Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This fifth entry in the Wayward Children series returns to the saga of twins Jack and Jill Wolcott, and their Lovecraftian-tinged alternate fantasy world the Moors, where Jill is the adopted daughter of a vampire lord and Jack is studying that world's version of "science" under a very Victor Frankenstein-like mentor.
But Jack, together with her girlfriend Alexis, has suddenly returned, through a door to our world. She has come to ask for help from her friends at Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children, because her twin sister, Jill, has forced her to switch bodies and has stolen Jack's body. Jill wants to use her sister's body for her vampire lord to turn her at the next full moon, and Jack is asking for help to stop her.
I've always liked the Wolcott sisters best of the characters introduced so far in the series, so I really enjoyed this continuation of their story. It's a tragic, brutal continuation, of course; the Moors is that sort of world, and the sisters, having been molded by it, are that sort of characters. Jack has OCD and is obsessed with cleanliness and sterile environments, and cannot stand the thought of living in her sister's germ- and blood-riddled body. Jill is envious and spiteful, jealous of her sister and wishing to pay her back for everything that has happened to them since they landed in their alternate world. They are both monsters--but as this story points out, Jack is the better one.
Jill shrieked and dropped the molten remains of Jack's glasses, cradling her wounded hand to her chest. The metal had burned through the leather of Jack's glove. "It isn't fair," she whimpered. "You get everything and it isn't fair and I'll beat you, I swear I'll beat you, I swear I'll win next time, I swear--"
"You'll never give up," said Jack softly. She pulled her hand out of the loop formed by her own cravat and started pushing her sister inexorably toward the wall, using her own superior strength--the strength born from a lifetime of hard labor--to overcome Jill's vague attempts to struggle. "You'll keep coming, and coming, and coming, and hurting the people I love."
"Yes," spat Jill. "Until I win."
"The Moors turned us both into monsters," said Jack. The resignation in her tone was a roll of thunder, heavy and unforgiving. "But it did a better job with me."
The Wayward Children series is a portal fantasy that can get pretty dark. There are lighter, fluffier worlds, such as Confection, the home of one of the featured characters, that has cotton-candy clouds and a strawberry jam sea. But the world of the Moors is dark and bloody, and altogether fascinating. I'm glad the author returned to it for this story. The only quibble I have about this book is the omniscient narrator, as I've never been a fan of head-hopping, and unfortunately that's what happens here. But McGuire handles that POV about as well as it can be handled, I think. I also appreciated her handling of Jack's OCD and the themes of knowing one's place and identity and making a stand for both, even if other people disapprove. This is a very good entry in the series, and (so far, anyway) brings Jack and Jill's story to an end.
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