First off, I’m compelled to say… this novella felt SO MUCH like Caitlin R. Kiernan’s writing that if you had told me this was by Kiernan, I would have believed it. Not that it is in any way derivative – but I’d highly recommend it to Kiernan’s fans (of which I am one).
Here, we’re introduced to “Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.” Ostensibly a reform school, Ms. West’s establishment is actually something stranger: a refuge for young people who have sojourned in other worlds, and find it difficult to ‘fit in’ to our society once they return. West herself was once one of these children, and she’s devoted herself to seeking out and helping those like her, and trying to find out more about the strange otherworlds that have been visited.
The ‘wayward children’ are all odd, in their own ways. The biggest thing that they have in common is the feeling that they ‘belong’ in the world they’re been ejected from. Nearly all are desperate to try to find the doorway that will lead them back ‘home.’
The story here begins when Nancy arrives at the school, freshly arrives from a stern underworld of the dead, via her parents’ house. At first, the adjustments she needs to make feel like any usual ones associated with arriving at a new school: getting to know a roommate, making the acquaintance of classmates, learning the rules and schedule. But soon after Nancy arrives, children start getting killed. No one is safe, and Eleanor West’s haven is bound to be shut down if the worldly authorities start to investigate. Since Nancy is known to be associated with death, suspicion naturally falls upon her.
I loved the premise and setting of this story, but the plot itself feels like a bit of a standard murder mystery, with a too-abrupt neat resolution. I wanted a longer, more filled-out story with more strangeness to it.
Many thanks to Tor and NetGalley for the opportunity to read. As always, my opinions are solely my own.