Beneath the Sugar Sky — Seanan McGuire

May 12, 2018

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

TITLE: Beneath the Sugar Sky
AUTHOR: Seanan McGuire
SERIES: Wayward Children, #3
RELEASED: January 9th, 2018;
GENRE: Fantasy
SYNOPSIS: Beneath the Sugar Sky returns to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. At this magical boarding school, children who have experienced fantasy adventures are reintroduced to the “real” world.
Sumi died years before her prophesied daughter Rini could be born. Rini was born anyway, and now she’s trying to bring her mother back from a world without magic.


Every time I think I can’t love Seanan McGuire any more than I already do, I read another of her stories, and I’m proven wrong. She is such an incredible storyteller, and she portrays the most necessary, important perspectives on the world and on how humans treat one another, and I am so here for it, always and forever.

Day after day, she had learned that “fat” was another way to say “worthless, ugly, waste of space, unwanted, disgusting.” She had started to believe them by the time she was in third grade, because what else was she supposed to do?


In each of the Wayward Children books so far, we’ve seen how Seanan has taken a specific point or two and honed in on it—in Every Heart a Doorway, it was asexuality and transmisia. In Down Among the Sticks and Bones, it was gender stereotypes and neglectful parenting. In Beneath the Sugar Sky, it is fatphobia—and as a plus size woman reading this series, the perspective of the protagonist Cora, the kindly and brave plus sized mermaid, was all I wanted yet never knew I could have in a story.

Maybe Christopher had the right of it, going someplace where people had figured out how to do without the fleshy bits, where they would be judged on their own merits, not on the things people assumed about them.

I have never read a book that tackled the issue so damn well and so unapologetically, and to the many people who consider it “over the top”, I ask that you please check your privilege and recognize that the rep had to be in-your-face because almost nobody else is saying these things, especially in the world of SFF fiction. There are so few authors who are willing to even portray fat characters in a positive light, much less to tackle the struggles we undergo in everyday society and the misconceptions that people form about us and our bodies and health statuses. Seanan paints Cora as an incredibly healthy and capable young woman who also happens to be plus size (which is a reality for more individuals than society would have you think), but she also is willing to point towards the harm that any form of abuse and bullying wreaks upon a person’s psyche, as there is a subtle mention of Cora having attempted suicide simply because she was so weary of living in a world that believed her size diminished her worth.

Everyone who wound up at Eleanor West’s School—everyone who found a door—understood what it was to spend a lifetime waiting for something that other people wouldn’t necessarily understand.

I could honestly gush for ages about how much it meant to me to see myself represented in this book, to see a portrayal that I had, until this year, literally given up on ever seeing in fiction—but I know you guys want to hear about the story itself, too. This is the first novella in the series that actually follows a “quest”, and it brings a few new characters into play that are wholly lovable and, as always with Seanan’s writing, fleshed out to be so complex and three-dimensional in such a short span of time. We also get to spend more time with a few old favorites from the first book, as well as revisiting someone I thought we might not get to see again. This is our first glance at one of the wilder worlds, and it is so fascinating and well described that I couldn’t help but picture every single scene vividly in my mind.

The rules of the school are simple. Heal. Hope. And if you can, find your way back where you belong.

I can’t honestly pick a favorite from this series so far, because they all are so incredible and fun to read, but as far as the representation goes, Beneath the Sugar Sky is the one that meant the most to me on a personal level. I literally cried (more than once), and it really put into fresh light for me, how important diverse representation in stories is—because I want every single person in the world who is a part of any marginalized community, whether it is based upon their sexuality, gender identity, race, disability, size, etc.—to be able to pick up books that act as mirrors, and for them, too, to have that moment of happy tears streaming down their face when they finally see a character and get to say, “Wow, that’s me.



More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

Leave a comment
    1. Great review! I love the Wayward Children series and I can’t wait to read the next few books! I agree! Not only are they amazing reads, but they also discuss such important issues and I love them so much!

    1. I completely agree! I have heard a lot of people say that the fat rep is over the top but I feel exactly the same way as you. I thought the fat rep was absolutely amazing and so so accurate, I really saw myself in the main character and found myself going, oh god, she is me, I have thought these things so many times. It was both disconcerting and comforting at the same time??
      Great review Destiny, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      1. Yesssss, thank you so much, Ellyn! ♥♥ I love this comment – I’m so glad it’s not just me! It really is almost a little bit weird to see yourself in a character so much, especially when it’s a rep you don’t get to see often, like fat rep, which I feel like I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen done truly WELL, you know? I hope Seanan puts it into more of her books. ♥ Thank you, lovely!

    1. Brilliant review! I need to read this series, and now I want to even more. I enjoy the author’s other works. It’s good to see an author willing to take on such topics.

    1. This review makes me so so happy!
      I love this series so much and recently joined up to Scribd which has the third book on audio, so I’m going to pick it up really soon. But the clarification that it has great rep (once again! McGuire is kicking goals!) makes me so much more excited to get stuck into another book in this series.
      Absolutely love love love

      1. Thank you so much! Ooooh, yay – I hope you love the audiobook! I hear this series works really well on audio (and they’re so short!). But yeah, Seanan is amazing. ♥ I love her so much.

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