A stand-alone fantasy tale from Seanan McGuire's Alex award-winning Wayward Children series, which began in the Alex, Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Award-winning, World Fantasy Award finalist, Tiptree Honor List Every Heart a Doorway
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.
The Wayward Children Series
Book 1: Every Heart a Doorway
Book 2: Down Among the Sticks and Bones
Book 3: Beneath the Sugar Sky
Book 4: In an Absent Dream
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
A VERY ORDINARY GARDEN
IN A HOUSE, on a street, in a town ordinary enough in every aspect to cross over its own roots and become remarkable, there lived a girl named Katherine Victoria Lundy. She had a brother, six years older and a little bit wild in the way of boys who could look over their shoulders and see the shadow of a war standing there, its jaws open and hungry. She had a sister, six years younger and a little bit shy in the way of children who had yet to decide whether they would be timid or brave, kind or cruel. She had two parents who loved her and a small ginger cat who purred when she stroked its back, and everything was lovely, and everything was terrible.
Like the town where she lived, where she had been born, and where she was beginning to feel, in a slow and abstract way, that she would someday die, Katherine — never Kate, never Kitty, never anything but Katherine, sensible Katherine, up-and-down Katherine, as dependable as a sundial whittling away the summer afternoons — was ordinary enough to have become remarkable entirely without noticing it. Had she been pressed on the matter she might, after protesting that there was nothing remarkable about her, have suggested her own sixth birthday as the moment of the twist.
We must go back a little beyond the beginning, then, to learn; to observe. What are we here for, after all, if not for that? So:
Little Katherine, her mother's belly round and ripe as a Halloween pumpkin, bulging with the impending harvest of her sister, sitting prim at the picnic table her parents have set up in the backyard. There is a cake, slightly lopsided, frosted in lemon buttercream that smells sweet and sour in the same breath, impossibly tempting and glittering with sugar crystals. There are gifts, a small pile of them, wrapped in brightly colored paper recycled from other birthdays, other holidays. There is her brother, twelve years old and eyeing the cake with a pirate's hunger, ready to pillage its depths the second he is given leave. There are so many things here, paper streamers and smiling parents and the distant scent of bonfires burning in the fields. There are so many things that it would be easy to miss what should be obvious: to miss what isn't here.
There are no other children. There is Katherine, and there is her brother, who has somehow already gotten frosting on the tip of his nose, and that is where it stops. As if to add insult to injury, the sound of laughter drifts over the fence from a neighbor's yard, where half a dozen children from Katherine's school have gathered to play. If not for the tempting lure of cake, her brother would already be out the gate and gone, off to join what sounds like a far better party.
Her father, who is principal of the local elementary school, scowls at the fence but says nothing. He believes there is no malice in the timing of this event, that Katherine, overcome by the shyness that sometimes consumes children her age, failed to hand out invitations. He has even seen a few of them, ripped in half and stuffed into the kitchen garbage, where a cascade of eggshells and coffee grounds was not quite enough to hide them. He thinks this has nothing to do with him, with the way he enforces discipline and guides his students with a heavy, steady hand. After all, Katherine's older brother had birthday parties, and they were well attended by his peers.
(The fact that he became principal two years ago, and that his son has not requested a party since, only the company of a few beloved chums and an afternoon at the movies or the carnival, does not occur to him.)
Her mother, who is so pregnant that her world has narrowed and widened at the same time, becoming a funhouse tunnel through which she must pass before she can be rewarded with a baby's cry and the sweet simplicity of raising an infant, an innocent babe who will not yet share the trials and tribulations of the older children, has a better idea of what her husband's job has meant for her daughter's friendships. She remembers sweetly smiling children with sticky fingers, trailing along in a pack, Katherine never at the head or the rear, but somewhere in the comfortable, unremarkable middle. She remembers when they stopped coming around.
(She remembers, but she has a house to keep and a baby to bear, and somehow calling their mothers and finding back alleys into camaraderie has never been enough of a priority to nudge her into action. There are only so many hours in the day.)
The year is 1962. Katherine is six years old, two years after the doorbell stopped ringing in her name, two years away from the door we have come to see swing open. There is a choice here, hanging like smoke in the autumn air. She can cry for the friends she doesn't have, mourn for the games she isn't playing, or she can let them go. She can be the kind of girl who doesn't need anyone else to keep her happy, the kind of girl who smiles at adults and keeps her own company. She can be content.
