Thursday, February 6, 2020

Review: In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

Book: In an Absent Dream
Author: Seanan McGuire
Series: Wayward Children #4
Publication: January 8, 2018

This fourth entry and prequel tells the story of Lundy, a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she's found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.

Seanan McGuire's lyrical and poetic writing has done it again! Yet another absolutely lovey and gorgeous tale of children finding doors to other world, their adventures there, and then one way or another ending up back here not by choice...

If anyone has read the first book of the series, Every Heart a Doorway, then you'll already know what becomes of Lundy at Miss Eleanor's. But this is a the story of Lundy, of how she found her door before she ever stepped foot at Eleanor's.

The world we get to travel to alongside Lundy is the Goblin Market, or just the Market (it's not actually a Goblin Market, unfortunately). Though I personally would not have survived very well in the Market, I absolutely loved the world itself. Everything is about fair value, debt, and trade, with the Market itself acting as a form of divine overseer. What made this world so interesting was that it was the first in the series to bring along a set of highly logical ethics. Though it isn't dwelled on too much, there are moments when the book itself poses some very thought-provoking questions: if someone has one ribbon and another has a hundred, how it is fair to ask them both to pay one ribbon to get the exact same pie in return? And thus the notion of fair value, where "fair" is measured through personal value. And if you try to swindle someone, the Market will get you back. See? It's just so interesting!

Of all the previous books so far, we really got to see what comes of children who straddle the line between this world and their other world. In particular, Lundy had attachments to both worlds, and there was a lot of moral dilemma that happened. This is the first where the main character was never fully convinced of whether to stay or not, whether their family ties were worth severing for freedom. Then again, this is also the first book where the main character is presented as having very normal parents, with nothing absolutely remarkable in their lives or cruelty shown. It was also the first time the book dabbled in the concept of visiting worlds as hereditary, which I found too very fascinating.

Lundy herself was an interesting character. She made some choices I didn't quite understand fully, but at the same time, she was smart and clever. She was, essentially, placed into a time where the world simply didn't quite respect her for brilliance and instead expected her to become a lady in order to become a proper wife. The Market freed her of any social expectations, where all that mattered was her ability to determine and give fair value. I can definitely see the appeal!

Overall, another wonderful telling of world told in a beautiful and whimsical way. I'm really looking forward to the next one!

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