Monday, March 18, 2024

Review: Mislaid in Parts Half-Known, by Seanan McGuire

Let’s ignore the absolutely perfect cover art just for a moment. Mislaid in Parts Half-Known is NOT the dinosaur book that it appears to be. There are dinosaurs and they are wonderful, but following on 2023’s excellent Lost in the Moment and Found, Mislaid in Parts Half-Known continues the story of Antsy, a girl who stepped through a portal to another world and found herself in a borderline magical shop that was a bit of a hub world which has its own cost (as entering any of those doorways do).

Mislaid in Parts Half-Known is the ninth novella in the Wayward Children series and brings Antsy, a girl who looks a bit older than she actually is, to Eleanor West’s and there is a sign that states “No Solicitations. No Visitors. No Quests.” Readers, there are quests. This book is a quest. It is also an escape, perhaps not for the reader but Antsy has a particular gift where she can find just about anything that has been lost and some of the kids at Eleanor West’s want to take advantage of that.

In an attempt to escape, Antsy and others have to commit quest and yes, there are dinosaurs but there are other doorways and Mislaid in Parts Half-Known does what Seanan McGuire so often does with these novellas (and with most of her books, if I’m being honest), which is to weave together character stories in small ways so that it is building and laying seeds for future stories. Specifically, this is McGuire inching closer to really telling Kade’s story - which is one McGuire has publicly stated she’s been hesitant to do until she’s built up enough trust because Kade is trans and that’s a more challenging story for a cis-writer to tell with real grace and honesty and that readers (and trans readers specifically) will trust to get right.

That’s the thing about Seanan McGuire’s writing in general and Mislaid in Parts Half-Known in specific - the characters speak with blunt and plain honesty in ways that I don’t think we encounter very often in real life. McGuire’s characters are often clever in how they understand themselves (as they come to understand themselves) and how they explain themselves to others. It can very easily be too on the nose, and perhaps it is, but it also works perfectly for me as a reader and I *think* that this is stylistically something that will hit very hard for the right readers who are looking to find how they are feeling put down in a story about people who don’t fit in and can’t quite find their right places in this (or any) world. It’s what I loved so much about Every Heart a Doorway and the best of the Wayward Children novellas capture that feeling of yearning towards a childhood that could have been smoother and I had it so much easier than so many.

Mislaid in Parts Half-Known gets close at times and at its best is so tightly focused on the kids that it is one of my favorite books of the Wayward Children series. But even the ones that don’t reach those heights are still wonderful. It’s just that the bar is so impossibly high and Mislaid in Parts Half-Known gets there for me. It’s personal. It’s always personal.

Joe Sherry - Senior Editor of Nerds of a Feather. Hugo and Ignyte Winner. Minnesotan.