"Blow out the candles, Katherine," urges her father, and she does, and she's happy. She's happy.
There: that wasn't so difficult, and it mattered. Small things often do. A single pebble in the road can go unnoticed until it becomes stuck inside a horse's hoof, and then oh, the damage it can do. This was a pebble; this was where things began the slow, stony process of changing.
Katherine walked away from her sixth birthday party with a smile on her face and the scent of lemon frosting clinging to her fingers, the ghost of sugar once enjoyed. She understood now, that the other children weren't coming; that they would always be shadowy voices on the other side of a fence, refusing to let her through, refusing to let her in. She understood that she had, for whatever reason, been rejected from their society, and would not be readmitted unless something fundamental in the world chose to shift in its foundations, widening itself, rebirthing her into someone they could care for.
But she didn't want to be someone they could care for. She didn't want to be a Kate or a Kitty or even a Kat — all perfectly lovely, serviceable names, for perfectly lovely, serviceable people. People she already knew, at six years of age, that she didn't want to be. She was Katherine Lundy. Her family loved her as Katherine Lundy. If the children in the yard next door or on the playground couldn't find her worth loving the same way, she wasn't going to change for them.
If this seems unusually mature for a child of six, it is, and it is not. Children are capable of grasping complex ideas long before most people give them credit for, wrapping them in a soothing layer of nonsense and illogical logic. To be a child is to be a visitor from another world muddling your way through the strange rules of this one, where up is always up, even when it would make more sense for it to be down, or backward, or sideways. Yet children can see the functionality of grief or understand the complexities of a parent's love without hesitating. They find their way through. They deduce. Katherine had deduced, when the other children called her snobby or mean for not wanting them to cut her name short, when they had told her they couldn't play with her because her daddy was the boss of their teacher and she would be a snitch someday, wait and see, that they weren't going to change their minds about her.
Katherine was also, in many ways, a remarkable child. All children are: no two are sliced from the same clean cloth. It is simply that for some children, their remarkable attributes will take the form of being able to locate the nearest mud puddle without being directed toward it, even when there has been no rain for a month or more, or being able to scream in registers that cause the neighborhood bats to lose control of themselves and soar into kitchen windows. Katherine's remarkability took the form of a quiet self-assuredness, a conviction that as long as she followed the rules, she could find her way through any maze, pass cleanly through any storm.
She was not the type to seek adventure, no, but she was well-enough acquainted with the shapes it might take. Shortly after the birthday where she had blown out the candles and made her choices, she discovered the pure joy of reading for pleasure, and was rarely — if ever — seen without a book in her hand. Even in slumber, she was often to be found clutching a volume with one slender hand, her fingers wrapped tight around its spine, as if she feared to wake into a world where all books had been forgotten and removed, and this book might become the last she had to linger over.
In the way of bookish children, she carried her books into trees and along the banks of chuckling creeks, weaving her way along their slippery shores with the sort of grace that belongs only to bibliophiles protecting their treasures. Through the words on the page she followed Alice down rabbit holes and Dorothy into tornados, solved mysteries alongside Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, flew with Peter to Neverland, and made a wonderful journey to a Mushroom Planet. Her family was reasonably well-off, and there was no shortage of books, either through the shops or the library, which seemed to be entirely without limits.
Two years trickled by, one page at a time. Had she been someone else's daughter, she might have found herself the butt of cruel jokes played by her peers, called "suck-up" or even the newly coined and hence still-cruel "nerd." But her father was the principal, and the other children understood very well that the place for casual cruelty was outside his field of vision: the worst she was ever called where anyone might hear was "teacher's pet," which she took, not as an insult, but rather as a statement of fact. She was Katherine, she was the teacher's pet, and when she grew up, she was going to be a librarian, because she couldn't imagine knowing there was a job that was all about books and not wanting to do it.
No one ever asked if she was happy. It was evident enough that she was, that she had made her choices and set her courses even before she understood what they were, and if her mother sometimes wished that Katherine had more friends — or that she were more interested in babies than books, since it would have been nice to have some help around the house — she never said so. She loved the daughter she had, books and soft strangeness and rigid adherence to the rules and all. Katherine wasn't lonely. That was all that mattered.
