Come Tumbling Down, Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing 978-0-7653-9931-1, $19.99, 208pp, hc) January 2020.
Seanan McGuire continues her beautifully dark Wayward Children series with this fifth installment, Come Tumbling Down. Picking up story threads from Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones, McGuire brings the saga of Jack and Jill to a final, gut-wrenching end, while also adding another evocative chapter to the ongoing drama of Christopher, Jack’s soulful classmate and friend. Come Tumbling Down is almost entirely a questing novel, something the students are forbidden to do, and involves death, resurrection, and a host of tested friendships. It is most definitely a story only McGuire could create, further evidence of the fantastical literary alchemy that this author draws upon with awesome regularity.
Come Tumbling Down opens with the sudden (and somewhat terrifying) appearance of a new door, always cause for excitement at the School for Wayward Children. This is quickly followed by the apparent arrival of former student Jill in the protective arms of an unknown young woman, and that is deeply strange for a whole host of reasons that readers of the previous books will understand. Christopher soon cues into the fact that it is actually Jack who has returned, but something terrible has happened, and if it cannot be undone then she will die. So something must be done, but in the manner of all heroic quests, that something is going to hurt; it’s going to hurt a lot.
A quest to the Moors, Jack’s home, must be immediately undertaken. To accompany Jack and her girlfriend, Alexis, are Christopher, true blue friend; Kade, the voice of reason; Sumi, who has already died once; and Cora, the mermaid girl who hears the call of adventure. The Moors are dangerous, everyone knows they are dangerous, but Jack loves her home and she loves Alexis, who must live in the Moors to survive. What no one expects is that Cora will hear the draw of a new ocean and Kade will be heroic, and vampires might be too tough to beat and Jill… well, they all know what Jill means, so at least she is no surprise to anyone. But the rest, the rest will keep readers on the edge of their seats as the pages fly by.
This all makes Come Tumbling Down sound like a thriller, which I suppose it is on some level, but McGuire’s brand of weird and wonderful gifts readers with the sort of dramatic punch that does much more than propel a plot. The author creates monsters with ease – no one will challenge that assertion – but her monsters are complex and compelling and even heroic. They demand not just recognition of their alluring strangeness but open admiration and love for it. And, as she has consistently proven in the Wayward Children series, readers have been waiting for this kind of depth to the monstrous for a very long time. Her words are darkly gorgeous and her characters incredibly appealing. Come Tumbling Down is more proof of the charismatic power Seanan McGuire has long exhibited in the fantasy field; simply put, no one does it better.
Colleen Mondor, Contributing Editor, is a writer, historian, and reviewer who co-owns an aircraft leasing company with her husband. She is the author of “The Map of My Dead Pilots: The Dangerous Game of Flying in Alaska” and reviews regularly for the ALA’s Booklist. Currently at work on a book about the 1932 Mt. McKinley Cosmic Ray Expedition, she and her family reside in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. More info can be found on her website: www.colleenmondor.com.
This review and more like it in the March 2020 issue of Locus.
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