In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire (Wayward Children #4)
Publisher: Tor.com (Tor Books)
Release Date: January 8, 2019
Available Through The Book Depository: In An Absent Dream
Cover Design: Robert Hunt
Summary: 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.
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: In An Absent Dream is a cozy and haunting sort of read that introduces you to a world based on an fairness, logic, and entrenched in a young girl’s journey to find home! McGuire’s fourth installment in the Wayward Children’s Series layers important themes of friendship, the impact of choice, and the worlds we choose to root ourselves in!
I’d taken a break from this series after Beneath The Sugar Sky, but I knew I’d always find a way back to it. Then, having noticed I’ve only read ONE book this month, I decided a novella was exactly what I needed! After not being able to put this book down for the past 24 hours, I can honestly say that In An Absent Dream is my favorite book in this series!
This novella delves deep into the past of Lundy, beloved therapist in Eleanor’s Home For Wayward Children. When I first read Every Heart a Doorway, I felt there was so much left to learn about her and while I had little connection to her character, Absent Dream changed that!
Set in 1964, we follow Katherine Lundy, a logical and brilliant girl who longs for more. Friendship, above all, that connection to those she can relate to and who can truly see her. She’s always been proper, an avid reader, more clever and perceptive than those her age.
However, she soon finds a door that leads her to place where she quickly feels right at home. A place founded on fairness, barters, and promises that are destined to be kept.
She makes new friends (who are very much like family) Moon (a bird-like girl) and Archivist, who teach her the ways of the puzzling Goblin Market. To me, I found this book to be above all, about loneliness and the bond one creates through friendship. Lundy has never had an real friends, but when she’s introduced to the peculiar Moon, she knows she’s found a friend she can rely on.
One trip after another, however, she quickly learns that our world no longer feels like hers. Each return leads to situations she believes are well within her control, always finding her way back through the door.
Part coming-of-age and part portal fantasy, Lundy’s adventures back and forth to the Goblin Market change her at each turn, in ways she doesn’t even realize until we reach that final page.
As established in the Goblin Market, the concept of fairness was beautifully crafted and made into such a vital piece of the novel, and like Lundy, you can’t help but keep that concept in the back of your mind with every turn of the page! It still shocks you because you know the laws and how they work, yet as values build Lundy’s approach to them change as she grows. Her way of thinking alters to where she sees that rules and collecting costs weren’t always so simple as they had once been.
This is also a novel about growing up, seeing the world not as you did when you were young, but seeing how it changes and evolves the more that time passes.
I know I’ve probably said it multiple times already, but its true: Lundy is my favorite character now! This novel gave us such an introspective look into her childhood and the years that follow. We understand her drive, her ambition, the distinct way she sees the world around her and its beautiful. There were many moments where I related to Lundy, feeling like I’m distant from the world at points, escaping to my world (similar to her, through books) and the wondrous, deep connection one feels when they have friends and faith you put in them.
McGuire does a spectacular job at building the ambiance of the Market world into a tangible, real world with history, atmosphere, and rules that present it as such a stark contrast to ours, in a quiet, fairy-tale like way! Overall, the world-building in this installment is spectacular and one of my favorites.
There’s also little details that really set this world apart from other Doors in previous books, which made it such a distinct place to be! The bird cages, the bird/feather motifs, the delicious pies, detailed rules of the market and its cost. But above all, it was also this back and forth between our world (seen as more ordinary with each return) and the vibrant, almost understanding world of the market. However it was how these both separate, but distinct worlds easily wove together through Lundy’s perspective.
Lundy’s real world journeys through school ,the complex emotions and goals she defines for herself are challenged by those around her the more she carries back knowledge from The Goblin Market. With each journey back you could see how she continued to grow and even see the market itself change from her perspective because of it.
I loved following her adventures with Moon through the stalls and just being immersed in their beautiful friendship that has so many complex layers to it. Also Archivist’s home, her comforting library, and the unchanging door that always welcomed her.
We also learn how Lundy’s family tree has a connection to the market, which makes it an even more layered tale! This is also a story about familial relationships: Such as that with her father and his own secretive connection to The Goblin Market. I also loved that during a time when there’s still many external expectations for women, her father gives her choice and she’s respected for all her different layers.
Lundy herself is a girl with ambition that not many can see or understand. Its that internal, almost detached feeling that she has from our world the more she realizes that The Goblin Market truly feels like home.
The 3rd person POV allowed for not only the world to be beautifully developed and explored, but also the themes, coming-of-age story, characters, and layered pieces that brought it all together.
My only minor issues (which make this rating so difficult because I TRULY loved this book), include McGuire’s common element to her writing where she repeats certain phrases too often. While I completely understand its supposed to offer that classic storytelling atmosphere, for me personally it loses the impact because they are so often thrown in. It feels like we already know what its meant to imply and it could’ve allowed for more variation and description to further expand on Lundy’s story.
Also, I did feel the ending was a little rushed as we reached that last chapter–I honestly wouldn’t have minded if this book was just a bit longer! I loved being in Lundy’s world, so it would have been fantastic to get a bit more expansion on her friendship with Moon & Archivist, her family (who aside from her father, doesn’t seem like she has such a deep connection to), and the in-between battles/adventures she had before coming back to our world.
*Side note, with the friend of the Market we never meet, Mockery, I wish I felt more of a connection to her. She sounded interesting, but she’s only ever referenced in flashbacks and when we’re back in the present she has little impact on the story.
Overall though, McGuire’s 4th book in this series is one that connected with me on such a deep level and I would gladly read this book again in the future. There were many deep, moving messages I got out of it and would probably discover more on a reread.
In An Absent Dream dives deep into the story behind its characters, builds on themes of friendship and self, while delivering a profound world such as the Goblin Market that inspires further exploration! Lundy’s story will captivate you from page 1!