Wayward Children, #2.5: “In Mercy, Rain”
By: Seanan McGuire
Published: July 18, 2022
Genre: Fantasy, Short Story
***This short story can be read for free here on Tor.com.
So Jack Wolcott, twelve years old and innocent of how much danger she had wandered into, grew into her proper place as a mad scientist’s apprentice.
Seanan McGuire has gifted us with another short story from her Wayward Children Compass. Fans are treated to how Jack Wolcott and Alexis Chopper met during the events in Down Among the Sticks and Bones. And yes, you need to read that story before you read this one.
This short story delves more into Jack’s apprenticeship at the Moors with Dr. Bleak. Readers learn from Dr. Bleak’s initial and continuous thoughts as he trains Jack to be his successor. In addition to teaching Jack about science and life in the Moors, Dr. Bleak makes sure Jack knows how to “socialize” with the local villagers. His reason for this is because he doesn’t want Jack to lose her knowledge of humanity because “one cannot treat others without considering their feelings.” So, Dr. Bleak teaches Jack about science and kindness in tandem.
The plot in this short story is straightforward: the circumstances as to how Jack and Alexis meet are revealed. At this point, Jack is around 15 years-old when she hears screaming from the bottom of the hill and sees a wagon coming up towards the windmill. The Choppers are bringing their daughter, Alexis, who had died recently to see whether or not Dr. Bleak can “bring her back.” There are 2 subplots in this short story. The first subplot goes into how the Moors operate. In fact, this subplot becomes one of the plots in Come Tumbling Down. The second subplot provides hints into Jack’s growing status at the Moors, and not just her identity as Dr. Bleak’s apprentice. This subplot does explain some of Jack’s taciturn character; and, it gives us some insight as to what’s been happening with Jill during her time with the (vampire) Master.
The narrative is told from Dr. Bleak’s point-of-view in 3rd person omniscient. Most of the story sees Dr. Bleak and his stream-of-consciousness as he trains and raises Jack. Readers witness how Dr. Bleak becomes the (better) father figure Jack needs. He notes the little things (i.e., Jack’s O.C.D.) and her behavior (her tendency to speak with few words) and works on making her into the successor the Moors will need in the future. After Alexis’ resurrection, the narrative shifts and the audience learns more about Jack and her experiences in both worlds (the good, the bad, and the terrible in both the Moors and in our “world”) from her stream-of-consciousness. All of the characters’ feelings are genuine; and, in this case, it makes them all reliable narrators.
The style Seanan McGuire uses for “In Mercy, Rain” is a buildup of the world of the Moors based on the books in the main series. And, the theme of this series is a cautionary tale. In this case, readers learn more about the “dangers of the Moors.” We all know about the Master, and we’ve heard of the werewolves; but we learn about the necromancer and the phantoms. Also, we are reminded the Abbey (of the Drowned Gods) demand more than prayers from the denizens of the Moors.
Fans of Wayward Children—particularly, Jack and Jill Wolcott’s story—will enjoy this story. Readers will view this story not only as to Jack and Alexis’ first interaction, but also as an element of world-building as readers learn about how the residents live and die at the Moors. I should mention that I do NOT determine the order of the stories in this series. That being said, I have labeled this story as occurring during the time of the 2nd book in the series. I have no idea why Goodreads has it listed as “#7.5” on its website. If the author wants me to change it on this review, then I will do it.
“In Mercy, Rain” is a short story which highlights a budding romance in a place where monsters, death, and resurrection roams free. Readers learn more about Jack, Dr. Bleak, and their unlikely father-daughter relationship. Fans of Wayward Children will be happy to know Seanan McGuire has more stories about our favorite characters who have found their Doors.
My Rating: MUST READ IT NOW (5 out of 5)!!!