Every Heart A Doorway


Seanan McGuire


Science Fiction


Date Reviewed:

April 17, 2022

was attracted to Every Heart A Doorway by the astounding number of accolades it won. This is a novella, not a novel, so the competition isn't as intense for the top awards, but still, this is an incredible amount of award wins!

Winner: 2017 Hugo Award

Winner: 2017 Locus Award

Winner: 2016 Nebula Award

Nominated: 2017 World Fantasy Award

Nominated: 2017 British Fantasy Award

2016 Tiptree Honor List

The protagonist of this story is Nancy, who once discovered a magical portal and ventured into another world - she found herself in a Landscape of the Dead. But rather than a land of horror, Nancy discovered that she loved the shadowy silent corridors. She practiced staying motionless for a day at time, slowing her heartbeat to just one per minute. Mute servants pressed a sponge to her lips, the only sustenance needed in those gloomy corridors. Despite her desire to remain forever, Nancy is sent back to Earth. Nancy longs to return to that dark domain, but there is little prospect of her successfully finding another entry portal. Nancy's parents are alarmed by her wild claims of magical lands. Finally, unable to persuade Nancy to accept reality, they enroll her in Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children. But this home, located in an isolate manor, is quite different than Nancy's parents surmise. Eleanor West herself is a returnee from a magical world, she knows that other dimensions do exist, and that there are children who long to return to them. Eleanor gathers these children who desperately long to return to another plane but cannot. Eleanor tries to assist them, she believes their claims of alternate universes, but Eleanor also counsels them just how unlikely another crossover event is, no matter how much the children wish otherwise.

When Nancy arrives at the Eleanor's home, she is greeted by the other children that share her predicament (namely, none of them can return through the portals to the magical worlds they once visited). There is expressive, blunt, unabashed Sumi, who becomes her new roommate. Kade is a brilliant genius. Jack and Jill (Jacqueline and Jillian) are twins, and yet are so different. Jill is wild and funny loving, her journey was to a Nonsense land, whereas Jack went to a Logic land. One of the teachers at the Home is Lundy, who herself was once a child who managed to escape to another dimension. But Lundy was cursed with an age reversing condition - she is slowly growing younger. Right now, Lundy looks like an 8 year old girl, when in actuality she once was a teenager on the cusp of adulthood.

Soon after Nancy's arrival, one of the girls is brutally murdered. Naturally, as the newest student, Nancy is the primary suspect - after all, the horrendous crime did not occur until after her arrival. And Nancy did crossover into the Halls of the Dead...

What I liked best about this story is the idea of the youngsters who return to our normal, mundane reality after their amazing adventures in another dimension. The children are profoundly effected, and desperately want to go back. The other worlds have characteristics, and so are grouped into categories like Virtuous or Wicked, Nonsense or Logical (though apparently there are also minor axes like Wild). Sort of the like the old character alignment axes in Dungeons & Dragons - Good or Evil, Chaos or Lawful.

This story reminded me a little bit of Gideon the Ninth, where an isolated group of people begin to see their fellows murdered, and it is clear that one of them is the killer. Unfortunately, Every Heart A Doorway is just 169 pages long. But the good news is that there are seven more published books in the series, with the promise of more. I'll probably check out the next one.