The third book in McGuire’s Wayward Children series is a sequel to the first, with one of the murders in the first book having severe repercussions on the magical-portal world connected to the victim. There’s more of Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children in this story than the last but it’s clear that the interesting premise of the lives of people who once had a magical adventure as a child in a magical land after they return has limited scope.
Nominally Beneath the Sugar Sky continues the core theme but it is less a commentary on portal fantasies and more of a straight portal fantasy. A group of students from the school become embroiled in the fate of a magical land that is based on confectionery, which due to events in the real world is now under the control of an evil queen that needs to be defeated. To do so requires resurrecting a character from the first book, which leads the characters in an adventure into the realms of the dead.
Now McGuire is incapable of telling a bad story and this one has a nice balance of characters and events that kept me nicely diverted while reading it. However, it lacked some of the broader qualities of Every Heart a Doorway or the tragic conflict of Down Among the Sticks and Bones. It’s not a standout story, although well executed. Perhaps I’ve missed some of the nuance or significance in it but having read it and thought about it, I found I had very little to say about it.