Every year I look forward to a new Wayward Children book. This year, a blessing was that I was able to read 2021’s Across the Green Grass Fields early and when I tell you I was excited, that is underselling my reaction to the news that I could do so by a lot.
The hope, the magic, the adventure, the underlying darkness that each volume reveals is an experience that makes January a thing to look forward to because we don’t know what the volume will contain exactly, but these volumes act as a sort of portal themselves out of our own world in a time when that kind of magic is in short supply.
Whether is it a return to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children or to one of the portal worlds themselves, it is like we the readers are returning home to McGuire’s world and what a blessing that is.
Published: 12 January 2021
Age Group: Crossover (Adult/YA)
A young girl discovers a portal to a land filled with centaurs and unicorns in Seanan McGuire’s Across the Green Grass Fields, a standalone tale in the Hugo and Nebula Award-wining Wayward Children series.
“Welcome to the Hooflands. We’re happy to have you, even if you being here means something’s coming.”
Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late.
When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to “Be Sure” before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines―a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes.
But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem…
Rep: Intersex MC
Bullying, manipulation, gender based cruelty/abuse
The Hooflands felt like Seanan embracing her love of all things Pony. From the centaurs that Regan encounters and becomes familiar with to the unicorns she cares for and more, there are various equines that the reader encounters and learns so much about. It was interesting to see interpretations of them that, for me, were different than previous encounters, such as the unicorns being herd animals and not particularly intelligent.
Across the Green Grass Fields looks at the inner workings of childhood, of friendships and what happens when those fall apart, when the power of a child is wielded ill. How these parents seem to forget the terrifying existence of seven to ten year olds and how their own society is built on a precarious set of rules that can tumble at a moments notice, sending the offender into oblivion. What would a child do to prevent that from happening?
There’s a quote that frightened me because it hit so close to home as a person AFAB, it rang particularly true:
They thought children, especially girl children, were all sugar and lace, and that when those children fought, they would do so cleanly and in the open, where adult observers could intervene. It was like they’d drawn a veil of fellow-feeling and good intentions over their own childhoods as soon as they crossed the magic line into adulthood, and left all the strange feuds, unexpected betrayals, and arbitrary shunnings behind them.
Regan’s experience as young person learning she is intersex felt important. Her parents’ decisions regarding the situation, her learning of this information and dealing with it in both our world and the world of the Hooflands. It’s a cross-world situation that effects Regan and doesn’t evaporate because she goes through the doorway and I appreciated that.
There’s also an important focus on the prism of perspective. Whether it was the centaurs or the kelpies or one of the other parties that becomes involved in the narrative, there are so many ways that the events of the story or the history of the Hooflands that prove that there is no one right way for things to be or told.
By and large there wasn’t much that I disliked about this book except for the fact that I couldn’t place this book in relation to the rest of the novellas. I don’t know if this was deliberate or not. It felt relatively modern, so I’m assuming time wise it’s about the same “time” as the Nancy/Cora books (1 & 3) but it wasn’t clear.
I was also sad that this book broke the pattern that had been established up until now of odd books being school books and even books being quest books. It wasn’t a flaw of the book, so it didn’t effect the rating, it just made me a bit sad that we didn’t end up seeing Regan end up at meeting Eleanor or any of the previous Wayward Children. I do hope she’ll return in future books; who knows?
Loving horses didn’t make her strange, and strange was something to be feared and avoided above all else in the vicious political landscape of the playground, where the slightest sign of aberration or strangeness was enough to bring about instant ostracization.
Maybe she would have realized staying quiet wasn’t the same thing as lying, and that while her body wasn’t any sort of shameful secret, she was under no obligation to share it with anyone, especially not with a girl who had proven, over and over again, that she couldn’t be trusted with anything that didn’t fit her narrow view of the world.
The twigs above it almost seemed to form words; she realized, with a start, that she could read them. “Be Sure,” they said, in spindly, organic lettering.
This was all strange and impossible and maybe not even happening, but horses were horses, and as long as there were horses, things would turn out all right in the end.
Manure was manure, even when it came out of a unicorn.
Let them learn that destiny’s a lie, and let them find the way to govern themselves, as they should have done from the beginning. Let them learn humans are people, the way you never learned that they were,”
Maybe this was how things had been since the beginning, with people falling through doors and believing they knew better than the people who were already there, all because they thought humans were the best possible thing to be.
Regan and the Hooflands are a welcome addition to pantheon of Wayward Children stories. Her story as it becomes a part of that world, as they circle back and come to our world, is a journey the reader will find both beautiful and heartrending.
Seanan is the author of the October Daye urban fantasies, the InCryptid urban fantasies, and several other works both stand-alone and in trilogies or duologies. In case that wasn’t enough, she also writes under the pseudonym “Mira Grant.” For details on her work as Mira, check out MiraGrant.com.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Quotes included are from an advanced reader copy and may not reflect the finalized copy.