I thought Beneath the Sugar Sky would be the last of the Wayward Children series, but then In an Absent Dream appeared magically on Netgalley, and they were so kind as to share it with me, and a big ol' thank you for that. Of course, they gave it to me months ago and I read it months ago, but by gum here I am, raving about it now.
Remember Lundy from Every Heart a Doorway? She was Eleanor West's right hand girl at her Home for Wayward Children, a middle aged woman in the body of a child, somewhat prim and devoted to mapping the nature of the worlds her charges have visited. This is her backstory, where she went and how she came back and how she came to be the Lundy we know at the school.
Because, of course, once she was just a little girl named Katherine Lundy, who liked to read and to think, who liked rules and logic, but who found that the world wasn't quite fair, even by its own standards. And when she stumbled into another world--the Market, where everything has a value and it is always, always fair--she knows that she's home.
I think what I loved most about this book is that it is addressing a completely different problem than the others in the series. In this book, while Katherine doesn't much like the way this world is, she does actually love her family. This is a book about choices, and about how choices are a part of life, and you can't clever your way out of having to sometimes give something up to get what you want. Some resources--like the hours in your life--are finite.
When Lundy finds her way through a door into another world--a world that feels like home to her--there are things she's leaving behind. And when her new world and new friends demand things of her--giving is wonderful, but what are the limits? Giving generously to your friends can complicate relationships, and your judgement of what they need might not be theirs.
I love how the idea of a world that is always fair is explored here, and how this perfect world--which even makes room in fairness for people's ability and knowledge and freedom--is not enough to be everything to every person.
In the end, this story brings Lundy from a mysterious, distant figure into a full, fleshed-out character. Knowing her back story, her later life is even more interesting. I wonder sometimes if Seanan McGuire ever regrets that her first book in this series was a murder mystery in which so many interesting characters died; I would very much like to read the story in which that one girl finds her way home through the spider queen's tiny portal.