Libraries, safe places and Seanan McGuire

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, given enough time in a city, I will inevitably end up in the local library. And, true to form, I have done so in Auckland.

In my defence, I was going because I needed to use a desktop computer to make updates to the front page of this blog, and various other things that I didn’t realise my tablet couldn’t compute. And libraries, especially public ones, are usually in posession of at least one computer for public use. Auckland Public Library doesn’t even need a membership card – you just pick up a visitor slip and off you pop. Internet in moments.

The reason I usually end up in libraries is the same reason I can’t resist a bookshop. Being surrounded by books makes me feel a sort of calm I have yet to be able to find anywhere else. I admit, in bookshops I always feel a little anxious that my browsing-not-buying is being judged. In a library, however, not only can I browse books to my hearts content, I can pick them up and read them right there and then.

The weather that day was sort of dreary – the perfect sort of day for armchairs and books. I was only planning on looking at the stands and stands of comic books the library had on the way out, but it’s a little like being pulled into a slow vortex. Then I was looking at the sci-fi and fantasy books and I found something! Well. Two somethings actually. And of course, the somethings were books.

More specifically, they were two books in the Wayward Childrens novella series! My library back in the UK only had Every Heart a Doorway, the first incredible book. They’re all stand alone novellas by Seanan McGuire and it’s only been price and practicality that stopped me from buying the whole series (alas, practicality is such a rude mistress). However, Auckland Public Library had two others!

Down among the sticks and stones follows Jack and Jill to the Moors, in a prequel to Every Heart a Doorway. It was dark, it was delicious and I loved it. Especially because Jack is so openly a lesbian and it’s not a big deal!

The second, Beneath the Sugar Sky returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, taking place after the events of Every Heart a Doorway and featuring a continuation of the plot that happened there. While you can read Sticks and Stones without Every Heart, you can’t read Sugar Sky without Every Heart. In Sugar Sky, Rini drops from the sky into the turtle pond, and demands to see her mother – a girl who died some years previously far too young for a child. The narrator is Cora, a mermaid girl new to the school as they take up a quest to restore Sumi to life and save Rimi (and her Nonsense world) in the process.

I much preferred the one about Jack and Jill with vampires and Frankenstein vibes and a Logical world that demands blood payments. I was less fond of Sugar Sky, but I can’t work out why – I think it may have something to do with the ease of which they create doorways, although it was interesting to read about the children crossing into worlds which weren’t their own. Of course, it may just be that Jack is a lesbian with a girlfriend in Sticks and Stones and that would be hard to top in the same reading sitting.

What I love about this series, after the magical of course, is how cleverly and how casually McGuire drops in things without it being a big deal – sexuality, the concequences of fatphobia, belonging, suicide – and its handled so well that you read and think this is how it should be.

I loved these books, and I am getting more and more convinced that I need the entire collection when I return to the UK and have actual physical bookshelves again (That’s part of why I love bookshops when I am away – a kindle is great but it’s not the same as running your hands over spines when choosing what to read). I’d highly recommend these! Also, Auckland library is awesome. 10/10 would recommend to a book-lover on a rainy day.

I only have two more to find now! All in all, I consider that a highly successful day.

Bea

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