Seanan McGuire continues the Wayward Children series with this sixth entry, Across the Green Grass Fields. This novella is a standalone. Readers don’t have to read the other five novellas in order to enjoy Across the Green Grass Fields—although I definitely recommend them. In this entry, Regan finds a portal to a world of centaurs, kelpies, and other hooved beings on the worst day of her life. She doesn’t return for six years.
Like the other books in the Wayward Children series, Across the Green Grass Fields is about becoming comfortable with one’s identity and finding a place that feels right. Other stories in this series have featured trans characters, characters who have personalities that are incompatible with their very “normal” families, or who just don’t seem to fit where they are. Doors appear for these characters that open into dangerous, adventurous worlds where these characters can come into their own. Regan is intersex, but she only finds out when she asks her parents why she hasn’t hit puberty when all of her peers have. And; she finds her door on the day that she realizes that her “best friend” is no such thing after revealing her biology.
On the other side of the door are the Hooflands. Regan is rescued by a humble unicorn-herding family of centaurs. Humans are supposed to be immediately delivered to the ruling monarch because, historically, they only appear in the Hooflands to save the world. But Regan’s found family keep her under wraps. No one cares about Regan’s biology (apart from the fact that she is human) or gender. The centaurs, kelpies, minotaurs, and other species of the Hooflands have completely different gender roles. With no one scrutinizing Regan’s behavior and body, she is free to just be Regan, to do and wear and say what feels right.
Ultimately, Across the Green Grass Fields is about the lies people tell to keep up appearances and maintain tradition. Regan does eventually meet her Hooflands destiny by traveling to the queen’s palace to do whatever it is she needs to do to save her life, only to uncover a great big lie that’s been perpetuated for centuries. McGuire has similar morals in the other entries in the Wayward Children series. The books are like modern fairy tales in that they all contain important lessons, embedded in plots and dangers that the protagonist has to survive. It’s as though McGuire is creating a new canon of instructive (and highly entertaining and original) folklore for contemporary readers. I love these books.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.