This is the story of a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.
When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.
For anyone . . .
Oh wow, another stellar entry in Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series. In An Absent Dream was just fantastic, in every sense of the word, and is my second favorite in the series so far just behind Down Among the Sticks and Bones.
How much did I love this story? Let me count the ways.
First off, the prose in this is amazing. I love that Seanan is writing these books because it really gives her room to show off her skill with prose in a way that you don’t necessarily see with some of her other books. I also enjoyed the structure of the story itself which alternates between the our world and Lundy’s world on the other side of her doorway.
These books have always revolved around a central theme of finding out who you are and being true to that, and this one is no different. Katherine Lundy doesn’t want to live her life the way society deems. She’s a student, a fan of learning, and she doesn’t want to give that up and settle down into a pre-ordained role of ‘housewife’ one day. And so a doorway opens for her and into a new world she goes.
I LOVE Lundy’s world. For a world based on logic it’s kind of crazy in its own way. It’s a world that runs on barter and trade, a market, where value is always determined to be fair based on a person’s ability to contribute. If a rich person wants to buy something they need, like food, it may cost them a lot more because they have a lot more than a poor person who may only be charged a little. There is no excuse for laziness in the goblin market either. If a person can contribute to society but fails to do so eventually there will be consequences. I loved that this a not so subtle treatise on socialism–everything was so fairly determined in the market. And the system works because the market itself (some nebulous all knowing power) determines what is fair, not the people in in.
There is a lot Lundy is dealing with in this short book, the pressures of her life in the goblin market and the pressures of her life back home. She feels guilty about both and trying to please everyone doesn’t always work out. I do love the other characters in the book, all of them are so beautifully written whether they’re kind or cruel or some mix of both.
At first I struggled a bit trying to figure out Lundy’s relationship with her friend in the goblin market, Moon. I feel like Lundy was way more invested into their friendship than Moon was and Moon just didn’t care about anything. Lundy spent so much time trying to keep Moon’s head above water when Moon didn’t even seem to appreciate it. But then, at a certain point, it clicked for me. It’s like when you have someone you love that has a problem, like drug addiction, and you can keep trying and trying to pull them along but after a while it’s like an anchor weighing you down. If you pull too hard they get mad and blame you, even though you’re only trying to help them. People have to care about and want to help themselves before they have room to care about you back and appreciate your deeds for them. This is something I had to learn the hard way, so I really appreciated this relationship even though it took me so long to get it.
In An Absent Dream was such a beautifully told story full of magic, heartbreak, and self-discovery. Loved it. 4.5/5 stars.