(Her father, it may be noted, wished nothing for his daughter, because he saw nothing strange about the way she was shaping herself, inside the soft walls of her upbringing. Her brother was playing peewee baseball and trading cards; her younger sister was talking and walking and doing all the other things one expects from a toddler trending into childhood. Katherine was quiet and biddable and studious and modest. Katherine didn't run around with the wrong sort, tear her dresses or scuff her shoes. That this was because Katherine wasn't running around with any sort at all seemed to escape him, tucked away with all the other things he didn't want to think about. There were a surprising number of those. Like all adults, he had his secrets.)
At eight years old, Katherine Lundy already knew the shape of her entire life. Could have drawn it on a map if pressed: the long highways of education, the soft valleys of settling down. She assumed, in her practical way, that a husband would appear one day, summoned out of the ether like a necessary milestone, and she would work at the library while he worked someplace equally sensible, and they would have children of their own, because that was how the world was structured. Children begat adults begat children, now and forever, amen. She was in no hurry to reach those terrifying heights of adulthood; she assumed they would happen somewhere around the eighth grade, which was impossibly far away, and happened on the junior high school campus, where her father held no sway.
She wasn't sure exactly what one was supposed to do with a husband, but she was quite sure her father wouldn't want to be there when she did it, as he sometimes made dire comments about girls who played with boys while they were all at the dinner table, always followed by a smile and a comment of "But you would never do that, would you, Katherine?"
She had assured him over and over that she wouldn't, even though logic stated that one day she would, since boys became husbands and normal women had husbands and he wanted her to be a normal woman when she was all grown up. Parents lied to children when they thought it was necessary, or when they thought that it would somehow make things better. It only made sense that children should lie to parents in the same way.
This, then, was Katherine Victoria Lundy: pretty and patient and practical. Not lonely, because she had never really considered any way of being other than alone. Not gregarious, nor sullen, but somewhere in the middle, happy to speak when spoken to, happy also to carry on in silence, keeping her thoughts tucked quietly away. She was ordinary. She was remarkable.
Of such commonplace contradictions are weapons made. Katherine Lundy walked in the world. That was quite enough to set everything else into motion.CHAPTER 2
WHEN IS A DOOR NOT A DOOR?
THE SCHOOL BELL rang loud and lofty across the campus, and the doors of the classrooms slammed open in euphonious unison as children boiled forth, clutching their schoolbags and their report cards in their hands, racing for the exits like they feared summer would be canceled if they dawdled too long. The teachers, who would normally have been demanding that they slow down, no running in the halls, indulgently watched them go. Some of it may have been the memory of their own school days, their own golden afternoons when the summer stretched ahead of them in an eternity of opportunity; some of it may simply have been exhaustion. It had been a long school year. They looked forward to the break as much as the children did.
In some classrooms, however, the teachers were looking at the students who hadn't bolted for the door. The ones who couldn't, due to braces on their legs or canes in their hands, who took more time to make the same journeys; the ones who were packing up their desks with exquisite slowness, giving their personal demons time to make their way off campus and into the hazy light of summer. And, in Miss Hansard's second-grade classroom, the one who was still tucked in at her desk, peacefully reading.
"Katherine," said Miss Hansard.
Katherine ignored her. Not maliciously: Katherine frequently didn't hear her name the first time it was called, preferring to keep her nose in her book and continue whatever adventure she had decided was more interesting than the actual world around her.
Miss Hansard cleared her throat. "Katherine," she said again, more firmly. She didn't want to yell at the girl, Heaven knew; no one ever wanted to yell at the girl. If anything, she was grateful that Katherine was a pleasant, tractable bookworm, and not a hellion like her older brother. Teachers who found Daniel Lundy assigned to their classrooms frequently found themselves considering how nice it would be to retire early.
Katherine raised her head, blinking owlishly. "Yes, Miss Hansard?" she asked.
"The bell rang. You're free to go." When Katherine still didn't spring from her seat and race for the door, Miss Hansard clarified, "It's summer vacation. School is over for the year."
"Yes, Miss Hansard," said Katherine obediently. She bent her head back over her book.
