cover image Over the Woodward Wall

Over the Woodward Wall

A. Deborah Baker., $17.99 (208p) ISBN 978-0-7653-9927-4

Seanan McGuire, writing as Baker, crafts a delightful, fable-like portal fantasy that works as a charming standalone adventure and serves as a metafictional tie-in to her 2019 blockbuster Middlegame, which features Baker as a character. When two children climb over a mysterious wall, they’re transported to the realm of the Up-and-Under, a bizarre land where dangers abound and anything is possible. To return home, they must “walk the length of the improbable road, all the way to the Impossible City” to speak with its ruler, the Queen of Wands. It’s the adventure of a lifetime for bold Zib and methodical Avery, and along the way they brave elemental hazards, encounter confounding talking animals, and become best friends. McGuire embraces the nonsensical internal logic of the plot with glee. On the surface, this reads like a sophisticated contemporary take on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but the connection to Middlegame adds a complex, self-aware edge that elevates the story beyond the children’s fantasies that inspired it. Readers won’t have to have read Middlegame to enjoy this, but those who have will take pleasure in the multiple layers of meaning behind each scene. With lyrical prose and deep stores of emotion, this grown-up fairy tale works on every level. (Oct.)