In an Absent Dream

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 08 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

In an Absent Dream is the fourth novella in Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, portal fantasies about children who find doorways to other worlds. While it is the fourth in the series, In an Absent Dream works as a stand-alone and has a mostly-new cast. If you want, you can read it without having read any of the others… although I think some of the prior books are stronger.

Katherine Lundy grew up during the 1950s and 60s with the general expectation that she would become a wife and mother, and maybe also a librarian. But at age six, Lundy finds a door that leads her to the goblin market. The goblin depends on rules and the giving of fair value — nothing is free, and debts have consequences. Katherine can come and go from the goblin market until the age of eighteen, where she must choose between the world of her birth and family and the world where she’s found freedom and friendship.

Apparently, Lundy is in the other books of the series, appearing as Eleanor West’s second in command… although I’ll say nothing further in case you, like me, forgot about her there. In most respects, In an Absent Dream is a stand-alone, taking place far before any of the other novellas and introducing Lundy and the world of the goblin market.

A couple months ago, I read a Twitter thread by Jeanette Ng about how love triangles function in young adult literature as a choice between futures for the protagonist (and some of the problems with using romance to symbolize this). In an Absent Dream does not have a love triangle. In fact, it has no romance plotline whatso ever. Instead, Lundy’s coming of age and the choice she must make about who she is to become is represented through the choice of worlds… and perhaps while there is not a romantic love triangle, she is torn between her sister in this world and her best friend in the other.

The goblin market is a world designed to be fair and make sure that people don’t cheat each other. Sometimes, it’s still not entirely fair — Lundy’s best friend was orphaned at a young age and grew up in the goblin market without anyone to help her navigate the pathways of debts and exchanges. When a resident of the goblin market takes on too much debt, they are transformed into a bird, and it can be hard to ever find the way back to your human shape.

In an Absent Dream is sort of mid-range for the series. I didn’t love it as much as Every Heart a Doorway or Down Among the Sticks and Bones, probably because the thematic material didn’t hit me as hard. But on the other hand, it’s stronger than Beneath the Sugar Sky. While it may not be the most magical entry into the series, it is not a disappointment. I’ll continue to follow the Wayward Children series with pleasure.

I received an ARC in exchange for a free and honest review.
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I’m not sure how I feel about this entry into the Wayward Children series. I’ve given it three stars, though, just on the strength of the writing.

Seanan McGuire is an excellent author, and the story is certainly well told. The main character, Lundy, has already appeared earlier in an earlier novella. Lundy has the appearance of an 8-year-old girl but actually is aging backwards because she broke the rules of the portal world she was drawn into as a child. This book fleshes out her past and the world she visited, a market world in which interactions between people are treated as transactions. If the principle of “fair value” is violated, the world itself punishes the person at fault.

On the one hand, I was drawn into the story because I found it easy to empathize with Lundy. She’s a socially isolated child who largely lives in the world of books. She likes rules because they allow her to navigate the world around her without difficulty, and she’s very confident in her ability to follow them. It’s not a surprise that Lundy would be drawn to a fantastical realm where stringent rules form the bedrock of reality.

But it’s the fact that Lundy is so good at following the rules that made me question the way the book ended. She has no problem spending years in that market world, years where she learns all about the rules and the fact that they absolutely cannot be violated without penalty, not like they can be in the real world. I think the author tries to set up the conclusion by having Lundy question the rules throughout the story, because she can’t quite square them with compassion and altruism. But having the rule-following Lundy of most of the book turn into the person who chooses to try to cheat them spectacularly at the end of the story didn’t entirely work for me.

Also, the novella doesn’t immerse the reader as deeply in Lundy’s portal world as the other books in the series do. Readers are told about things that happen to her there, but the focus of the story is really on the moments where Lundy travels between the two worlds and the way she feels torn between the two of them at times. That also sets up the end of the story, but I don’t think I was as engaged in her choice as I was supposed to be, because I couldn’t fully appreciate what she would be giving up if she didn’t return to her market world.

For me, as good as they are, none of the later novellas in this series have come close to matching the first. Fans of McGuire’s work will probably love it, though.

A copy of this book was provided through NetGalley for review; all opinions expressed are my own.
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This was so different but at the same time fit right in with the other stories in this series! I loved Katherines story and how the Goblin Market worked. MCGuire writes beautifully and sprinkles magic into every word! If you have not read this series, then I highly recommend you check it out! Thank you so much to the publisher and Netgalley for the advanced ARC! I absolutely love this series!
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Although In an Absent Dream is the fourth title in the Wayward Children series, each title can technically be read as a stand alone. Beneath the Sugar Sky (#3) builds on Every Heart a Doorway (#1), with narratives set in the present day and in our world. Down Among the Sticks and Bones (#2) and In An Absent Dream (#4) take place in other worlds, sharing the backstories of characters introduced in book one. Somehow, miraculously, I have adored each and every Wayward Children title, in a way that I’ve not enjoyed any other series.

