If you’ve spent any time on this blog (and if you haven’t, go have a look around—I’ll be here when you get back) you know that Seanan McGuire is one of my favorite authors. She is amazingly prolific, with stand-alone novels and several on-going series, all of it of such high quality that it’s more than a little intimidating. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything I’ve read by her, but there’s a special place in my heart for her Wayward Children series, of which Where the Drowned Girls Go is the newest addition.
A novella like the others, Where the Drowned Girls Go is the seventh book in the series, and like the others, it is equal parts lyrical, whimsical, at times harrowing, emotionally devastating, and breathtakingly imaginative. The Wayward Children books are portal fantasies. They tell the collective stories of what happens to the children who find the doors they need—doors to other worlds where they have experiences that are fantastical or horrifying, where they become heroes or monsters—but then come back here, to their mundane lives and parents who don’t understand them.
The other books in the series take place either in other worlds or on the grounds of Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. This one is a little different, in that we are introduced to The Whitethorn Institute, a school whose mission to close all those doors, keep the children here and away from them, whether they want to be or not. Eleanor reluctantly agrees to allow Cora to transfer to the Whitethorn Institute because the Drowned Gods are calling to her from beyond their door, trying to drag her back. She thinks it’s her only option, but things go south quickly. Now she’s trapped.
McGuire has always written movingly about inclusivity, and that is certainly the case here, with a special emphasis on body positivity. Like all her characters, Cora is complex and fully realized, with a determination and bravery that is hard won and inspiring. Where the Drowned Girls Go, particular in the opening chapters, has an air of melancholy that makes it clear wayward children must make difficult decisions and live with the consequences. Whichever side of the door they may be one, whichever door they walk through, the lives of children are much more complicated, and sometimes heart-rending, than adults know.
Where the Drowned Girls Go released January 4, 2022, and is available for pre-order now.