Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children was an island of misfit toys, a place to put the unfinished stories and the broken wanderers who could butcher a deer and string a bow but no longer remembered what to do with indoor plumbing. It was also, more importantly, a holding pen for heroes. Whatever they might have become when they'd been cast out of their chosen homes, they'd been heroes once, each in their own ways. And they did not forget.
I wanted to do an Opening Lines post for this book, but I couldn't decide where to stop—maybe around page 6 (which is a little too long for that kind of post). Seriously, it took less than a page for me to fall in love with this book.
It's a typical day at Eleanor West's School for Wayward Children (assuming such a thing exists) when a door appears, but instead of someone getting to go to their "home," two figures emerge. One is a complete stranger, the other is Jack. Well, sort of. Close enough for our purposes here.
Things on the Moors have gotten to a crisis point where only one of the Wolcott twins can survive—Jack or Jill. Jill has struck first and things are dire. Jack recruits a couple of her friends and classmates to return with her (she was relatively certain she could return them to the school) to aid her in confronting her sister. They used to be heroes, they will be heroes again—as often as needed—much to Eleanor's chagrin.
Once in the Moors, a dark and nasty place to be sure, dangers that no one (save maybe Jack) could've predicted present themselves and threaten the lives of the students in horrible and chilling ways. Culminating in what appears to be a final encounter for the sisters.
I love the way that McGuire writes these books, and Come Tumbling Down is no exception. It is full of the typical whimsical, fantastic and nigh-poetic language and ideas. If you've read a Wayward Children book before, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't . . . it's hard to tell you. Here's a sample or two:
"This is terrible . . . I mean we knew it was going to be trouble . . . but this is bonus terrible. This is the awful sprinkles on the sundae of doom."
"A little knowledge never hurt anybody," said Sumi.
"Perhaps not. But a great deal of knowledge can do a great deal of harm, and I'm long past the point of having only a little knowledge."
Sumi was Sumi. Spending time with her was like trying to form a close personal relationship with a cloud of butterflies. Pretty—dazzling, even—but not exactly companionable. And some of the butterflies had knives, and that was where the metaphor collapsed.
Jill had always been the more dangerous, less predictable Wolcott, for all that she was the one who dressed in pastel colors and lace and sometimes remembered that people like it when you smiled. Something about the way she'd wrapped her horror move heart in ribbons and bows had reminded him of a corpse that hadn't been properly embalmed like she was pretty on the outside and rotten on the inside. Terrifying and subtly wrong.
"wrapped her horror movie heart in ribbons and bows" is pretty much worth the purchase price of the book.
I'm glad that I enjoy—relish, really—the language like I do, because there's not a lot of plot or action here. There's enough, but there's an awful lot of talk both around and before the action really gets underway. That's not a wholly bad thing, and I enjoyed all of it, it just seemed self-indulgent.
It felt to me that McGuire's reached the point of diminishing returns with this one, it's been one too many trips to the Moors and it's time for other Wayward Children to get the focus. Thankfully, that seems to be the plan.
I don't think this would be a great introduction to this series (but it would function okay that way) if you're not going to read them all in order, I feel safe in saying that it needs to be read after Down Among the Sticks and Bones. This is a good way to return to the world and revisit some of these characters. I can't wait to see what happens in the next volume.