Tor.com, 2 November 2022
Available as: e
Skeleton Song fills a gap in McGuire's Wayward Children series, which studies - with great compassion - the lives of you g people who are out of place in "our" world, finding their fulfilment in various fantasy lands reached through magical portals - but who then are returned to this world, and left to work through that rejection.
In many of the stories we have met Christopher, who found the love of his Skeleton Girl but - somehow - stumbled out of her world and madly, desperately, wishes to return. What test did he fail, what task did he find, that separated him for her?
Well, here we get some answers. We learn about the monstrous being that comes to Mariposa. We learn about Christopher's illness and his healing, and the origins of the bone flute. We learn about the price of love, and the grief that the price brings. It's a short and simple story but no less moving for all that, and it sets us up, I hope, to learn more of Christopher;'s and Skeleton Girl's story in some forthcoming book.
As ever, McGuire's prose is masterly, maintaining the story in a delicate banalise between high fairytale, dream and human - if that's the correct word when the humans include living skeletons - practicality and reason. Finishing these books always gives me that sense you get when you wake form a really good dream and you want to go back to sleep to recapture it - bit you know you can't. A distant echo perhaps of the grief and loss that McGuire sees in her young people on their return from the lands that have rejected them?
Strongly recommended if you're following these stories, if you are not then go and read Every Heart a Doorway first, you'll thank me, I promise!
For more information about Skeleton Song, see the publisher's website here.