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Literature / Beneath the Sugar Sky

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The third novella in the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire. It's a direct sequel to Every Heart a Doorway, detailing the ongoing adventures of the children at Eleanor West's boarding school.

When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can’t let Reality get in the way of her quest – not when she has an entire world to save! (Much more common than one would suppose.)

If she can't find a way to restore her mother, Rini will have more than a world to save: she will never have been born in the first place. And in a world without magic, she doesn’t have long before Reality notices her existence and washes her away. Good thing the student body is well-acquainted with quests...

Warning: May contain nuts...


Tropes appearing in this work include:

  • Artificial Limbs: Nadya was born without a right forearm, so in her world she used a hand made out of water.
  • Back from the Dead: Sumi.
  • Balancing Death's Books: In order to take Sumi's soul from the Underworld, they have to leave a person behind. Nadya decides to stay, as the Underworld is close to her own Drowned Land, and Hades agrees to let her go if the door opens there.
  • The Bus Came Back: well, more like they go to the Bus: Kade figures that they'd need to go to an Underworld in order to get Sumi's soul back, and Rini's candy necklace can take them to any world where sugar exists, so they go to the Halls of the Dead, where Nancy went at the end of the first book. As a side benefit, this allows Kade and Nancy to have a proper goodbye that her departure had prevented.
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  • Can't Live Without You: When the Cake Queen's men take away Christopher's flute, he starts getting sick, and reveals that he had bone cancer before going to Mariposa, but his fiance piped it away.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Land: Confection, of course, as a high Nonsense world. Everywhere is a day's travel away and the people do not have hair or eye colors achievable by physics and genetics.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Confection is literally made of sugar, but it has a significant dark side to it.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Unlike the Bittersweet Ending of the first book and outright Downer Ending of the second, this is the first in the series to have an unambiguously happy ending. Sumi is resurrected, the timeline is restored, and Cora has found her place in the Home. The only major loss they suffered was Nadya staying in the land of the dead, and the epilogue reveals that this allowed her to return to the Drowned Land, meaning everything turned out well.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: The Queen of Cakes.
  • Heroic BSoD: Discussed when Sumi first got to the School she was not taking her political exile well, apparently she almost tried to "cut the candy from her veins" her friends are offended on her behalf when Rini seems to say that Confection could have gotten her back home at any time.
  • Insistent Terminology: Whenever someone refers to the groups as "friends", Nadya always says that she isn't a friend, she's a Drowned Girl
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The summary gives away that Sumi was killed in the first book.
  • Lean and Mean: The Queen of Cakes. To rub this in, she mocks Cora for her weight.
  • Level Ate: Confection is a Reconstruction as it goes into how physical laws need to be very different for the Nonsense world to even exist. The History itself talks about how the The First Baker, a quasi-religious figure, who came to a barren wasteland and baked bread that didn't decay. Later Bakers came and made modern food creations and wildlife and invited people in. The fact that people haven't died of diabetes and tooth decay is Discussed.
  • Like Mother, Like Daughter: Rini is also distinctly off, energetic, and has zero sexual taboos. Nadya and Kade note that she looks almost identical to what an older version of her mother would probably have looked like, except for her candy corn eyes.
  • The Maker: There have been several Bakers of Confection, who build the world out of Nonsense and edible goods, adding layers each time. The current one is a teenager named Layla, and she would rather not be called a god...she's just a baker, and Confection works through her.
  • Non-Action Guy: Sumi's father, Ponder, by his own admission.
    Ponder: I never saved the day. I never challenged the gods. I was the person you could come home to when the quest was over, and I’d greet you with a warm fudge pie and a how was your day, and I’d never feel like I was being left out just because I was forever left behind.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: Cora came from the Trenches, a world of mermaids. She had gills and fins, she fought the Serpent of Frozen Tears, and they were at war with the surface world as Cora remembers drowning sailors attacking them.
  • Ret-Gone: While Rini is still able to exist for the moment, thanks to Confection being slow to catch up with the timeline, she will eventually cease to exist as her mother died before she was conceived.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Played with. They can't alter Sumi's death itself, but they can resurrect her to restore the original timeline.
  • Take Me to Your Leader: The first words out of Sumi's mouth when she arrives at the school. Cora and Nadya think she means Eleanor (who is after all the person who is most "in charge" if that term can be applied to the school), but she actually means her mother, as she assumes since Sumi was in charge back home she must be in charge at the school.
  • Technicolor Eyes: Rini has candy-corn colored eyes, which she got from Ponder.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Let's see, the future daughter of a dead girl comes back to save her. She was born after said dead girl returned home to Confection and overthrew the tyrant Queen of Cakes, now alive after being dead for decades. People are following under her orders despite knowing things are off.
  • We Can Rebuild Him: The Baker rebuilds Sumi's body with various sweets, which the magic of Confection turns into a real body.
  • Weight Woe: Subverted. Cora doesn't hate being fat (at least not anymore), she hates the constant teasing she gets for being fat. The fact that she was adored in her world for being fat, as it made her a better cold-water swimmer (true of many champion swimmers) makes it worse. It's quite a shock to her when she's accepted into the Home with no judgment.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: One of the changes Cora retained from her world was blue-green hair.