I first stumbled across Seanan McGuire on Tumblr (don't ask for my username) and I always said that I'd like to get into their books. So when a newsletter hit my inbox letting me know Seanan had a release this month, I eagerly snapped BENEATH THE SUGAR SKY up. Especially with that cover, which is hardcore my aesthetic.
Beneath The Sugar Sky is part of the ongoing Wayward Children series, which explores what happens in the aftermath of great adventures: when children travel to faraway fantasy worlds, become heroes or find the homes they've always longed for, and then find themselves back on Earth.
It combines the whimsy of such works as Dr Suess and Lewis Carrol with a perfect allegory for the loss of home, of childhood, and the wistful nostalgia for a purpose. These are refugees in waiting, passing the time at Eleanor West's School for Wayward Children and looking for a way home.
This instalment follows new arrival Cora after a girl falls out of the sky and into the turtle pond at the School for Wayward Children. The ensuing adventure takes them to death's door and back, while exploring logical Nonsense and nonsensical Logic as they race to save the sugary world of Confection.
This world is elegantly stitched together of many parts. I loved the way the rules made sense without needing too much explanation or analysis. I was never left feeling like things didn't make sense.
The story is very neatly tied up by the end of the book, but there's still plenty of potential for the story to continue. In fact, I'll probably now be going back and reading through the rest of the series. It holds up as a standalone story, so no worries if this is your first foray into the series.
The similes and metaphors can seem overwrought at times, though I understand where the author is coming from. Fantastic dreamlands live on purple prose, but it must be clever and not overdone.
While we're very hyperaware of ourselves, I felt there were too many reminders that Cora was fat. Especially when we don't have the same constant reminders about the rest of the cast's diverse characteristics.
In some places, the prose read as rambling and aimless. I'm guilty of the same, but I like to think that revisions would tighten up the story.
Definitely worth a read. It features a diverse cast, good pacing, and a nice mix of action and character interaction. All of the flaws that I personally perceived are forgivable in the face of a good story.