In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
The fourth book in the Wayward Children series is another prequel, and goes back to the darker tone of many of the books. This one follows Lundy from the first book and her time in the Goblin Market. Unlike the other worlds, the Goblin Market lets you come and go as you choose, until you reach the age of 18, where you have to choose which world to stay in forever. In the Goblin Market, everything is governed by the concept of “fair value,” and a magic force pervading the world ensures people pay their debts fairly. Lundy loves this sensible world of order as opposed to the injustices of her own.
This fourth entry and prequel tells the story of Lundy, 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.
The story is highly bittersweet and it made me very sad throughout. I loved Lundy and Moon’s friendship. While I wasn’t that interested in Lundy in Every Heart a Doorway, I loved her in this one. My main complaint is some things were briefly summarized that were important. These books typically summarize adventures, which is fine, but this one makes frequent reference to a girl named Mockery, who was Lundy’s best friend. Mockery’s death destroyed Lundy’s innocence and had a major impact on her that’s referenced throughout the story. But we never actually meet Mockery on page or know how she died. It’s all very vague, and I had trouble feeling anything about it because I didn’t known Mockery. Something so important to a character arc should have been included.
Nevertheless, overall this was one of the best books in the series. A wonderful bittersweet fantasy.