Yesterday, my sister devoured Beneath the Sugar Sky and is now blazing through In an Absent Dream. She just said to me, “Oh my gosh, this bit about meat pies, you must have loved that”. YES I DID LOVE THAT. If I had a good warm meat pie every day of my life, I would be happy. A simple yet delicious pleasure. My eyes were saucers as I read how Lundy trades pencils for unicorn-centaur Vincent’s pies (he sells fruit pies as well as meat!).

These wonderful pies are a small example of how personal I find the Wayward Children stories. When I first read Every Heart a Doorway, I was alarmed at how the story came so close to my heart. It had been years since I found a book that I so deeply connected with. Somehow, McGuire has sustained that sensation through four books. In an Absent Dream feels like it was written just for me. I adore Nancy, but Lundy is perhaps the most like me out of all the Wayward Children. Reading these books is a personal experience that few authors have been able to give me.

This, then, was Katherine Victoria Lundy: pretty and patient and practical. Not lonely, because she had never really considered any way of being other than alone. Not gregarious, nor sullen, but somewhere in the middle, happy to speak when spoken to, happy also to carry on in silence, keeping her thoughts tucked quietly away. She was ordinary. She was remarkable.

Lundy’s story differs from others in the series, as she visits and leaves her world multiple times. Her time spent at the Goblin Market cuts her family – she goes missing for months. Lundy has a younger sister who she barely knows because she keeps going away. To add another complex dynamic, Lundy’s father had also visited the Goblin Market as a child. He knows and understands to some extent what she is up to. Lundy’s family has an even greater significance in her story than Jack and Jill’s family did in Down Among the Sticks and Bones. The tension Lundy experiences between adventuring in fantastic lands and finding comfort in home and family is something I’ve experienced often over the past five years. Upon returning home for the first time:

And Lundy, brave Lundy, who had ridden alongside her friends Moon and Mockery to fight the wicked Wasp Queen for the safety of the pomegranate groves, who had seen that sometimes fair value wasn’t enough to prevent blood on the ground and a little girl with silver feathers in her hair lying broken in the leaves, never to mock or tease or mercilessly barter again, burst into tears.

“I’m sorry,” she wailed. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I won’t go back, I won’t.” She was lying, of course. But she wouldn’t understand that for two more years.

The Bottom Line: If you are a Wayward Children fan, then fear no disappointment – In an Absent Dream surpasses the standard. If you’ve yet to tackle these books, then why not dive in with this volume – enchantment awaits!
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Another incredible addition to the Wayward Children series, Lundy's tale is a contrast to previous tales in that she gets to travel between worlds for a time. The world of the Goblin Market is intriguing and dangerous and it was a joy as well as an intensely bittersweet to watch Lundy's tale unfold.. Definitely one of my favourites!
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The fourth book in Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children series we learn the origin story of Lundy, a therapist employed at Eleanor West's School for Wayward Children.

When we first meet Katherine Lundy,  the daughter of a school's principal, her life is governed by rules and order. Her only friends are the books she loves. Walking home from school one day, she sees a door and enters the Goblin Market. The Goblin Market is a fantasy world with a few specific rules and Lundy believes that she will be able to follow them. The Goblin Market uses a barter system of trade; citizens must provide "fair value" for goods and services provided. Failure to provide fair value results in debt and unpleasant consequences.

For Lundy the Goblin Market is the first place she has felt she belonged. She makes her first friend and finds a mentor who eases her transition into this new world but she soon learns that fair value is a more complicated concept than she had realized.

Seanan McGuire is a wonderful writer who captures the longing and loneliness of children like Lundy beautifully. Each book in the Wayward Children series takes the reader on a journey to a different fully realized world. I can't wait to see where the next book takes us.
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Another excellent book from Seanan McGuire. I love the world's she creates, as well as the different ways she plays with the ideas of portal fantasy. I did feel this book would have benefitted from being longer, however, and giving us more details about the death of Mockery, who is such an important character but one we never actually meet.
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I'd categorize this as "like, not love". I liked it better than book 2, but it's a distant third after books 1 and 3. The main issue for me is how the story is structured- this story is basically about the transitional moments of the lead's life, the moments at which she decided to go to leave home and go to the Goblin Market, or vice versa. That means almost all the moments where "stuff" happens is between the pages. That's not bad, per se, but it means the eventual emotional punch didn't quite land for me.
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See how Lundy came to be in this book.  In the h Goblin Market everything is possible with fair value. ARC from NetGalley.
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In an Absent Dream is another welcome entry to the Wayward Children series. Once again I fell deeply in love with McGuire’s lyrical prose and the different worlds she’s dreamed up. I totally forgot until the end that this character had appeared in the first book though. I would almost rate this as my favorite book in the series but something about the ending felt flat to me. Still one of the best books I’ve read this year and I highly recommend it.
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This was so good, and absolutely heartbreaking. Because of the time between books, I had forgotten about this particular character. Very good tale, and I can only hope for further revelations.
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McGuire’s writing gets better and better. Thoughtful, smart, and painfully good. Lundy’s story is an excellent addition to the Wayward Children universe.
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*I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

