This is new series in which I analyse Seanan McGuire’s novella Every Heart A Doorway, chapter by chapter. Every Heart a Doorway is a story about a boarding school for children who have come back from the fantastical journeys to other worlds. Whether it be the Halls of the Dead, a world of insects, or the setting for every gothic horror ever, each child had found a world where they felt at home, and now have to deal with the fact they aren’t there anymore. (Also, they have to deal with the fact that they’ve had experiences most people wouldn’t believe.) Also, there’s a murder mystery.

I really enjoyed this book. However the ending was unexpected and left me out of sorts for a while, before I started to piece together some of the themes of the book and how it might still work. So this is partly an attempt to come to terms with the ending, and partly an investigation as to what works in this book.

I’m hoping to cover the following topics with my reviews:

  • Themes
  • Characterisation
  • Point of View
  • Mystery and plot

Also, big giant fat spoiler warning. If you haven’t read the book, please read the entire thing before reading any of my future posts on this. I’ll be including all book knowledge.

Without any further ado, here’s what I think of the Prologue:

Prologue: There Was a Little Girl
Ah, prologues. That supposedly unnecessary chapter that occurs before the book starts properly. Why have one? In this case, the very short prologue is meant to whet the appetite of the reader. We aren’t given any context, and in fact we are given very little information. A first-time reader would figure out that Eleanor West runs a boarding school, and does so by lying to the child’s parents, and that she feels this is in the children’s best interests. Who knows if this is a good thing or a bad thing?

One thing a prologue is good for is signalling that the POV is not necessarily that of the protagonist. In this case, the POV is Eleanor West, the person who runs to the school, and so is better placed to give some background information on the setting.

There are also a couple of hints as to the two main themes I see running through the story, which are best demonstrated through a couple of quotes:

“It would have been too hard on the prospective students to sit there and listen as the people they loved most in all the world—all this world, at least—dismissed their memories as delusions, their experiences as fantasy, their lives as some intractable illness.”

This ties into a theme I want to call “Your Life is Your Story.” I might change that as I go. But we’re about to be plunged into a world where everyone has had their story, their lived experience, denied in some way. The harm that is done by denying somebody their story, either by cutting it short, or by twisting it into a narrative that does fit, is going to be made clear. And the importance of clinging to your story despite what people tell you what your story is, that is going to be made clear as well.

“Even if they would never have the opportunity to go back home, they would have someone who understood, and the company of their peers, which was a treasure beyond reckoning.”

This is the second theme we’re going to keep an eye on, which I’m going to call “We’re All In This Together.” There’s plenty of emphasis on the value of having people around you who understand you and accept you, and the things that can be accomplished if you bond. We’re going to keep track of that as well.