Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Occasionally, children find doorways into other worlds, and when they come back they’re no longer satisfied with their normal lives. Nancy is one such child, and she is sent to a boarding school for kids like her. But something sinister is afoot, as several students end up gruesomely murdered. With a group of strange friends, they set out to solve the mystery.
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.
No matter the cost.
This is a very strange novella. It sounds like standard portal fantasy and magic school fiction, but it’s not. It’s honestly one of the stranger fantasies I’ve read. A content warning, it contains graphic descriptions of gore and body horror. Messing with and cutting up dead bodies is a major theme.
I quite enjoyed it. Sometimes it’s nice to find something completely different from the norm. It’s incredibly creative, and not only is the premise interesting, but the author carries it out in a fascinating manner. It’s not very long, but it makes its impression, and I’m glad there is a series of books exploring this universe.
Also, Nancy, the main character, is ace, plus another major character is trans!