Rule 1: ask for nothing.
Rule 2: Names have power.
Rule 3: Always give fair value.
Title: In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
Publication date: January 8th, 2019
Length: 208 pages
Thank you to Tor Publishing and Raincoast Books for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for review!
This is the story of 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.
For anyone . . .
In An Absent Dream is the fourth book in the Wayward Children series, and though it wasn’t my absolute favourite (that is reserved for the second book), I still immensely enjoyed reading it.
I’m going to start with the things that I disliked, so that I can end this review on a positive note. There weren’t a lot of things that I didn’t like, though, because as I said, I did enjoy this edition to the series, and I liked it a lot more than the previous book, Beneath the Sugar Sky. I’ll have to admit, at first, I found that the jumping back and forth between the human world and the Goblin Market broke a lot of the tension-building for me, and would have preferred if we stayed in the Goblin Market the entire time, but I understand why it was that way. I also thought that there should have been a lot more relationship-building between Lundy and her family, particularly her sister, and I feel like that is more of a length issue than anything else–because these books are novella-length, it’s sometimes hard to hit every mark, and though we’re alluded to such a strengthening relationship, I would have liked to see more. Though some things missed the mark, I think that the plot and the idea of the story was generally concise and well-delivered.
There were far more things that I liked about this book, so now I’m going to get into those. The writing was gorgeous and lyrical, and Seanan has a way of making sure that she stays concise, which is sometimes hard to do in fiction writing, particularly when purple prose is involved. This book has a very classic fairytale feel to it, and I really enjoyed that aspect of it. I thought that the world-building and the storytelling was very reminiscent of darker such fairytales, like things from the Brother’s Grimm, and such, and I thought it added a more grown-up facet to this particular story. The Goblin Market was so fascinating, and I knew that I was going to love it–I’m often drawn to fantasies about goblins, as they tend to all feel very gothic and dark, and because The Labyrinth is my favourite movie, I was so excited to read it. The lore about fair value and names being important felt very classical in terms of goblin tales, but the way in which these things turn awry is where Seanan really shows her expert craftsmanship when it comes to world-building–the whole thing about turning into birds was something new that she added to this particular theme, and I loved it.
Katherine, known as Lundy in the Goblin World, was everything I was as a child–bookish, introverted, desperate for adventure, and it’s part of the reason that I was so enchanted by this story. Seanan has such a way of making sure that there are characters that a lot of her readers relate to, and though this book isn’t necessarily about anything in the real world, I found myself comparing the fair value concept to that of money in our real world, and how our class systems are very much so like the goblin market’s. Katherine’s thirst for knowledge and her moral compass made for such a rigid yet dynamic character, and the ending made her even more dynamic, in my mind.
Overall, I really enjoyed this installment. The characters were great and well-developed, and the world-building was solid and whimsical, with hidden fairytale-like elements that echo some of the greatest stories written. I gave this book four out of five stars.
Thank you so much for reading! What did you think of this novel, if you’ve read it? If you haven’t, I would highly recommend this series! It’s perfect for fantasy lovers.
Lots of love,