Review: In an Absent Dream

In an Absent Dream In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 Stars, bumped to 5 stars because I just can't get the image of Moon out of my head.

"Their offers should not charm us,
Their evil gifts would harm us.”*

Lundy was a memorable character from the first Wayward Children book, Every Heart a Doorway, because she was a child of a High Logic, High Wicked world who was aging in reverse. For every month that passes, she grows a week younger. In an Absent Dream gives us the story of Katherine Lundy's time in a Goblin Market world in which "fair value" is everything. But what is fair to you, or me, or Lundy? Assume nothing, dear reader.

Lundy (because you shouldn't use your real first name in a Goblin Market) first finds the door marked "Be Sure" at age eight and over the course of just under a decade visits the Goblin Market multiple times. She finds out it's a hereditary door. She meets the sister of her heart, Moon, a girl who occasionally, due to Market debts, transitions into a bird-girl hybrid, sliding along a spectrum of mostly girl to mostly bird depending on how much debt she holds. In time, Lundy is no stranger to feathers herself and her father, who also visited the Market but who holds it in far less affection, is horrified when she comes home with feathers on her head and neck. As in the stories of Jack and Jill in the first two Wayward Children books, sisters play an important role in Lundy's story, too. In a portal world where the curfew is at age eighteen, Lundy has hard choices to make between the sister-love of her heart, Moon, and the sister of her family, Diana. In an Absent Dream reiterates the idea of the sacrifices one sister will make for another. As readers of Every Heart a Doorway know, her choices cost Lundy dearly.

"Lizzie with an open heart,  
Laura in an absent dream 
One content, one sick in part;  
One warbling for the mere bright day’s delight,  
One longing for the night."* 

While I never particularly enjoyed Lundy in the first Wayward Children book, I do have to say that her character, and the reverse aging process she endured, fascinated me. What world would do this to a child and why? Reading of her time in the Goblin Market, and her struggles between family and "home," made me feel far more for her character. Her life was in many respects a tragic one.

I still struggle with the fact that so many of these portal worlds are places I would never want to visit, let alone live in forever. The Goblin Market, just like the market of Rossetti fame, is a treacherous place, full of wild freedoms and insidious debts. Moon, Lundy's beloved friend, is simultaneously fascinating and memorable, and yet a character that left me coolly unengaged. I felt I read of Lundy's friendship with her but didn't feel it as much as I think I should, even though there were poignant aspects of their friendship. (In contrast, Katherine's relationship with her sister Diana felt warmer in tone?) Perhaps it had to do with being told about their adventures (like their slaying the wicked Wasp Queen who killed Mockery) instead of reading about them on the page. This is the first in this series where I felt like I wanted a longer book than a novella. Perhaps too, the aspect of trade and fair value undermined my perceptions of their friendship because in a Goblin Market, unconditional love seems like it would be impossible to achieve. (One could argue it is, in our world, as well.)

My mental image of Moon ~ Title Unknown, by Benita Winckler

Be sure to look for my Buddy Read discussion with Alex and Janelle early next week on the blog!

*Quotes from The Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti

I received a Digital Review Copy, along with a paper review copy from in exchange for an honest review.

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