Down Among The Sticks And Bones (book 2) by Seanan McGuire (book review).

August 14, 2017 | By | Reply More

‘Down Among The Sticks And Bones’ is book two of a series of companion novellas by Seanan McGuire, each of which follows a different character from the first book, ‘Every Heart A Doorway’. This particular book follows Jacqueline and Jillian and their dark, horroresque adventures.

Jacqueline and Jillian are the children that their parents always wanted but never really knew how to love and look after. They treated these two female twins as if they had one son and one daughter, squeezing the girls into templates that suited their parents.

Then, one day, the girls find an impossible staircase that starts in a box of dressing-up clothes left for them by their grandmother. Now everyone knows that staircases don’t start in a box but, when the life you’re living really makes you sick to your stomach, you don’t question, you just follow. It has to be better at the bottom of that staircase than it is where you are now, doesn’t it? Turns out that the answer is both yes and no for both the twins and their very different experiences in this new world.

I love this series of books and their representations of different sexual preferences and gender stereotype discussions. This book in particular looks at the roles that boys and girls play and how they fit in with gender stereotypes, etc. The mother and father in this book have very stereotypical views of what girls and boys should be like and they try to cookie-cutter their two girls into the role of son and daughter. Girls should be pretty, never get their hands dirty and never say what they really want to. Boys must be good little soldiers, they can play rough and speak their minds. There is the most beautiful lesbian love story in these pages, written so lightly that you hardly notice it, but it still touches your heart. In fact, it tore out my heart at a certain point.

McGuire also writes about mental health issues, such as Jacqueline’s obsession with having completely clean hands. She even goes to the lengths of wearing gloves while she touches people and those people have to have completely cleansed themselves prior to any kind of intimate situations. It really does make you understand how this mental health issue was created by Jacqueline’s parents, who told her repeatedly that good girls don’t play in the dirt, they stay spotless. It was an interesting angle to McGuire to put into the book, again there is just so much diversity and inclusivity in these books but done in a heavy-handed way.

McGuire’s writing style really is gorgeous. She manages to fit in so much detail in so few words that you feel you’re really in the world and can completely understand the motivation behind each character. The language evokes feelings of old fairytales especially as this book is so gothic and dark in feel. It really brings to mind the original fairytales where the prince and princess often get eaten rather than married. The way she writes about the rules that this world lives by feels like the old rules you hear about fairies, like never eat anything in fairyland or you will be stuck there and that fairies have to abide by a deal.

I’m not sure if all copies of this book have the line drawings or whether it was just this particular proof copy. If you’re missing them from your copy I suggest looking on-line to see if you’re able to see the images as they really are stunning. They fit so beautifully with the feel of the book which is so stark and barren. They help you to imagine what the world really looked like and the characters you’re reading about.

At the end of the book, I was thinking to myself which twin I would rather have been and which situation would have suited me better. In the end, I’m really not sure either would have suited me but, then again, we only get sent to the world that we need and I don’t think I would have been sent to the this world at all.

I don’t know how McGuire does it. She writes such a perfectly formed story in so few pages, you feel like you know these characters inside out. I will be reading every single one of the novellas in this series as soon as they’re published.

Sarah Bruch

August 2017

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(pub: TOR/Forge. 187 page hardback. Price: $17.99 (US), $24.99 (CAN), £13.99 (UK). ISBN: 0978-0-76539-203-9)

check out website: www.tor.com

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Category: Books, Fantasy, Horror

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