I have adored each of the previous installments to the Wayward Children series, and this one may have been my favorite. In An Absent Dream, the fourth book in the series, follows Katherine Lundy's childhood before the events of the first book. Lundy, as she likes to be called, is a quiet, bookish child with certain assumptions about her future until she opens a mysterious door that leads to the Goblin Market. There, Lundy learns about fair value, friendship, and what happens when your life's expectations can change drastically without your agreement. I loved all of the characters in this, especially Lundy, Diana, and the Archivist. McGuire does an excellent job of weaving an intricate fantasy world within the length of a novella. I am so happy to learn that there will be at least one more installment to the series.
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This novella, set inside the world of the Wayward Children series by Nebula Award-winning author Seanan McGuire, tells the tale of Lundy, formerly known as Katherine. This enjoyable story takes the reader inside the doorway to the Goblin Market, where deals are made, but always for a price.
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*ARC received from NetGalley in return for an honest review* 

Seanan McGuire has struck gold once again. This story kept me up late into the night because I just couldn't put it down. The Goblin Market has been a poem that I have enjoyed ever since I first read it. McGuire takes it and expands into this marvelous world that comes to life on the page. It makes me want to just jump into the pages to explore the market myself. Grief has been a large part of my life lately and I enjoyed how McGuire touches on this fact and how it plays a part on two of the character's relationship. McGuire handles everything quite well leaving me wanting more.
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This series of novellas can really be read out of order so reading this one first will not ruin any of the other stories.  Katherine is a bookish girl with no real friends due to her father being the principal at school. One day she finds a door in a tree that takes her to the Goblin Market. Everything is exchanged for fair value and if you don’t give fair value you accrue debt and can become a bird.  Katherine goes back and forth between the worlds and can’t wait to make her final decision on her 18th birthday.  But everyone wants what they see as a fair value trade from her on both sides of the door.  A great story and we meet Lundy again in this one after meeting her in the first book, Every Heart a Doorway. 

Digital review copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley
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Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series with In an Absent Dream. This entry tells the story of Katherine Lundy and her adventures in the Goblin Market—and with the even more daunting concepts of obligation and fair value. Katherine is not an unhappy child when we first meet her. She’s also not a particularly happy child. Instead, she’s quiet and obedient, reading her way through life and school until something happens. When it does, Katherine finds herself caught between what she wants for herself and all the promises she’s made to others.

The Goblin Market, we learn from the Archivist who conveniently clues Katherine in at the beginning of the novel, is a place where debts manifest in feathers, claws, horns, and other animalistic features. Too many debts and people turn into animals. Everything runs on trade and the trades must be fair. Bad trades can incur debt, too. Katherine takes to this world like a duck to water, especially since she has her friend Moon and the guidance of the Archivist. For years, Katherine escapes away to the Goblin Market from her humdrum life, armed with a bag full of things to trade, to have more fun than she could ever have as the daughter of a school principal. She comes to life so much at the Goblin Market that, when she returns home, that it seems like all the color has been bleached out of those sections. 

In an Absent Dream puts the focus on Katherine’s inner dilemmas. There are references to her greatest adventures in the Goblin Market, but her most harrowing challenges come when Katherine tries to meet all her obligations. In the Goblin Market, all promises must be kept. Breaking a promise could mean turning into an animal. Katherine worries constantly that she might not be giving fair value in her friendship to Moon or to her parents and sister in our world. When a person is caught between two big obligations, where is the space for them to do what they want? One way of thinking would call Katherine selfish for all the worry she causes her family, or a bad friend for leaving others hanging in the Goblin Market. Another way of thinking could argue that those who hold obligations over Katherine are the selfish ones. Is it fair to force Katherine to conform when it means she misses out on a bolder, possibly better life? 

This novella is yet another beautiful, thoughtful entry in the Wayward Children series. Like all good fairy tales, it contains a life lesson for readers to chew over after the last page. Like all great fairy tales, that lesson isn’t dropped on us like a ton of metaphorical bricks. In an Absent Dream lets its lessons about obligation, value, and selfishness build up slowly, all while keeping us entertained with a lively, plausible fantasy world that left me wanting more.
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Wonderful. I love this series, but books one and three tried to stuff too much into the novella form. Here focus is on one character, much more satisfying. Even though this is book four it can definitely be read on its own.
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I love this series. 

The visiting world in this book is so very weird with its mix of fairness and magic that the concept of fairness goes on it's head. Lundy is a strict child who starts having a curvy way of thinking because her experiences with this magical world. There is a melancholy dream to this world. I put aside one afternoon so I could read this book in one sitting.

Bring on the next book.
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I'm not sure how it's possible that in this book, Seanan McGuire has created yet another fascinating, wonderful, terrible new "doorway", and that while I generally find fantasy at least a little incomprehensible, it's another accessible, bewitching story. These short books are wonderful because I can lose myself in them for the two hours or so it takes to fly through them, but problematic since then I'm left waiting, wondering what will come next.
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