Miss Hansard counted to ten before she said, somewhat annoyed, "I would like to lock my classroom and go home, Katherine. That means you have to leave." In all her years of teaching, she had encountered every manner of slothful student — the lazy, the confused, the fearful — but she had never before encountered a student who simply refused to go when the final bell rang.
"My father can lock up when he comes to collect me," said Katherine.
Miss Hansard paused. It was tempting to take the girl at her word — and since no one had ever caught Katherine in an actual lie, it would have been understandable for her to do so. Katherine didn't lie; her father was the principal; her father was coming to collect her. It was an easy chain. Unfortunately, there was a piece missing.
"Is your father expecting to come and collect you from my classroom?" asked Miss Hansard. "It would have been polite of him to inform me, if so."
"No, Miss Hansard," said Katherine regretfully. She hunched her shoulders, reading faster.
Miss Hansard sighed. "So you simply assumed he would see the light on and find you here, at which time he would lock up, and I would get a disciplinary note for leaving one of my students unattended."
Katherine said nothing.
"Up, please, Katherine. It's time for you to go."
Knowing when she was beaten, Katherine slouched to her feet, tucking her book into her bag, and started for the door. Miss Hansard sighed as she watched her go. Katherine really was an excellent student. A little reserved, and a little overly fond of looking for loopholes, but still, an excellent student.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "In An Absent Dream"
Copyright © 2018 Seanan McGuire.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part I: What We Would Reap,
1. A Very Ordinary Garden,
2. When Is a Door Not a Door?,
3. Rules Are Rules, No Exceptions, No Appeal,
4. Fair Value,
5. A Beginning Ends,
Part II: We First Must Sow,
6. Back Through the Impossible Door,
7. Fly Away, Fly Away Home,
8. By the Fire,
9. With Ribbons for Her Hair,
Part III: Where We Would Be,
10. In Which a Quest Begins and Ends,
11. In Air as Clear as Crystal,
12. On Wings So Wide,
Part IV: We First Must Go,
13. One More Door,
14. Promises and Paperwork,
15. Fair Value,
Also by Seanan McGuire,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
First, this is the fourth book in the Wayward Children series. I haven't read the others yet, though I've wanted to, and I definitely want to now. I didn't feel like I was missing big chunks of the story by jumping in here (though I'm sure some background events were missed), so if you read them out of order, I think you'll be okay. I won't try to describe the story- if you've come this far, you've read the description already. The writing is beautiful, the story is dark and fierce and scary at times, the way a fairy tale is meant to be. It is also filled with magic and friendship and youthful longing, wanting to belong, to be welcome in a place that understands you. The Goblin Market isn't all good; heartbreaking things can happen, but it has an order to it, a logic that Katherine finds irresistible. As her curfew (her 18th birthday, when she must decide whether to stay or leave forever) approaches, how will she choose which world to live in? This is a book that stays with you after finishing it. I find myself wondering what I would've done, given the opportunity. Part of me is relieved I never had that choice- either way, you'd be second guessing yourself for the rest of your life!- and part of me wishes I'd had the chance to walk through that door....
I’m a huge fan of the Wayward Children Series by Seanan McGuire. It’s a lovely series that centers on what happens to children when they return to the “real world” after they have spent some time in other realms. The books also discuss how these children cope with such transitions. In her series, McGuire does an excellent job of framing the novels with thoughtful commentary on our world and why the children choose, or fall into, these other realms in the first place. This is something I always enjoy in the books, and this one was no exception. This novel follows Katherine ‘Lundy’ (a character who appears in the first novel of the series) and how she comes upon the Goblin Market. It follows Lundy as she learns the magic and rules of the Goblin Market while also having the ability to return to our world as many times as she wants before her 18th birthday. This book reminded me a lot of the first book in the series Every Heart A Doorway which focused more attention on the main character’s dilemmas in our world after returning. So, if you enjoyed that one, I highly recommend picking this one up! I personally adored the second book in the series, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, which primarily took place in the fantasy world as opposed to “the real world.” It just had so much more magic! Luckily, it’s an anthology so, no reading order necessary! This fourth installment is fun, short and sweet and provides heartbreaking moments that will surprise you. It’s a joy to see Lundy slowly but surely learn to make tough and life-changing decisions as she continues to grow up split between two worlds. Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my opinions on the book.
