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In an Absent Dream


In an Absent Dream

In Seanan McGuire’s darkly beautiful Wayward Children series, there is a parallel world, open to those who need it, who seek it without knowing exactly what it is they are looking for. In three previous books, McGuire took readers to a rich and fantastical place that beckons to certain kinds of children, stealing them away from the relative safety of this mundane world. With IN AN ABSENT DREAM, she returns to the character of Lundy, giving her a backstory with all the expected magic, danger, heartbreak and possibility.

In EVERY HEART A DOORWAY, Lundy is the middle-aged therapist working for Eleanor West at the School for Wayward Children. However, her physical appearance is that of a young girl. IN AN ABSENT DREAM begins in 1964 with six-year-old Katherine Lundy living an ordinary life in an ordinary town. Often alone but never really lonely, Katherine is thoughtful and practical, serious and focused. When she is eight years old, walking home from school with a book in hand, she comes across a tree in the path where there had never been one before. Even more extraordinary is the door in the tree, which is engraved with the words “Be Sure.” Intrigued and feeling sure, though she doesn’t know quite what the door refers to, Katherine turns the doorknob and enters. The long and cozy hallway in which she finds herself leads to, after a series of vague rules posted on the walls, the Goblin Market.

"IN AN ABSENT DREAM does not disappoint. McGuire’s tone is hypnotic and her language lovely, tense and full of so many imaginative and interesting descriptions and phrases."

The Goblin Market is a place based on the concept of fair value. The power behind the magic of the Market is never fully explained or explored, but for Katherine (now known as Lundy) it is powerfully real. Overwhelmed yet thrilled, Lundy becomes fast friends with Moon and comes under the protection and tutelage of the Market’s Archivist. They guide her through the Market and its rules, as well as the force that is fair value. She is warned that, before her 18th birthday, she will have to choose between the Market and the world into which she was born. For now she can move between these worlds, but that freedom won’t last forever, and whatever she chooses means sacrificing a lot.

Lundy moves from one world to another a few times, and each time the choice, which she thought she had already made, becomes increasingly difficult. The Goblin Market feels like home and Moon like her best friend. Still, she feels attached to her younger sister Diana, who demands attention, explanation and commitment. Lundy’s lack of surety and her insistence on paying Moon’s debts eventually lead her to accept a deal from the Archivist that will radically alter her body and her place in both worlds. Thus, in 1990, McGuire’s epilogue shares, Lundy meets Eleanor West and opens another door.

IN AN ABSENT DREAM does not disappoint. McGuire’s tone is hypnotic and her language lovely, tense and full of so many imaginative and interesting descriptions and phrases. Though marketed as a prequel to the rest of the series, this could be read at any point in relation to the other three Wayward Children books or as a strange little stand-alone novel. The Goblin Market is otherworldly but as enchanting and fraught as some real places, and as inviting and haunting as many of our best imagined fantasy lands. Lundy is such a great character, with realness and heft that contrast with the magic of the story, even as she seems wholly part of the magic itself.

Exploring themes of choice, belonging, family, loyalty and, of course, fair value, IN AN ABSENT DREAM is a thought-provoking novel and a delight to read.

Reviewed by Sarah Rachel Egelman on February 1, 2019

In an Absent Dream
by Seanan McGuire

  • Publication Date: January 8, 2019
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher:
  • ISBN-10: 0765399296
  • ISBN-13: 9780765399298