Review: Every Heart a Doorway

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I got this book for free from’s ebook club. I highly recommend it – in exchange for your email address you get access to free books from’s catalog; a new one each month. (Currently it’s a Brandon Sanderson book from Mistborn Era 2)

As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I usually don’t go back and read the descriptions of books I’ve added to my “Digital On Deck” list and lots of these books have been on that list for 1-2 years. So I had no idea what this book was going to be about. The title of the series, the artwork on this book, and some general buzz I’d heard about it gave me some idea. But they were the wrong ideas – IN THE BEST WAY!

To repeat from my status update yesterday: I thought this book (or novella? It’s very short) was goin to be about some tweens or teens (or maybe even younger kids) who found themselves in the land of the fae. Having read a few of those books (usually from Humble Bundle or Story Bundle – I’m not a big enough fan of the fae to seek those stories out), I was prepared to think of the different rules: don’t eat or drink anything, don’t let them know your true name, be careful of any bargains you enter into, etc. This book was not that at all. Instead it belongs to whatever genre The Magicians belongs to – portal fantasy deconstructions?

It’s hard to speak of so short a book without spoilers. I only plan to spoil the first couple chapters without spoiler tags. However, I think this is an awesome book to go into without ANY knowledge. SO look at my 5 star review and just go read it! OK, did you stay? Let’s go!

We find out in the first couple chapters that this book takes place at a Professor X-like school. Only, the kids there aren’t mutants with special powers. They’re young adults who have been through a portal (think Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, etc) ended up back in the real world. They actually felt like they belonged there and, having been unable to find the portal again, have had trouble integrating into the normal world. So they end up at this school as a way to cope and not end up on anti-psychotics or locked up.

McGuire does a great job quickly providing all this information and plunging us into a world in which there all manner of possible worlds that these kids have been into and how that has affected them. The only odd bit of world-building that left me a little confused about the rules of the world in book (view spoiler)[ was when the bone flute worked in our world (hide spoiler)]. The story does not overstay its welcome. Once it gets going, it’s like plunging off the first dip in a rollercoaster. It doesn’t stop until the train pulls into the station.

This doesn’t really fit anywhere else, but I really want to see an actor portray Sumi in a live-action adaptation of this book. A good quality actor could do wonders with her personality as she shifts from her dominant personality to a more realistic one.

The book is so delightfully self-contained that I couldn’t figure out where the sequels would go. It looks like at least the next 2-3 are prequels. I’m apprehensive, given the subjects, and how hard prequels are to get right (there was a whole article about it), but the first couple chapters of the sequel were included in my ebook (although whoever formatted it did a very bad job of indicating that it was from the next book) and I’m in love with the tone. It seems to be a parody of the way kids’ books are written – like a parody of the tone and style of the first Harry Potter book.

A few other tidbits:
– There’s some profanity (it’s not liberally sprinkled throughout, but we are talking f-bomb level profanity)
– Along those lines, there also some discussion of sex (more in that the characters – who are teens – would be interested in it, but not anything graphic)
– there is some relatively graphic violence. I would say not bad for an adult, but MAYBE a bit much for a youngin’

So keep those three bits of info into account if recommending to the precocious readers in your life.

(view spoiler)[ Once the killings started happening, I oscillated between a few likely candidates, including perhaps Nancy in her sleep. But once they did the bone flute thing, I guess correctly. (pats self on back) (hide spoiler)]
– I feel that McGuire does a good job of representing queer characters without being anvilicious about it. Eg: A character mentions being asexual and explains it to another character. Another character had some issues with their fantasy world and being trans. But there isn’t really any moralizing about it – it’s just presented as the fact that these people exist in the world, so, of course, some of them would be at the school.

Strong, strong recommendation from me. It’s a fast read, it’s written well, and has great characters. It definitely deserves all the buzz it’s received.

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