Review: Every Heart a Doorway – Seanan McGuire

Every Heart A Doorway
Book cover: an open door in the forest

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

Every Heart A Doorway is one of the most talked about books that has asexual representation, so I decided to give it a try. I didn’t read the blurb before reading it, so I had no idea what the story would be like.  I just knew that it was a fantasy novella.

It’s #ownvoices for asexual rep.

Well, I’m not sure how to review this book because I was very confused while reading it and I still am.

The worldbuilding didn’t really exist. There are small snippets of worldbuilding but we don’t find out much about the magical lands that the various children have visited. Let me explain it like this: the most we find out about most of the characters are the land that they have visited and where it is on the compass (e.g. nonsense, logic, reason, rhyme, etc.) but we don’t find out if the land was a good place or an evil place. We don’t really find out why each child was drawn to that land – we do get told that the child themselves must also have the same compass qualities in themselves. However, what does that mean? Do these qualities influence a child’s personality? We also don’t find out what the majority of the characters did in those lands?

I’ll start by saying that the story has several characters that are marginalised. Namely, a transgender boy, a Japanese-American girl and an asexual girl. The asexual character has gone to a land that is connected to death, which is what many people associate asexual people with. Now, due to not finding out if this land was ultimately good or bad, I just couldn’t judge the representation. Does it provide a new interpretation of the trope that all asexuals are dead and cold or is it just the same old trope?

This book is yet another case where I feel like it should have been longer. It was way too short. The premise is fascinating and the different magical lands sounded so interesting at the beginning of the book. I also thought the idea of a serial murder mystery fantasy novel was pretty cool. However, the excecution was not to my liking at all.

I am really still very confused about this book and didn’t enjoy it.

Trigger warnings: transantagonism, serial murder, removing eyes.

2 stars

Have you read Every Heart a Doorway? How did you like the book?

19 thoughts on “Review: Every Heart a Doorway – Seanan McGuire

  1. It’s been a while since I’ve read this one, but I honestly can’t think of anything that would say that the death-ace breaks stereotypes. I hadn’t thought of that when I read it, but now that you mentioned it, I am fairly disappointed that I hadn’t seen it. Seanan McGuire/Mira Grant has been full of disappointments, in my opinion. She also wrote “Into the Drowning Deep” and I was so disappointed with that one. I will probably be lowering my rating of this one, thanks to your review.


      1. I know that McGuire is writing more novellas about each separate world, but I’m not sure if she has gotten to the death world yet. I believe that I tried to read DOWN AMONG THE STICKS AND BONES and couldn’t get into it. The beginning followed two random, perfect adults and it was a little annoying because nothing was happening. Maybe later in the series, she will go back to the death world?


      2. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I don’t know if you plan on reading the rest of the series (two are out, one is upcoming, and a fourth was just announced) but I personally won’t. I have a bad habit of researching books whether or whether not I plan to read them…


  2. Great review. Do you think you’ll read anything else in the series because while I did enjoy the book at first, I didn’t find the world to be that interesting that I’d go back and visit it. Also, I didn’t care for Jack and Jill and the whole “we were raised either be smart or a princess and we swapped.” I don’t know. I wanted more from the characters, which is something I realize way after reading. (Reviews, like yours, helped me better understand the book.)


    1. I like my fantasy books to have a lot more worldbuilding, and I think it’s something that they should have. I want to understand the world. So with that in mind, I’ll have to say that it just isn’t my type of fantasy writing, and I wouldn’t read the sequel.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A shame you didn’t like it – I loved this one. But then, I think it was my shade of gothic, y’know?

    I didn’t think this one was #OwnVoices – but if it is, it is!

    I quite like the ace rep (bearing in mind I’m only ace or a-spec sometimes, so this is like a *partial* #OwnVoices standpoint,) it was done in a fairly casual way, which I love – and I thought the whole thing of not fitting in to the boxes the ‘real’ world expects you to was 6000% spot on from a Queer standpoint! And the whole ‘family wants you to be their *idea* of you’ thing that fed into that! 🙂

    Again, a shame you couldn’t get on with it, but sometimes you just don’t ‘click’ with a book! No worries 🙂


    1. I absolutely get what you mean. There’ve been several reviews/essays done about ace rep in this book, if you’re interested I can send you links.

      For me, it just didn’t work with the world building either.

      The author IDs as demisexual, so that is ace-spec.


      1. Oh right – I didn’t know she ID’s as demi! 🙂
        And yeah, I’d love to check out the links!!! *nerdiness intensifies* 🙂


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