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Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire – a reverse portal-fantasy tale

18th November, 2016

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

What happens to children who tumble back into the real world from fairylands and wonder lands? Every Heart a Doorway is your regular portal-fantasy in reverse. Do these children want to go back? Where do they have a sense of belonging?

In Brief

There are portals lurking everywhere – a door, a cupboard, a well or maybe clothes. When Nancy visits the world of dead she feels completely safe. But when she comes back to the real world (her parents believe she was kidnapped), she feels she no longer fits in this world. In a desperate attempt to revive their child, her parents enrol her in Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children that specializes in such cases. Little do they know that they will not get her back – the school teaches such kids how to cope with their tragedy and live, not about forgetting their story that no one else in the real world believes.

The atmosphere of the school is a relief to Nancy and she grows friendly with all the other children. Until gruesome murders start happening in the otherwise peaceful school with Nancy’s roommate being the first victim. Nancy gets suspicious looks everywhere because the murders start after she is enrolled in the school and also because of the dreary nature of the world she visited, very different from the colourful fantastical worlds that a majority of the children were part of. Nancy along with a group of friends, tries find out the truth in order to prove her innocence.


The concept is similar to Miss. Peregrinne’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. There is a school for Wayward children. There are children who tumble back into the real world after a brief stint in another world. Once enrolled, the children have therapy sessions and exchanges with other similar children who have been in similar situations.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire


This is the first book that I have read where the protagonist is asexual. For those who are keen on representation, the book has a trans character in a prominent role. The sexuality is not unnecessarily emphasized but treated as something normal in the book.


The theme of the book is the tug of war between identity and societal norms. I found it interesting that even though these children are shunned by the real world for visiting other worlds, there are gangs within this small group depending on how ‘cool’ the worlds they visited are. The book spells out an important message of getting along with those who are different. Nancy and her roommate are polar opposites. Yet they get along pretty well.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

World Building

At the Wayward Home, Nancy learns that there are High Logic or High Nonsense, Wicked or Virtuous worlds. Each world is flexible and is made of the same basic ingredients (logic, nonsense etc) in different measures. Nancy had gone to the Underworld, or world of the dead. And does she want to go back? Yes, because the quietness and the gloom is where she felt completely at ease.

What really bothered me was how little world building was present in the novella. The worlds seem fantastic, – some worlds have rainbows on which you can run; some have mad scientific inventions taking place and some have dancing skeletons. These are mentioned, but not elaborately described.


The writing is atmospheric. I read more than half the book with a lump in my throat that seemed to be getting bigger and bigger as the more murders were thrown my way. The book definitely keeps you on your toes.

Final Verdict :

Every Heart a Doorway is a quick and easy read. It gives the message that sometimes you might be different, but if you learn to accept that fact, you can live a good life. The ending was abrupt and left me with questions even though the writing drew me in from the start. I would recommend the book for those who have read and loved Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, The Narnia Chronicles by C. S. Lewis and Miss. Peregrinne’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

Title : Every Heart a Doorway
Author : Seanan McGuire
Publisher :
Published : 2016
Language : English
Pages : 173
Rating : 3.5/5

Much thanks to the publisher for a copy of the book. All opinions are my own.

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Have you read any books by Seanan Mc Guire? Did you like Every Heart a Doorway?

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Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1)

About the Author

Seanan McGuire is an American writer. She is the author of the Toby Daye series (Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, An Artificial Night, Late Eclipses). Her other works include Feed and Deadline under the pen name Mira Grant. She specialises in YA, horror and science fiction

This Post Has 27 Comments
  1. What a fascinating concept!
    I must be honest, when I saw the name “Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children” I immediately thought of Miss Peregrine’s and it seems the books share some similarities, but this one seems to stand on its own merits either way.
    Glad to see that this book has asexual and trans representation. I still have not read a book with an asexual protagonist, so I will have to fix that soon. And it always warms my heart to see books treating sexuality as something normal, not a thing to highlight and focus intensely on. I do like those kinds of books, of course, the ones that are unapologetically Queer, but I like to balance that off with books that don’t prominently feature sexuality.

    1. Yes, even the name has similarities to Miss Pereginne’s book. I hope you will pick up the book some day (so many books for some day, right? :D). And yes, this an asexual protagonist is a first for me

  2. I was so curious about this one, I also thought it seemed similar to Miss Peregrine (haven’t read that one either xd)

    Great review!!!!!

    1. Thank you. 🙂 The idea of a school for children who are not ordinary is the same but there are differences in the concepts in both the books. Every Heart a Doorway was an interesting read.

  3. Omg I cannot wait to read this it SOUNDS COMPLETELY AMAZING. I’m always in love with magical books and the fact this is like a reverse-Alice-in-Wonderland type of thing happening just has me totally intrigued. Plus mostly all the reviews I’ve seen have adored it. Eeeep. It’s just a pity it’s so short right?!

    1. Oh yes! I think you will love the read. I really wanted the book to be longer. There was very little world building in the book, which is a shame because it has so much potential. Each sentence could have been expanded to a paragraph. 😀

  4. When I was a girl, I absolutely loved all the stories with portals in them (mirrors, stairways, elevators, whatever). And also stories about boarding schools (though I probably would have died if I’d been sent to one). This would have been right up my alley. And I might just have a look now, too!

    1. I was actually interested in another novel by K. R. Meera named Hangwoman. It was highly accaliamed in the literary circles. Meera is a prominent writer in my regional language and I wanted to read the original and translated versions and compare initially. That did not work out. So when an oppurtuniy to read her latest novel sprang up, I grabbed it

  5. I’ve had my eye on this book for a while but I’d completely forgotten the blurb and had no clue what it was really about. But omg I need this book like air now. I’m currently reading through Riggs’ books and loving them so if this has a similar feel to it then I’m sure to like it! I do adore this idea of a reverse portal though. Watch me put this straight on my list of things I really, really need to read asap!

    1. I hope you will enjoy the book after you pick it up. If you reading Riggs, now is the best time to read this one as well. It has a similar mood, but with a little more horror factor involved.

  6. I’ve been seeing this book around. Obviously that gorgeous cover caught my eye immediately! I just recently read both Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children AND The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and love them both! Sounds like this one would be right up my alley.

    “This is the first book that I have read where the protagonist is asexual. For those who are keen on representation, the book has a trans character in a prominent role. The sexuality is not unnecessarily emphasized but treated as something normal in the book.”

    Love this!

  7. So glad you liked this one! I absolutely ADORED it but I totally agree that it could have been longer. There was so much potential for world-building, and the little hints we got were so incredibly vivid. I definitely want another book.

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