“Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
This is the story of what happened first…
Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.
Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.
They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.
They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you for a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.”
My Thoughts: Knowing that Down Among the Sticks and Bones was a prequel, I took a chance on reading it even though I have not read the first book in the Wayward Children series. This is one chance that paid off big-time. Seanan McGuire writes amazing stories, no matter what name she uses for publication, and Down Among the Sticks and Bones is no different.
Everything about the story grabbed me from the first page. From the matter-of-fact manner in which she presents Jacqueline and Jillian’s parents to the crisp dialogue and clear descriptions, the novel creeps into your imagination and takes over. The atmosphere is outstanding. Bordering on horror, it is deliciously sinister but with an undercurrent of hope that prevents it from diving into the macabre.
One of the best parts of the novella is the fact that it reads like a fable, complete with life lessons about relationships and warnings about paths not taken. It documents in real time how each decision has a lasting impact on the future. It informs about the two possible outcomes and lets you watch it all unfold. It is a cautionary tale without being preachy. More important than that, it shows you what could have been to help you understand what is.
There is no doubt that it is establishing certain characters’ traits for the next book. Again, I read this out of sequence, so I finished the story anxious to find out what comes next and just what lessons the girls learned in their time Down Among the Sticks and Bones. Making this anxiety even worse is the fact that it ends on a cliffhanger. The character development is outstanding, especially because it is a shorter story, so you care quite a bit about Jack and Jill and their prospective fates. That there is still so much of their story left to tell is enticing; I cannot wait to immerse myself into their world again. There is a Neil Gaiman vibe to the novella that has me wanting more, much more.