Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire, is a prequel to Every Heart a Doorway, telling the story of Jack and Jill, how they came to the Moors and what happened to them once there.
Two of the most evil people in the book are Jack and Jill’s parents, who don’t love their daughters, only the desires they enforce upon them. So concerned with appearances and their own dreams of what their children should be that there’s no room for Jacqueline and Jillian to be themselves. This twists them so much that the Moors opens a doorway for the twins and invites them in.
The other evil in the book is The Master, the vampire who jealously kills anyone with whom Jill plays, wanting her to depend solely on him for everything. This leaves Jill jealous and even more twisted in turn.
The Moors is a world of violence and monsters, inimical to humans and yet craving their presence. The girls might have wandered into the mountains and their forests and thus gone to the werewolves, or they might have gone to the sea and been claimed by the creatures there. But they wandered across the moors, inadvertently making their choice of The Master’s domain. But once there they each knowingly make their choice between The Master—a vampire—and Dr. Bleak—a mad scientist—who have an agreement of some sort regarding foundlings.
The prose itself is beautiful. Down Among the Sticks and Bones is told in omniscient point of view, allowing Ms. McGuire to tell a more lyrical story, to skip through time when necessary, and to tell things the girls themselves wouldn’t have known or thought about but that are vital to the story, and to comment on what’s going on.
I loved this book, but despite its short length it isn’t a light and fluffy read. It’s an emotionally bloody book. It doesn’t end happily. But then, I doubt any story of the Moors ends happily.