Beneath the Sugar Sky – Seanan McGuire

Beneath the Sugar Sky

Beneath the Sugar Sky


At a home for young people who can move between worlds but are temporarily out of the appropriate one, Rini arrives unexpectedly, falling out of thin air into a turtle pond. She’s from the bakery world of Confection, and looking to resurrect her mother, whose death before Rini’s conception is leading to Rini’s gradual disappearance. It’s odd, but that’s how things work in a Nonsense world.


I’ve heard a lot about Seanan McGuire, and been looking for an opportunity to try her work. This wasn’t marked as a sequel, or I might have chosen to start elsewhere. While it definitely feels like a sequel, it’s not hard to follow along; McGuire does a decent job of covering the backstory as she goes.

I’m sorry to say I was disappointed. The book is a nice YA story, but not as magical as I was expecting from the hype.
On the good side,
  • the concept is interesting, if familiar – magical gates to other worlds that have different rules (Logic, Reason, Nonsense)
  • the characters are a nice break from the norm – different body types, different gender identification, etc.
  • the writing is light and quick
On the other side,
  • McGuire lays on the Logic/Nonsense dichotomy pretty thickly. We hear over and over again about the distinction, and why Nonsense worlds can operate however they like. She also strays into a ‘worlds from‘ and ‘worlds to‘ description that is far from clear, though the basic intent is easily discerned
  • while the characters are appealingly different than the usual, McGuire’s approach is heavy-handed, even for YA. The lead character, Cora, is heavier than the norm, but very able. That’s great, but where McGuire goes wrong is in making almost everything in Cora’s life about being thought fat. She can run fast, even though people think she’s fat; she’s smart, even though people discount her wit because they think she’s fat; she’s a good swimmer, even though … It’s credible that this is a central concern for Cora, but I would have given a lot for just a few things in her life not to be about being perceived as fat.
  • McGuire sometimes falls or almost falls into the very trap she’s trying to avoid. More characters than you’d expect are beautiful. While celebrating diversity, some of the characters mock those with different views. I’d like to say that these moments are set up as ‘people are complicated and no one is perfect’, but they’re not. It seemed to me they were just slips, not clever meta-comments.
All in all, a passable YA novel, and probably fun if you’re already immersed in the world. Coming into it cold, I was hoping for more originality and a lighter touch. Despite comparisons I’ve seen, this felt a lot less like Narnia than like one of the lesser Oz books.

I received a free copy of this
book in exchange for an honest review.

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