ARC provided by Tor.com (thank you)
Publication: January 12th, 2021 by Tor.com
“She knew better now. The world was bigger now. She was bigger now, and that made all the difference.”
In this story, we get to grow up alongside Regan Lewis! We are introduced to Regan at seven years old, where she is quickly already learning the expectations that society puts on girls, especially girls who are different. Regan comes from a good family, who love and care about her, and she has a big space in her heart for horses! She also has two best friends, and they do everything together! That is, until she really learns the consequences of what it means to be different, and what happens to girls who don’t play by the rules that society place on them.
“They thought children, especially girl children, were all sugar and lace, and that when those children fought, they would do so cleanly and in the open, where adult observers could intervene.”
We get to see Regan at 11, becoming worried that her body isn’t developing the way other girls’ bodies are. She doesn’t need to wear a bra yet, she doesn’t need deodorant yet, and she hasn’t started her period yet. And once the pressure gets too great to bear, she asks her parents who (very kindly, knowledgeably, and empathetically) explain to her that her body hasn’t started developing these things (or maybe won’t start developing these things on their own without some help) because she is intersex.
This book really made me realize how much I am slacking as a reader and reviewer with reading books with intersex main characters. Off the top of my head, I can think of only two others, and that makes me feel very bad and I hope to change that soon. But, regardless of chromosomes or androgen insensitivity, Regan is a girl and has always been a girl. And I really loved how her parents constantly reminded her that she was exactly as she was meant to be. Truly, I had so many happy tears over her parents, truly a tier above.
Regan is still very unsure of herself and this new information, and after confiding in someone who she probably should not have, and after they say some incredibly hurtful things to her, she runs away into the woods to try to get home, yet a magical door appears and she steps into a world filled with horses, and kelpies, and centaurs, and unicorns!
I loved this world, like, I loved this world so much. Also, I have never been and will never be a horse girl, and this hooved world was still everything to me. And once Regan is discovered in this world by a pack of centaurs who herd unicorns, we find out about a prophecy that states all humans must be given to the queen, because whenever a human shows up in this magical land that means that something bad is about to happen! But it is not stated anywhere when the human must be given to the queen, therefore Regan gets to spend a lot of time with her centaur family.
The heart of this book is about destiny, and what it means to be destined for something. Whether it’s about your gender, your childhood, your family, or even maybe saving a whole magical world filled with horse-like creatures! All these expectations can be so very heavy, but they do become lighter when you have a found family to help with them. They also become pretty light when you are able to realize that you and your journey and your life are worth so much more than the expectations placed on you from society, from friends, and from any kind of destiny that you did not ask for.
“She still didn’t believe in destiny. Clay shaped into a cup was not always destined to become a drinking vessel’ it was simply shaped by someone too large to be resisted. She was not clay, but she had been shaped by her circumstances all the same, not directed by any destiny.”
This entire story has a really beautiful message about found family, and finding your people, and how unconditional love is all about unapologetically choosing the people you love over and over again. Blood will only ever be blood, but choosing the people who are your home is another level of love. We also get to see Regan at 15, when it is time for her to fulfill her destiny after spending four years being unconditionally loved. Side note: I would die for Gristle and Zephyr.
The reason I am giving this four stars is because I didn’t love the end of this one. I truly enjoyed the reveal, and the symbolism about destiny was not lost on me, but I just truly wanted a more concrete ending. I am scared to wish for another book in this world, since I didn’t love the revisit to the Moors, but (without going into spoiler territory here) I just really wanted to see things that I didn’t get to see! Also, in part one, I feel like this author may not spend a lot of time with children in 2020, but that is a very minor critique that I have.
Overall, I really enjoyed this one and I truly felt so much happiness flipping these pages. I love seeing all the different ways you can belong in the Wayward Children series, and I think these stories contain a lot of hope, and healing, and light. And, how I close off every review of each book in this series, I’m going to keep praying that we get Kade’s story next.
Trigger and Content Warnings: blood descriptions, bullying, intersexphobia, abduction, and brief captivity.