across the green grass fields review // why are there so many HORSES

Good news: this is the last book I read in August that still needs to be reviewed! Unfortunately, I saved the worst for last and I don’t know why? Oh well, let’s just talk about this book!

A girl named Regan walks through a door full of horses. Unicorns, centaurs, kelpies, the list goes on. There, she learns to find herself and be comfortable with who she is.

This is the sixth and most recent release in Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, and I am so disappointed. In case you don’t know, the series tends to follow a pattern where odd-numbered books will follow a recurring cast of characters as they stay at a school while they wait for their door to come back. The even-numbered books feel more like standalone fairytales, either introducing new characters and new worlds or diving into the backstories of previously introduced ones. I tend to prefer the standalones more, so I was so excited for Across The Green Grass Fields! Especially after the disappointment that was Come Tumbling Down. Unfortunately, it really didn’t live up to my expectations.

Regan is a relatively likable character. She’s intersex, and upon discovering that has to deal with a lot of backlash from people she considers her “friends”. So when she escapes to the Hooflands and finds her home among centaurs who sees her for who she is, she’s able to finally grow. I loved her interactions with the centaurs, and later on with two characters named Gristle and Zephyr*. However, I never felt super attached to her. Like yeah, she’s nice and likable but that’s her entire personality. Her arc is interesting in the way that it’s interesting watching an acquaintance’s kid grow up**. You’re not that invested or knowledgeable but it’s nice all the same.

*lowkey, they were my favorite part of the book ngl
**lol look at me using metaphors i don’t relate to

One of my favorite aspects of the Wayward Children books are the unique fantasy worlds. That being said, I hated this world. Okay, maybe hate is a bit strong but still. I’m not a horse girl and never will be. The Hooflands is a world that feels made for horse girls considering it’s literally just a conglomerate of fields and markets featuring countless fictional horses. Why did we get to spend maybe one third of the book at best in Candyland in Beneath The Sugar Sky, but we got a whole book with this empty world??? The only thing that differentiates this world from ours is that it’s one giant field and forest containing horses. Am I being a bit repetitive? Maybe. Am I being melodramatic? Hopefully. I feel cheated.

“Such is the dichotomy of forests. Even the smallest remembers what it was to cover nations, and the shadows they contain will whisper the knowledge to anyone who listens.”

And then! There was no plot! There was literally nowhere for it to hide considering that this world is empty but somehow, I could not find the plot. Sure this is a novella, and yes it’s great seeing Regan hang out with her found family, but this book was so incredibly stagnant. I actually really loved the last third of the book (except the ending but I’ll rant about that later) because we actually saw Regan interacting with more than just centaurs, or wannabe horses that had the same exact cookie-cutter personalities as the centaurs. The climax gave me slight chills. There was something so inherently powerful in the last part of the book with the reveal that it genuinely bumped this book up at least two stars. It’s honestly probably my favorite climax in this whole series excepting perhaps Down Among The Sticks and Bones. And McGuire’s writing has a very slight fairytale quality to it, almost like a lilting lullaby. So this isn’t a badly written book by any means.

BUT THE ENDING. I AM SO ANGRY. This entire book felt like a cheat day where you eat nothing but Pixie Sticks and candy corn*. McGuire spends the entire book on Regan’s character arc, arguably at the price of the nearly non-existent plot. Then, when I think that we finally get to see the culmination of her person, it just ends. It’s abrupt and half-baked. It feels as if the word count was right on the edge of “no longer being a novella” and so we couldn’t get any sort of concrete ending. Don’t get me wrong, I can deal with open-ended endings. Sometimes. But this ending wasn’t just open, it was a free fall. Quite honestly, it felt like a disservice to both the reader and Regan.

*newton once said something about equal and opposite reactions. thus, my love for cookie dough is only rivaled by my visceral hatred for candy corn.

If you enjoy equestrian stories, you’ll probably enjoy this. I am not one of those people, so I ended up giving this 2.75/5 stars. Tell me: have you read this book?

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