Review: In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children, #4)In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This fourth entry and prequel tells the story of Lundy, a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.

Of all the sequels to Every Heart a Doorway, this one may be the best sequel, which recaptures the magic of the series; this is odd because this one is mid-20th century, and a backstory novel instead of a contemporary one. (While I did love book #2 and #3, they were vastly different in tone, so I didn’t get the same ‘vibe’ from them?) It wonderfully encapsulates the particular loneliness of being in a place you can’t call home, but also tied to it in a way that makes you feel guilty about leaving it. Lundy’s story is as much about her finally finding a place to call her own as it is a cautionary tale about wanting more than you need.

Lundy, being born at a time where women were still being forced into a particular version of femininity, spends her formative years in the Goblin Market, learning the rules of a High-Logic world (I had forgotten about the High-Wicked part) while also having her first close friendship with Moon, a citizen of the place. Being a stickler for rules, she fits right in there, and finds comfort in the ordered life of a world where everything is based on fairness, and that determines her attitude to most situations. As she grows up and keeps returning to her home, she is also being torn by the responsibility she feels towards her family, and the guilt over causing them pain by leaving to go to a place where she feels happy is tearing at her soul. Her mentor, and maternal figure, the Archivist, tries to guide her more self-sacrificing tendencies towards a sense of fairness, but circumstances, as well as personal losses make her hesitate and want to hold on to everything that she can.

In this novel, particularly, McGuire builds the world so detailed, and with so much love that you can feel Lundy’s emotional turmoil at every turning point in her life. I particularly identified with so much of her struggle, especially towards the end. Even knowing how it all ended (as told in book 1), keeping the story of the character such a interesting mystery for a reader – that was a neat bit of writing. Additionally, I loved the exploration of a selfless friendship in a world where each interaction with another person is guided by what is essentially an equivalent exchange principle. Lundy’s and Moon’s friendship, while occurring mostly in between the lines (until I reached the ending, I found this to be lacking), was explored in the way that said a lot about Lundy’s character development and her later choices.

Finally, I would recommend reading this in audio if possible. Hopkins does an amazing job with a (mostly) child protagonist, and wonderfully voices the other characters as well. Vocalization for emotional scenes was on point, and really gave it that effect that pushed this book into the ‘amazing’ zone.

Previous books in the Wayward Children series

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1) Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2) Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children, #3)

View all my reviews

Buy links

Amazon | The Book Depository | Wordery

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