Beneath the Sugar Sky, Seanan McGuire; Michelle Dockrey, narrator (Macmillan Audio 978-1427293794, $28.99, CD, 4.25 hr., unabridged [also available as a digital download]) January 2018.
One day, a young woman tumbles out of the sky, falling into the lake near Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children, a refuge for children who found portals to other worlds where they had fantastic adventures and then eventually (and usually unhappily) returned home. Rini is looking for her mother Sumi, the hero who defeated the Queen of Cakes and brought peace and freedom to a nonsense world crafted of sweets. Unfortunately, Sumi was murdered as a teenager in the first book in the series, Every Heart a Doorway, and didn’t survive long enough to have children. Fortunately, in a nonsense world, the impossible is never entirely out of reach, and with the help of other students at the school, Rini may yet be able to ensure her own existence.
Michelle Dockrey particularly shone when voicing Rini, whose need is crucial and whose culture shock is great, but who expresses both those issues as extreme petulance. I also really enjoyed the character of Cora, mocked for years for being overweight, but who discovered her bulk was an asset as a mermaid. As a larger person who adores swimming and the water, I found her instantly sympathetic.
McGuire keeps this series fresh by changing subgenre for every installment: The first novel was a murder mystery; the second gothic, and this one, obviously, is a quest fantasy. I’m not sure how much longer that will be sufficient, but I’ll likely be in for the next one as well.
This review and more like it in the July 2018 issue of Locus.
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