Reasons for Inclusion: Ace protagonist, trans character, racially diverse cast.
After a year spent in the Halls of the Dead, the human world is too fast, too bright, too loud for Nancy to handle. Her parents don’t believe she travelled through a vanishing door to another realm, and send her to a school for troubled youth to cure her of her delusions. Or at least that’s what they think Eleanor West’s school does.
But Eleanor understands Nancy. And so do the young residents, all of whom traveled through impermanent portals to fantastic lands as children, and all of whom desperately wish to return to these worlds that lie on the compass points of Logic, Nonsense, Wicked, and Virtue.
And then people start dying, and Nancy and her companions have to figure out who the murderer is, and why, before more people die and they lose this home they’ve made at the school.
I loved the way the fairy tale mythology was woven through the story, taking hints from various sources while never feeling derivative. Many characters speak in riddles and mythological or literary allusions, lending the story a timeless feel. The philosophical and ideological conflicts between, for example, Logic and Nonsense, made for interactions that felt new and classic at the same time.
This book is very diverse as well, featuring some lesser-seen identities. Nancy is asexual, but she wants to fall in love someday, with somebody who understands. A hope that might just come to fruition when she meets fellow student Kade, who was rejected from his world when he realized he was trans.
It’s short and easy to get into, dark and atmospheric while never losing hope, and full of memorable and varied characters. I recommend it to anybody who likes twisted fairy tales or explorations of the strangeness in our world.