Ahoy there me mateys! This be the fourth book in the series. While I try to post no spoilers, if ye haven’t read the previous three then ye might want to skip this post. If ye keep reading this log then ye have been forewarned and continue at yer own peril . . . I think this be me favourite. I know I say that with each respective book but seriously this series continues to grow and be wonderful. This book tells the story of Lundy in the Goblin Market. Ye originally meet Lundy in the first novella and I have always wanted to know the rest of her intriguing story. I was so excited to finally get those answers. What I loved about this installment was that it continued to reveal complexities in how the doors and worlds work. The Goblin Market was both enticing and scary. I loved all the complexities of fair value. The difference in this book is that ye can come and go multiple times between yer home world and yer door world. It led to some interesting twists. Also this be a prequel. Ye know the sad ending and yet I found meself weirdly hoping that somehow everything would work out for Lundy. I seriously forgot I already knew the ending and was raptly wondering how the story would turn out and marveling at the twists and turns. It be a darn good writer who can pull that off. No more details because of spoilers but this was beautiful and compelling and bittersweet. I will certainly be readin’ the next book when it comes out in 2020! Arrrr!
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.
Since I first read Rosemary & Rue a while ago, I’ve read pretty much everything Seanan McGuire has written. Of all of her books, the Wayward Children series will always hold a special place in my heart. These novellas tell the stories of the children who find doorways and how they’re changed by their adventures. These are not happy tales but they’re true in a way that only truly excellent fiction can be. So it is no small matter when I say that In An Absent Dream is my favorite book yet in this series. This is a story about the Goblin Market and a girl who must decide where she belongs. There are adventures, losses, victories, and decisions. This book examines the meaning of value and what it means to receive fair value for what you give. It’s about friendship and sisterhood and families. It’s also about mistakes and hard choices. Although whole novels could be written about events mentioned briefly (and I’d happily read every single one), this novella is complete and perfect just as it is. I absolutely loved In An Absent Dream and cannot wait for the next installment in this brilliant series. This is McGuire’s most powerful novel yet and I highly recommend every book in this series. *Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Since book one I have wanted to know more about Lundy, who is one of the few that have a physical appearance that has been permanently altered by her life in another world. She was such a quiet force in the few scenes she was in but she had a bit of a cloud of sadness about her, and it just felt like her story was one that needed telling. This dives right into Lundy's story, taking us back to the time when she first discovers her door to the Goblin Market and moves us all the way up to the point that she meets Eleanor. It covers a lot of time in such a short period, but never once did it feel rushed or bare bones. In fact, it was quite easy to picture the Goblin market with its bustling streets and unique array of characters. If I had to pick one world that we have been introduced to thus far to visit, it would be the Goblin Market. I loved Nancy's Halls of the Dead, with its quiet ambiance and stillness, but as much as I love silence I also love vibrancy. It's such a complex place with its seemingly jumbled group of people from a wide variety of places, cultures, and species but it has a structure to it and it seems so freeing. Everything banks on Fair Value, everyone knows what they want/need and the market makes sure it's never cheated or taken advantage of. I love how much character that McGuire provides to the worlds themselves, and how they move and shape themselves over time becoming something wholly other. Lundy's story is much like her in a way, a quiet force that has a bit of sadness running throughout. I loved getting to see a young Lundy work around Fair Value, trading and bartering for her and her friend, Moon. They have such a passionate friendship of intense highs and deep lows, that fit the vibrancy and sharp edge darkness in the story. I loved that this series focuses so much on relationships and how natural it can be, but also how strained they can become due to the odd circumstances of world jumping. Honestly, this series is probably my favorite take on portal fantasy in general. It deals with the fantastical and how returning to a normal life can be both welcome and jarring, but more importantly, it shows the dark side to walking away from one life into the next. It's an odd little collection of stories, so if you find yourself kind of meh on one I'd encourage you to give another one a shot. Books one and two are storyline based, but two and four are kind of their own little stories centering around characters you have meet in those two with some spoilers to the central story. I'd be hesitant to say read them out of order, but if you plan to then you can go forward knowing that info. I received this book from the publisher. I received no compensation, and all opinions are my own.
This book is beautiful and perfect and left me heartbroken. It's some of the best Seanan's ever written