My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
Down Among the Sticks and Bones is a standalone story set prior to the events of author Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway (review). Twins Jacqueline (Jack) and Jillian (Jill) are raised to fit perfectly within the boxes their parents select for them — looks, clothing, and behavior are all meticulously regimented. When they climb through a portal into an unknown world, they leave the rigidity of their past behind them and seek a chance to start anew. Vampires, mad scientists, and romances abound!
McGuire employs an inviting and clean prose, through which she can clearly communicate the cruel nature of Jack and Jill’s individual situations. She makes you feel that being plopped into a dangerous world is a welcome respite for what the twins were coming from.
In the novella format, it’s tough to fit worldbuilding, character development, and a solid story together effectively. Here, the characterization of Jack and Jill is excellent, the worldbuilding of the Moors (the creepy portal land) is strong, but the overall story left me wanting. The sequence of plot events spans several years but skips by very quickly, never lingering long enough for each event to have the intended impact. I had similar feelings when reading Every Heart a Doorway — an enjoyable read built from a fun idea, but with a story that I never fully connected with.
★★★ out of 5