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 pretence of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.
Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire was published by Tor.com on June 13th 2017.
No trigger warnings.
It took me a while after finishing Every Heart a Doorway to finally pick up Down Among the Sticks and Bones, but I got around to it eventually. The first book on the Wayward Children series starts the main story arc, but this second one goes back and explores what happened to Jack and Jill. We got an insight into their past and the world they travelled to in Every Heart a Doorway but Down Among the Stocks and Bones expands on it.
“Every choice feeds every choice that comes after, whether we want those choices or not.”
Seanan McGuire starts the story before Jack and Jill’s births. Their parents want the perfect children to complete their perfect family, and having twins wasn’t part of their plan but as the girls grew older they saw that they could shape their daughters into whatever they wanted. Jack is chosen as the girly girl, only allowed to wear dresses and never allowed to get dirty, and Jill was chosen as the tomboy, with short hair and skinned knees.
The only loving parental influence Jack and Jill have is their grandmother. She loves Jack and Jill unconditionally, and sees what their parents choices for them start doing. She tries to encourage Jack and Jill to be themselves, whoever that may be, but all-to-soon the twins’ parents send her away. Being so young when their grandmother is sent away Jack and Jill don’t properly remember her, or the years she spend with them, and the girls are left with no one but each other.
“The trouble with denying children the freedom to be themselves—with forcing them into an idea of what they should be, not allowing them to choose their own paths—is that all too often, the one drawing the design knows nothing of the desires of their model.”
It’s only when they travel through their door and wander through the Moors, that they get to choose. Jack is the more responsible of the two, she heeds the warnings from the master’s servants and when offered her choice she chooses the doctor. Jill, more reckless and craving the pretty dresses she’s always seen her sister in, remains with the master.
Once again Jack and Jill are kept separated but this time by their own choices rather than their parents’. Jack has the freedom to wear what is practical instead of what is beautiful, and Jill is pampered as the master’s daughter. Jack works hard for the doctor and is respected by the village, and Jill wants for nothing and is feared as much as the master is. Despite how separated they are the twins have a strong relationship; Jack feels responsible for Jill, and Jill loves her sister but over time she becomes more and more possessive over Jack’s attentions.
“The Moors exist in eternal twilight, in the pause between the lightning strike and the resurrection. They are a place of endless scientific experimentation, of monstrous beauty, and of terrible consequences.”
The moors are a dark place – where after curfew dangerous creatures roam and where with the right science resurrection is possible – with strict rules to follow – rules that Jack is good about obeying whereas Jill is not – but for Jack and Jill they’re home. It was interesting finally seeing the world that shaped Jack and Jill, and what I loved about this book was that we finally got to explore one of the world the children had travelled to, which was something I missed in the first book.
“Someone with sharp enough eyes might see the instant where one wounded heart begins to rot while the other starts to heal.”
Down Among the Sticks and Bones delves deeper into how they choices they made, and how the choices other people made, shaped the paths Jack and Jill ended up walking. This book was beautifully written, with diverse representation and strong messages, and while this second book doesn’t further the main story arc started in the first (and continued in the third) I loved getting more insight into two characters who had such a big part in Every Heart a Doorway.
Have you read Down Among the Sticks and Bones, or is it still on your TBR list?
Did you enjoy getting more insight into Jack’s and Jill’s pasts, and seeing how the different choices made shaped the characters we were introduced to in Every Heart a Doorway? What did you think of the Moors as the first world we got to explore in this series?
Have you read any of Seanan McGuire’s other releases, which is your favourite?