Book Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Wayward Children #1)

Book Cover - Every Heart a Doorway - Seanan McGuireThere is so much to say when it comes to Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire.

This delightfully weird novella has a colorful cast of characters that light up the pages, and give you a flicker of hope that maybe there’s a place in the many worlds for everyone.

Eleanor West runs a school that takes in the children that don’t belong to this world. These children have traveled through doorways into  worlds different from our own with directions such as Nonsense and Logic, Wickedness and Virtue.

The students at the school have parents who believe that their memories are nothing more than dreams, or delusions, brought on by kidnappings or time away. For many of them, Eleanor West’s school is their only hope, a place to find where they belong, and maybe get “home” once and for all.

Eleanor has just admitted a new student named Nancy into the school. Nancy has visited an underworld, where the Lord of the Dead was taken with her, and offered to let her come back if she was sure.  Nancy’s arrival at the school also coincides with a series of murders, and suspicion immediately falls on her. But, there may be something more sinister going on. Something that can threaten the school.

So, let me just say it very clearly: I love this novella.

From the first pages I loved the mystery behind Eleanor, and I loved the introduction of Nancy. I love the banter of some of the Nonsense students, and I love how it was contrasted with the kids who went to worlds that thrived on Logic. I love when Sumi is introduced, and the way these characters interact with each other.

One thing that I didn’t realize until after I thought about the book for a bit, was the surprising lack of technology. I have to wonder if that’s because of the worlds that these kids went to, or if it was just a stylistic choice. There’s no intrusion of technology, and I find that really refreshing, but it also makes me wonder how the school connects to the outside world.

Does Eleanor use a computer? Is there paperwork to be filed so that the school cane accredited? I have to ask these questions, but I am also finding that they don’t bother me as much, because the characters are so well put formed.

There is a bittersweet tone to this novella, mostly because you’re with a group of misfits, who are all hopeful that they can go back to a world that felt more like home. Each of these characters has a rate that made their world call to them. There’s an overwhelming feeling of both hope and hopelessness as they struggle with the fact that their doors might be closed permanently.

Seanan McGuire touches on so many things in Every Heart a Doorway. Through Nancy she touches on asexuality, and gender dysphoria disorder through Kade. There’s no question that the school hosts a diverse cast of characters, but my one complaint is that it isn’t long enough.

For all that McGuire discusses in this book there really isn’t ample exploration of some of the themes. I really wanted to hear more about Kade’s fairy world, and I wanted to learn more about Jack and Jill’s relationship. I would have loved to have seen Sumi and Nancy form a real friendship. Not to mention Christopher, whose world sounded so odd.

The other thing is that the relationship between the core characters seems to get stronger and then just never goes anywhere from there after the events of the book. While, I really hope that Every Heart a Doorway is just a gateway into a larger world that will explore all these universes, and that we will eventually get to see Christopher, Kade, Nancy and the other character’s stories. Plus, I want to know more about Eleanor herself. Her want to know her story, how her travels to her world progressed, and how they affected her as she aged.

I feel slightly empty after reading it. I put it down, and I thought to myself, “When are they going to adapt this world for TV? I feel like there is so much more here!”

I left this book having some of the most frustrating questions ever, but I think that is the sign of a good series opening! I am so happy that the second book is currently out because now I have to track down a copy and get reading. I just can’t leave this world alone.


Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire is available wherever books are sold. You can purchase a copy at Book Depository, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local independent bookseller.

You can also add the book to your Goodreads shelf


Published by Lauren Busser

Lauren Busser is a fiction writer and essayist. She is an associate editor at Tell-Tale TV, where she writes about all things tv. She has had fiction appear in five : 2 : one magazine’s #thesideshow and her nonfiction has appeared in Bitch Media and The Hartford Courant. You can find her talking about tv, film, and knitting on Twitter @LaurenBusser.

10 thoughts on “Book Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Wayward Children #1)

  1. Oh I love the sound of this! I find a lot of novellas frustrating for just the reasons you mention, but sounds like maybe such a charming world is worth the risk!


  2. I just finished the first book. Maybe someone can help me resolve a lingering question I have (if it’s not a spoiler that gets answered in later books, that is). I don’t understand the whole Kade backstory. His birth name was Katie. So, did his parents somehow think he was a girl even though he was a boy? As in, they wanted a little girl so badly that they made him pretend? Did he change from girl to boy when he went through his door? Or, is Kade biologically female (having female genitalia) but wants to live as a boy? Sorry, I genuinely don’t get it.


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