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Nathan’s review of Mislaid in Parts Half-Known by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire returns to the multiversal universe of the Wayward Children with the ninth installment, Mislaid in Parts Half-Known. Longtime fans of the series will know what to expect from one of the “odd numbered” entries to the series which continues the overarching narrative of our favorite former-portal fantasy world heroes.

I’m always a bit hesitant going into the one of the more “overarching plot”, odd numbered volumes. The previous novellas of this kind have always been the weakest in the series vs. the profound and powerful even-numbered standalones.

Unfortunately, Mislaid in Parts Half-Known proved my hesitations correct. While still a worthy way to spend an afternoon, this might be the weakest installment of this series yet. I in no way regret reading it, but it was a bit disappointing to wait an entire year for another Wayward Children novella and then to get this.

This novella is essentially two different books colliding into one another, for better and for worse.

The first book, which has the strongest elements, is a sequel to last year’s stunning Lost in the Moment and Found (which is sitll one of my all-time favorite books in the series!). This ninth entry continues the story of Antsy as she meets many of the friends we’ve made in previous books. What results is a cathartic narrative of Antsy’s healing as she direclty confronts the trauma (and traumatizers) of her toxic and painful past. Her story is one of my all-time favorites, and Mislaid in Part Half-Known beautifully continues (and ultimatey wraps up, at least for now) the arc that Antsy began last year. I am so happy we got to spend more time with a character I grew to really love and admire, and this novella was more than successful in addressing some of the lingering questions and plot lines that we were left with after Book 8.

Where Mislaid in Parts Half-Known falters is continuing the story-line of everyone else, including Cora, Kade, and Christopher. It is not that any of these characters are bad or that their plot arcs jump the shark; rather, McGuire has brought together much too large a cast for this novella to handle. We spend so much time dealing with Antsy’s trauma and healing (which as I said, is great!), that everyone else feels a bit underdeveloped and their arcs are unsatisfyingly put into overdrive.

Having to deal with so many characters also brings the pace to a frustratingly slow crawl, even in the novella format. The first half of this book is actually quite boring, as we have to check in with everyone and remind ourselves who these characters are. This is perhaps one of the problems with this series and its release schedule – because every other novella is a standalone that doesn’t advance the main narrative, its really 2 years between “plot progression” entries to this series – which is FAR too long when we are dealing with novellas. After that kind of wait I have not only forgotten what has happened in the overarching plot, but I realize I don’t care about it either. And seeing how McGuire deals with the bigger narrative here, she doesn’t care about it much either.

As I see it (as a non-author, to be clear!) McGuire has two options to revitalize the series moving forward. Either stick to the standalone format, with other characters making guest appearances when necessary. Or really go all in and develop an engaging and stimulating overarching plot. Either can be successful. We’ve seen how amazing the standalones can be, but Mislaid in Parts Half-Known also shows that McGuire has a lot of themes to explore with the characters and plots she has already introduced. This novella brings some interesting ideas related to the classification of the worlds that we have been taught, the nature/rules of the Doors, and more. The thing is that McGuire needs to start going all in on one of these, are start pumping out 2 of these novellas a year.

Ultimately, this one was kind of a dud; but then again, McGuire’s duds are still thought-provoking and readable. Just don’t go into this one expecting the same fast pace and high quality of the previous books. Even the dinosaurs, so prominently featured on the cover, play a pretty minor role in only about 10% of the entire book. Hopefully this was only a one-off weaker entry and the series can right itself again; heck, this isn’t the first so-called “bad” entry in the series (books 5 and 6 were also not McGuire’s best), so this is definitely not the time to give up on the series entirely!

Concluding Thoughts: McGuire returns to the world of the Doors with an entry that slips a bit because it tries to handle too many characters and too many plot threads in its short page count. This novella fully succeeds as a sequel to last year’s Lost in the Moment and Found, but fails to continue the plot and character arcs established in previous entries in a satisfying, meaningful, or exciting way. Antsy’s story continues to wow, but everyone else just kind of languish on the page as McGuire struggles to service her growing cast of characters. Don’t come for the dinosaurs (they play a small role), but do come for Antsy’s cathartic healing. Hopefully future “odd-numbered, over-arching plot” books in this series can recapture some of the magic.

 

Thank you for reading my review of Mislaid in Parts Half-Known!

 

Nathan

Nathan is a PhD Candidate in Anthropology where he specializes in death rituals of the Ice Age in Europe and queer theory. Originally from Ohio, he currently lives in Kansas where he teaches college anthropology, watches too much TV, and attempts to make the perfect macarons in a humid climate. He is also the co-host of The Dragonfire podcast with James Lloyd Dulin. He reads widely in fantasy and sci-fi and is always looking for new favorites!

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