Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children), by Seanan McGuire

Readers of McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway will recognize Jack and Jill, the identical twins Jacqueline and Jillian, who are a major part of the conclusion of the book.

In this standalone book we get to see how Jack and Jill became the people they were by the time they entered Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the home where children who found doorways to alternate universes are helped to recover.

Born to a couple more interested in the social benefits of parenthood than actually being parents, Jack and Jill begin to take on their unique gender identities at an early age. One day, wanting to play costume make believe, they go up to the attic and find that the costume trunk is empty except for a door leading to a deep stairway. Down those stairs is a world ruled by the Master where vampires are the ruling citizens. Jack and Jill take on unique roles in this world. But before they turn 18 they must make a decision whether or not to become permanent residents.

McGuire invented dozens of unusual worlds in her last book. In this story she creates a dark and frightening world. As in the past, she doesn’t shrink from the death of characters whether you like them or not, nor from Jack’s sexual ambiguity. What is also as strong here as in the first book is the devotion Jack has for Jill.

This is a perfect follow up to Every Heart a Doorway, a book that started like a pleasant children’s book and ended up gothic, macabre, and murderous. It will be interesting to see what other twists and turns will come in future books. While it would be a good read for most older teens it’s a book that would be enjoyable for any adult lover of gothic fantasy.