'Across the Green Grass Fields' by Seanan McGuire review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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'Across the Green Grass Fields' by Seanan McGuire review

Alexander Wallace steps through the portal.
I’ve come more and more to liking Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series as I’ve read more of the novellas. I read In an Absent Dream to see the 2020 Hugos, and Come Tumbling Down for the 2021 Hugos. As of now, I fully expect Across the Green Grass Fields to be nominated for the 2022 Hugos. McGuire is one of the darlings of the Hugo voting base, and understandably so; I also quite liked her novel Middlegame.

Across the Green Grass Fields continues with the series’ staple: a young girl finds a doorway to another world where her personality and talents will be appreciated in a way that the real world does not. Here, your protagonist is Regan, a girl cursed by uncaring friends. Above all things, she loves horses, as many girls her age do. When puberty hits, she finds herself different; her parents tell her that she’s intersex. Mocked relentlessly for this, she runs off into the woods from her school, expecting to find her way home. Instead, she finds a doorway, bearing the sign:


She emerges in the titular green grass fields that seem to go on forever. She is taken in by a family of centaurs who raise her and defend her against the ravages of this strange world of mythical creatures, ruled by an unseen queen whose diktats are inscrutable.

Regan, like many protagonists of the Wayward Children series, is a moving portrayal of a person who, feeling like she has nothing, enters a new world where she actually can be someone. Her story will speak to anyone who yearns for an escape, be it from school, a job, or some other life situation that seems unbearable. Having lived such, I could empathize immensely; the series as a whole hit me in the gut repeatedly, and this novella is no exception. You feel legitimate sorrow when you read Regan made to suffer by the people around her in the real world, and you feel equally real joy when she finds her own tribe in this new world.

But it is a world that is no utopia, as much as it may seem to Regan. It quickly becomes clear that there are odd things afoot, and Regan soon attracts attention for being human in a world of mythical creatures. The drama that ensues from this is compelling, filled with flight and fury.

Across the Green Grass Fields struck me as the most openly political of the Wayward Children series. I will not reveal this in the interest of not spoiling the story, but I can vouch that it is in no way overbearing or pompous. Those who have read widely may notice something similar in theme to Robert Sheckley’s 1960 novel The Status Civilization.

This novella is a sterling addition to the Wayward Children series. McGuire once again creates a world that is vividly realized, host to a story that is deeply heartfelt. As a bonus, it works very well as a standalone, so the length of the series need not turn away the newcomer. In any case, it is a fantastic book.

Alexander Wallace is an alternate historian, reader, and writer who moderates the Alternate History Online group on Facebook and the Alternate Timelines Forum on Proboards. He writes regularly for the Sea Lion Press blog and for NeverWas magazine, and also appears regularly on the Alternate History Show with Ben Kearns. He is a member of several alternate history fora under the name 'SpanishSpy.'

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