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Where the Drowned Girls Go


Where the Drowned Girls Go

Seanan McGuire returns to her beloved Wayward Children series with WHERE THE DROWNED GIRLS GO, the seventh installment in this world-jumping, reality-bending fantasy collection.

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children has long been a sanctuary for magical children. Rather than a Hogwarts-like training school, however, it is meant for those who have found holes in our world leading into others, doorways in the shadows under their beds, the knotholes of trees, the bottoms of wells and even the backs of wardrobes. Although these children have discovered their own worlds --- some logical, some nonsensical, some virtuous, some wicked --- they all have one thing in common: they have returned home, either intentionally or against their will, to find that the place they once called home no longer makes sense and that their journeys have changed them forever.

"A hard-fought, emotionally resonant and inspiring celebration of the heroes in us all, WHERE THE DROWNED GIRLS GO is another terrific addition to one of the most magical, eye-opening series in the fantasy world today."

The first six books guided readers through the Halls of the Dead, the Moors, a land ruled by a blood-red moon and a wicked vampire, and Confection, a nonsense world where nothing makes sense. In this latest entry, we reunite with Cora, part of the motley crew that accompanied Jack on her return trip to the Moors, along with Kade, Christopher and Sumi.

Cora is a mermaid, a one-time visitor of the Trenches, an underwater world full of mermaids, mysteries and maritime monsters. Like many children, her door opened for her when she had no other options and was at her lowest point. Teased mercilessly for her weight, Cora took to the ocean, the only place she ever felt light and free, and attempted to drown herself. She spent a year and a half in the Trenches, bonding with mermaids, flirting with sirens and fighting against the Serpent of Frozen Tears for the queen’s honor. Then one day, with no warning whatsoever, she was swept into a whirlpool and cast out of the only place that ever felt like home. Although Cora has made friends at Eleanor’s school, she longs to return to the Trenches and become a hero again. But another world has its eye on her.

When Cora journeyed to the world of the Moors in COME TUMBLING DOWN, she caught the eye of the Drowned Gods, evil beings who still whisper to her and have tainted her love of the water with their malicious hauntings. Like all Wayward Children, Cora knows that some magic continues to seep through every doorway, even after its visitor has been unceremoniously kicked out. Her hair now grows blue as a result of her time in the Trenches, so she knows that the Drowned Gods can reach her at any time. Desperate to forget them and force them to forget her as well, Cora begs Eleanor to send her to Whitethorn Institute, a sister school for children who want to be saved from their magical pasts.

Constructed from thick gray stone and hidden behind an imposing wall, Whitethorn Institute is a far cry from Eleanor’s magical school. The Headmaster, Whitethorn, has built his curriculum on the notion that children crave structure as much as they crave freedom. After living out their most ridiculous, decadent dreams on the other sides of their doorways, they need rigid structure to reconnect to this world. Children who visited Nonsense worlds are put on a tight schedule, diet and routine; those who visited Logical worlds are forced to accept the spontaneity and uncontrollability of life. But although Cora finds the Drowned Gods’ grip on her growing loose as she conforms to Whitethorn’s lessons, so too does her grip on herself, on her heroism, on all the things that make her Cora. In order to rediscover the heroic mermaid who once fought in the Trenches, she will have to violate one of Eleanor’s only rules: no quests.

WHERE THE DROWNED GIRLS GO is yet another delightful, empowering installment in Seanan McGuire’s incredible series. Although I was initially disappointed that we would not be visiting another doorway in this book, I loved reuniting with Cora and learning more about her backstory. But seeing how Whitethorn fleshed out and opened up the world where Eleanor West made her temporary home and sanctuary for children added a whole new layer to the book. A far cry from the comfort children find in her school, Whitethorn’s rigidity functions as a sort of conversion-therapy-themed boarding school, a dark, controlling place where kids are forced to subdue or give up the qualities that make them unique, magical and heroic.

McGuire plays with the theme of monsters vs. heroes in many forms here, most notably unpacking the ways that the people in charge always think (or at least claim) that they are doing the right thing, even when it is clearly harmful. There are obvious parallels to our own world here, more than in any other installment. As Sumi happily points out, the world to which she and her fellow Wayward Children have returned is, in many respects, the most nonsensical of them all.

A hard-fought, emotionally resonant and inspiring celebration of the heroes in us all, WHERE THE DROWNED GIRLS GO is another terrific addition to one of the most magical, eye-opening series in the fantasy world today. I cannot wait to see where McGuire takes us next.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on January 7, 2022

Where the Drowned Girls Go
by Seanan McGuire

  • Publication Date: January 4, 2022
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Tordotcom
  • ISBN-10: 1250213622
  • ISBN-13: 9781250213624