Wayward Children, #0.7: “Skeleton Song”
By Seanan McGuire
Published: October 26, 2022
Genre: Fantasy, Short Story
***This short story can be read for free here on Tor.com.
***Thank you TorDotCom Publishing for sending a copy of this story to me.
It was strange and fleshy, shaped as a skeleton was shaped, but with a covering of fat and skin stretched across it, concealing it from proper view. It hid most of its body under rags it called “clothing,” which had grown tattered and worn, developing holes where none had been before. Some among the palace staff had hoped, for a time, that the same might happen to the terrible creature’s “skin,” leaving proper, honest bone to shine through. It had not.
Seanan McGuire continues to spoil her fans by dropping yet another short story from the Wayward ChildrenCompass—recently the recipient of the Hugo Award for Best Series. This time readers of the series are treated to Christopher’s story and his time in Mariposa, which occurs before Every Heart A Doorway. “Skeleton Song” was released in time for both Halloween and Día de los Muertos.
The protagonist in this short story is the Princess of Mariposa—a.k.a. Christopher’s “Skeleton” girlfriend, Skeleton Girl. Her being the protagonist is essential to this story because the Princess is NOT the Traveler, she is the one who receives the Traveler. This change in perspective as to who the Traveler is allows readers a chance to learn of the World the Traveler is in from a denizen’s perspective. Christopher is the main character in this short story. This is the first-time readers get to experience Christopher’s time in Mariposa in real-time because all of the times Christopher talks about Mariposa in the main series was in the past tense. While everyone else in Mariposa—skeletons—view Christopher as “a terrible creature” due to him having flesh, the Princess welcomes him and even “draws out” Christopher’s illness (most likely leukemia) out of him (NOT a cure). Both the Princess and Christopher bond as each one tells the other of their World. This blooming love story’s dilemma is that one individual has skin and flesh while the other one does not.
The plot in this short story is straightforward: Christopher finds a Door which leads him to Mariposa, where not only he is “treated” for his illness, but also falls in love with the Princess. While this short story is a prequel to the (main) series, it confirms what readers (and other Travelers) believed about Christopher: the “origins” of his bone flute, what he would have to do to stay in Mariposa, and how and why Mariposa’s denizens are all skeletons. The subplot in this short story is learning what Christopher and the Princess must do so Christopher can stay in Mariposa; and, Christopher needs to “Be Sure” about it.
As mentioned earlier, the narrative is told from the Princess’ point-of-view in 3rd person omniscient. Throughout most of the story, the narrative is presented from the Princess’ P.O.V., but there are a couple of brief moment where the P.O.V. shifts to Christopher’s. This moment displays Christopher’s stream-of-consciousness in that moment, and it is essential to the story. In fact, this moment is probably why the Princess is the main P.O.V. character. All of the thoughts and the emotions are genuine; and the two characters are reliable narrators.
The style Seanan McGuire uses for “Skeleton Song” can be argued as to it being related to world-building. Yes, she does give fans of Wayward Children the backstory of one of the characters they’ve been asking for about for some time. And yet, McGuire gives her readers the chance to explore Mariposa and to try to figure out where it belongs on “The Compass.”
Fans of Wayward Children have been waiting for Christopher’s story and they have it now. Those who have read as least the first book and/or the “Present Day” entries in this series (readers should have figured out the order of the series by now) will be able to enjoy and to appreciate “Skeleton Song” the most. Another thing I need to reiterate is the order of the stories in this series. Once again, I do NOT determine the order of the books in this series, but I will point out what I believe is an “error” of placement. It’s obvious “Skeleton Song” takes place before Every Heart A Doorway. For some reason, Goodreads has it listed as “7.7” on the website. For evident reasons, I will be referring to “Skeleton Song” as “0.7” in this series. If I have to change the placement number, then either the author or the publisher are more than welcome to tell me to change it.
“Skeleton Song” is another short story for the Wayward Children series, and fans have been waiting for this entry and it delivers on everything they wanted to learn about Christopher’s time in Mariposa with the Skeleton Girl. Readers get to learn about the beautiful world, the blooming love, and the sadness that trails behind it. The only things about Christopher readers will want to know afterwards is whether or not he finds his Door again.
My Rating: MUST READ IT NOW (5 out of 5)!!!