Across the Green Grass Fields
by Seanan McGuire; narrated by Annamarie Carlson
“Welcome to the Hooflands. We’re happy to have you, even if you being here means something’s coming.”
Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late.
When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to “Be Sure” before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines – a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes.
But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem…
The Wayward Children series is a series I should love, but I was so disappointed by Every Heart a Doorway, and had some issues with the ace rep, that I haven’t bothered reaching for any of the other books in the series. Until Jenna @ Falling Letters brought to my attention that McGuire was releasing a novella set in a land of centaurs and unicorns.
A surprise Audible credit encouraged me to try the audiobook, and I finally got around to listening to the whole thing during a fairly lengthy car journey. And I loved it. This novella feels like it was made for me.
This novella distances itself from Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children and the characters there to follow Regan, a horse lover and only child with loving parents who’s starting to have some trouble at school when she’s caught in a toxic friendship. When her parents sit her down one evening to tell her something and Regan trusts her friend with the news only to be rejected, she flees school and finds a peculiar door in the woods, where the branches have formed the words “Be Sure”. Regan steps through it and into the Hooflands, a land of centaurs, unicorns and kelpies.
I loved this novella so much not only because it heavily involves some of my favourite fantastical creatures, but because it took me back to being 11-years-old and how messy and difficult your friendships at that age can be, and how so many children that age would love nothing more than a door to a fantastical world where they’re special and loved. This story filled me with nostalgia even though I’d never read it before and it only came out in 2021; it felt like experiencing an 80s fantasy movie for the first time, where everything’s charming and leaves you feeling bizarrely homesick. Regan is a heroine you can’t help rooting for even when she makes mistakes, because they’re mistakes so many of us make as children.
I adored so many of the other characters, too, with centaurs Chicory, Daisy and Pansy and kelpie Gristle being some of my favourites. Regan’s friendship with Chicory, in particular, is lovely. It was so refreshing to see equine fantasy take centre stage, and to watch Regan fall in love with all of them and their world. Yet unlike The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, where the Pevensies grow up in Narnia only to be returned to five minutes after they left when they go back through the wardrobe, McGuire doesn’t let you forget that Regan is technically a missing child during her time in the Hooflands, and her parents spend years with no idea where she is or if she’s alive.
If you’re going to give Across the Green Grass Fields a try, I’d certainly recommend the audiobook. I thoroughly enjoyed Annamarie Carlson’s narration, and having the story read to me, rather than reading it physically, added to its nostalgia for me because I listened to a lot of audiobooks as a child. It’s hopeful and bittersweet and, if you love centaurs as much as I do, it’s a must-read.