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Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Come Tumbling Down

July 13, 2020

IMG_4088This year, for the first time in memory, I couldn’t make a plan to go swimming on my birthday; the pools aren’t open and the lake beaches are too crowded. So I put a lounge chair in the back yard, set up a sprinkler on my legs, and read one of the books I got as a present, Seanan McGuire’s Down Among the Sticks and Bones. This is the second in her Wayward Children series and just as amusing as the others.

Jacqueline and Jillian are twins and their parents don’t know what to do with them. I liked the part when they were newly born and their mother said “you’ve had a bottle….You’ve been changed. You’ve been walked around the house while I bounced you and sang that dreadful song about the spider. Why are you still crying?” And then the narrator says that they “were crying for some of the many reasons that babies cry—they were cold, they were distressed, they were offended by the existence of gravity.”

Jack and Jill, as they are inevitably called, find a doorway into The Moors, a frightening world in which necromancy pays and vampires rule:
“There are world built on rainbows and worlds built on rain. There are worlds of pure mathematics, where every number chimes like crystal as it rolls into reality. There are worlds of light and worlds of darkness, worlds of rhyme and worlds of reason, and worlds where the only thing that matters is the goodness in a hero’s heart. The Moors are none of those things. The Moors exist in eternal twilight, in the pause between the lightning strike and the resurrection. They are a place of endless scientific experimentation, of monstrous beauty, and of terrible consequences.”

Jill lives with a vampire while Jack becomes the student of a mad scientist and learns how to resurrect people with lightning. I love this parenthetical remark about how resurrection works in this world: “Those who had died once and been resurrected couldn’t become vampires: whatever strange mechanism the undead used to reproduce themselves was magic, and it shied away from the science of lightning and the wheel.”

Jack falls in love with a resurrected girl named Alexis and tells her “I could give you children….You’d have to tell me how many heads you wanted them to have, and what species you’d like them to be, but what’s the point of having all these graveyards if I can’t give you children when you ask for them?”

Down Among the Sticks and Bones was an enjoyable book to read all at once on a beautiful summer afternoon.

The day after my birthday was a road trip day, as I drove my daughter back to her apartment in North Carolina after her visit with us in Ohio, spent the night there, and then drove back to my house the next day. I have improved at our non-hydrated mode of traveling to the extent that on the way back, an 8-hour drive, I stopped only twice.

The day after I got back, while re-hydrating, I read Come Tumbling Down, the fourth Wayward Children novel and a follow-up to the adventures of Jack and Jill.

Come Tumbling Down really features resurrections. Sumi, who was previously resurrected (in Beneath the Sugar Sky) is in it, along with Alexis, Jill, and a couple of horses (one of which is a skeleton and so beloved of Christopher, the boy from Mariposa, the skeleton world). Kade and Cora go along for the adventure, and when Jack is filling them in on what has happened, Cora remarks “apparently, the rest of you go around raising the dead when you don’t have anything better to do.” In fact, Alexis has been resurrected twice now, and Jack explains to Christopher, at one point, that “while she might be able to get pregnant via conventional means, neither science nor necromancy recommends she attempt to do so.”

Sumi deals with The Moors matter-of-factly and gives more than one good speech about their predicament and the necessity of them acting as heroes. Here’s one of her speeches, made when it seems Jack can’t go on:
“The world doesn’t stop spinning because you’re sad, and that’s good: if it did, people would go around breaking hearts like they were sheets of maple sugar, just to keep the world exactly where it is. They’d make it out like it was a good thing, a few crying children in exchange for a peace that never falters or fades.”

Sumi also gets in a Monty Python line when Christopher wonders why she’s willing to help Jack, saying
“her sister killed you.”
“I got better,” said Sumi airily.

Even the happy ending of Come Tumbling Down involves a resurrection, as “on the slab, the dead man—not so dead any longer—opened his eyes.”

I’ll stand by my conviction that necromancy never pays in our world, but in the frighteningly amusing world of The Moors, it’s quite routine.

 

11 Comments leave one →
  1. July 13, 2020 2:45 pm

    I remember yelling, “YESSSSS!” when I got to the Monty Python reference. I was so happy with that. Hahaha!

    • July 17, 2020 10:02 am

      It fits the character, too. Sumi would watch Monty Python skits!

  2. July 13, 2020 4:11 pm

    Happy birthday!

  3. July 13, 2020 6:41 pm

    I empathise with those mewling twins, I’m quite often offended at the existence of gravity too. But what fun these titles sound — if only I had another lifetime to read all these wonderful books you and others dangle in front of us.

    Do you happen to know anyone who can help me live significantly beyond my allotted three score and ten…? My favourite Monty Python line, by the way, used to be ‘He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy’ but I think ‘I’m not dead yet’ may be replacing it.

    • July 17, 2020 10:05 am

      Really, who isn’t offended at the existence of gravity? But so few authors mention it!
      My favorite Monty Python line, at least in terms of the frequency with which I quote it, is “that’s not argument; that’s just contradiction.”

  4. July 13, 2020 7:01 pm

    Who doesn’t love a good murder sundae? 😉 I wish I had listened to Book 2 before Book 4, but for some reason I believed the publisher when they said these were standalones (and for some reason I thought Tumbling was the only audiobook narrated by McGuire herself). Alexis’ appearance in Tumbling might’ve made a bigger impression on me if I’d read them in order. Still, she and Jack have a beautifully macabre love story.

    Also, I love that the parents somehow didn’t realize they were naming their kids after a nursery rhyme. Guess that was Grandma’s influence shining through despite their Dursley natures?

    • July 17, 2020 10:08 am

      I think the parents are just supposed to be totally out of touch with the world; there are parents who believe the names they have bestowed will never be shortened.
      I remember the day my own daughter (Eleanor) came home from kindergarten and informed us that from that day on, she wanted to go by a name we heard as “Ellie.” It turned out that her writing was so big she could only get three letters on the library checkout card: ELE.
      By the way, it was Eleanor who (several years ago) gave me a blanket shaped like a mermaid’s tail to keep my feet warm when I read.

      • July 17, 2020 1:11 pm

        Awww! I usually tell people to call me Neri or Neddy when I’m ordering coffee or from food trucks. And yay for mermaid blankets!

  5. July 14, 2020 7:54 am

    Happy belated birthday! I felt unaccountably sad about you not getting to go swimming on your birthday — I haven’t been swimming in an age, and I miss it, and I wish you could do it. But your substitute sounds like a good one. There’s nothing quite like reading a book all in one sitting, is there? I read about half of Max Barry’s Providence in one sitting yesterday, and it was really nice.

    • July 17, 2020 10:11 am

      Swimming is the only way I can get exercise, so I do miss it a lot. I wrote to the local “rehab and wellness center” where I’ve gone to aqua aerobics classes for years and asked them if there was any chance I could pay to use the pool for an hour alone. I don’t have much hope of this, but it never hurts to ask.
      Yes, there is nothing like reading a book all in one sitting!

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