Title: Across the Green Grass Fields
Series: Wayward Children #6
Author: Seanan McGuire
Regan is a completely normal girl. She has a loving family, a best friend, and she loves horses.
But then one day she steps through a door that asks her to “be sure” and finds herself in a world populated by centaurs, unicorns, kelpies and other magical equines, a world where human is synonym with hero. But not everyone feels that a hero is needed right now…
A closer look
Across the Green Grass Fields is the sixth instalment in Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, and it can be read as a standalone as well as a new entry point to the whole series.
I’ve read reviews saying that the series is getting kind of formulaic and losing its freshness and originality, but personally I still love each and every one of the books in its own way, and I don’t think I’ll get bored anytime soon.
The general idea around the series is that from time to time doors appear in our world, doors that lead to different worlds and ask to “be sure” before anyone crosses them; and they usually appear to children that, for one reason or another, feel like they don’t belong in our own world. The problem is that the children usually grow to adapt to and love the new world they’re in, and then they are sent back home and left to cope. Sometimes the door opens again for them, sometimes it doesn’t.
All of the books read like something in-between middlegrade and young adult, and are at times reminiscent of fairytale-style storytelling. Each story is either set mostly in our world or in one of the others, and there’s always so much difference and nuance to all the worlds explored, I could honestly read a 600-pages book about every single one of them.
In this instance we follow Regan as she goes through the usual steps of childhood: a fall-out with one of her best friend, a desire to belong to a group so strong that she puts up with a very unbalanced friendship just because she’s afraid of being left behind. It all kind of works for her, until she notices that something is different with her body, and that causes her best friend to reject her completely.
That’s when the door appears to her, and she steps through to find herself in the Hooflands, a land populated with all kinds of equine creatures that consider humans to be heroes, sent to them to help the Hooflands in times of need.
This being a novella, I’m trying to keep things vague enough so that I don’t spoil the story for anyone stumbling into this review. The story touches on the ideas of found family, acceptance, friendship, heroism, and even prejudice. Which is honestly a lot to discuss in a less-than-200-pages book, so if you’re looking for an in-depth exploration, this is probably not the right book for that. It still manages to make a point, though, so I think it’s worthy of mention. Oh, did I say that the protagonist is intersex?
During her stay in this magical world, Regan learns to accept herself for who she is, and she realises that being different is not a good reason to reject someone. The same message is also reinforced when she encounters other creatures that turn out to be something other than what she had come to expect due to the prejudice surrounding them.
She also grapples with the meaning of heroism, of what it means to take responsibility for something in order to protect the people she loves, and how running away from it just because it’s scary is not really a solution. There is a lot to unpack if one is willing to sit down and have a long conversation about every single aspect of the story, but I’m too lazy to be doing that and I feel like it would be better – and way more fun – to invest two hours to read the book itself, instead a long and detailed pseudo-analysis done by me.
The only thing that felt a little jarring to me is that Regan sounds way older than her ten years in some of the exchanges with her parents in the beginning, and even her reactions were a little too mature in my opinion. But that might be due to my limited experience with ten-year-olds, so I’m not really giving it too much weight in my final rating – especially because I think the rest of the story more than makes up for it.
As usual with this books, I would have gladly read a hundred pages more about Regan’s story and the Hooflands, especially because I feel like the ending was wrapped up a little too quickly for my taste.
Still, that’s not stopping me from giving this book a pretty high rating, so think of that what you will.