book than ever before. The Halls of the Dead are burned into my mind with its elegance, darkness, and stillness where Nancy enjoys being a living statue. The Lord and Lady of the Dead force the group into a bargain for Sumi's soul. Confection is a nonsense world where everything is made of candy except for the people. The sea is soda; candy corn fields pepper the land; even the royal guards' armor and weapons are candy wrappers and hard nougat. The food never rots or goes stale and the people never get cavities or malnourished from constantly eating candy. Because of the nonsense of the word, Sumi's death has caused a weird situation where both realities (where she does and doesn't live) exist at the same time until one overtakes the other. All of the worlds, no matter how fanciful, have a layer of reality and horror where bad things happen to good people and people die due to selfishness or greed.

The motley crew who help her are only together because of circumstance, all but one waiting for their chance to return to their world. Each character seen in has moments of insight into them even if they aren't part of the main plot. Eleanor is doomed to see and help so many find their door while she remains aging decade after decade, apart from her own world. Cora is my favorite new character, a girl who lived as a mermaid in an undersea world. Her round shape is a point of shame in our world because of the implications of that shape as lazy, slow, and somehow worth less than other shapes. She proves each of those points wrong but is still affected by the fatshaming rhetoric. Christopher is another of my favorites who is in love with the Skeleton Girl and plays a flute to call the dead made of his own leg bone. I would love to read Kade's story as he was chosen for his world due to his frilly dresses as a child that did not at all reflect who he really was and the warrior became in the end. He is the only one satisfied to stay at Eleanor's home. I love each and every character that comes to the Home and I want to see everyone's backstory plus their adventures in that other world

Beneath the Sugar Sky is another fascinating look into the fantastical world of portals, other worlds, and the people who travel through them. Seanan McGuire's writing is simply amazing. She populates her worlds with women, people with disabilities, transgender people, and people of all different cultures and points of view. Their story focuses more on their friendships whether just starting or extended for years which is nice to see since so many books primarily focus on romance. It's so refreshing to see all types of people going on adventures, not just the able bodied, male, or white. The next book in this series was just announced and I'm already hyped for it. I will read every book by Seanan McGuire or her horror/sci-fi pseudonym Mira Grant.

My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins

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