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I sometimes wish these books were longer, they have such wonderful world(s)-building... but I suppose the characters wish for that too.
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I was excited when I got the pre-order notice for this sequel, since I LOVED Every Heart a Doorway and then thought that the next-published prequel, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, managed somehow to exceed Heart in every way. And yes! I had to wait for just the right mood, to make the most of the opportunity - but when the time and whimsy were right, Beneath a Sugar Sky did not disappoint! It simply made me happy to listen, even when the protagonists were struggling, and part of it was that the protagonists felt so real that it was if I knew Kade and Christopher and Sumi and Miss West at summer camp and felt glad to be back among them and meeting new friends too. I can't think of the last book in which the people in it were so real and three-dimensional, without becoming too complex for their ages or experiences. And the worlds were truly, deeply, original and inspired, and they too were so detailed that they felt real, like strange foreign lands that you can visit but will never be home.
A quick note about the narrator: she was terrific - but Seanan McGuire was so magical a narrator for Sticks and Bones that no one could match her, and I was just a little disappointed that she didn't read this one too. I also didn't much care for the voices of Sumi and her daughter, but the narrator nailed them so Sumi sounded exactly as she had in Heart, and her daughter sounded very similar. And those matched their personalities - abrupt, a little high, a little whiny, and usually demanding. So the narrator was excellent, and I almost feel guilty giving her just four stars.... but finally I engaged in a little "grade deflation" to express again the gap between a really good narrator - and Ms. McGuire herself in Sticks and Bones.
Last but not least and in proof of Ms. McGuire's writing talent: this book would, I think, work just fine as a first read or as a stand-alone novel. But really, don't cheat yourself - get all three!