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Come Tumbling Down

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire

the book Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire on a black, gray and purple background with striking lightning

Eleanor West is a kind woman, a compassionate woman, and when anyone asks about her or her school, that's what people say. All she wants is for those in her care to be cared for and to be able to disappear on their own with knowledge to help them succeed should they find their doors again. The children at Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children are taught science and math and how to pick locks and lie low. They mustn't be taught to read though, because she's got a sign on her door that says No solicitation. No visitors. No quests. Our friends Kade, Sumi, Christopher and Cora are about to go on another one!

Christopher, with his bone flute and his far away skeleton girlfriend, is the current resident of the basement at the sprawling manor house that is Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children. The basement tends to be where the creepiest of the students live, at least it seems that way, but he’s the only creepy one left. First, as far as he knew, Jack and Jill lived there. Jack and Jill Wolcott are twin sisters from a world that is basically a black and white horror movie filled with lightning, monsters and vampires, but now they’ve returned there and all it took was Jack murdering her own murderous sister and cutting the door open with the same bloody scissors she used on the murder. Then there was Nancy who went back through her door into the Halls of the Dead where she stands like a statue in front of the Lord of the Dead. Now it’s his, and though Jack’s autopsy stuff is still in there, it feels like home. Except for that lightning that is blasting from the ceiling. That doesn’t belong. And that door that’s just appeared definitely isn’t his.

Cora rushes in with her blue and green mermaid hair to see what the ruckus is. The ruckus is that a door made from lightning has just appeared and from it steps a girl Christopher has never seen before carrying the (seemingly lifeless? no surely not) body of a Wolcott twin. Cora rushes to get help and returns with Kade and Sumi. The girl being carried looks like Jill, but Sumi says it’s Jack. Jack is more muscular and Jill is more delicate and this body is wearing a diaphanous nightgown, so surely it’s Jill, but no. Sumi is certain it’s Jack, just wearing Jill’s body. The girl carrying her tries to speak but no words come from her mouth, and after setting the body down on the autopsy table, she signs and Sumi can understand. She introduces herself as Alexis and says that Jack needs help. They use some of the old medical supplies still in the basement to wake her up, and yes, it’s definitely Jack in Jill’s body and she’s freaking out.

Kade rushes to get some of Jack’s old clothes, knowing how important clothes are to a person in making them feel comfortable in whatever skin they’re in. Jack is still freaking out because we all know she needs things to be just so and, well, they’re not just so at all right now. Before she can explain what’s going on and that she needs help from her friends, she has to give her betrothed, Alexis, a little boost. Alexis has been resurrected twice by Dr. Bleak, Jack’s mentor, and, while she’s still herself, she runs out of energy and needs a bolt of lightning every now and then to keep her going. Jack calls for her friends to retrieve one of her old generators and hooks up her girlfriend to give her a little jolt of energy. Now that Alexis is in working order again, they can explain what’s going on.

Jack explains about what happened at the end of book one when she and her dear sister returned to the Moors. She and Dr. Bleak, with a recently resurrected Alexis, brought Jill back to life, and her Vampire Master came to take her away, but, as a resurrected person, Jill can no longer become a vampire, so, after much threatening of everyone everyone loves, Dr. Bleak performed an experiment on the twins, putting Jill’s mind into Jack's living body and Jack's mind into Jill's resurrected body, but then Jill and the master murdered Dr. Bleak. Jack is horribly uncomfortable with her OCD being inside someone else's body and needs her own body back before the Master turns Jill, so they've come back to Eleanor's for help. Of course they've found it.

Kade, Sumi and Alexis go to tell Eleanor that they're going to the Moors, but she tells them about the no quest rule and asks why Jack couldn't just be happy in her sister's body because they were identical in the beginning, which is very off-putting. Sumi shouts at her that she shouldn't even have those thoughts in her head and that they're going whether she gives them permission or not. When Eleanor asks why they even came to tell her if they were planning to go anyway, Sumi says that they couldn't just all disappear because that would be cruel. Eleanor is getting old, which is hopefully why she said what she said, and the world is weighing heavily upon her. Maybe soon she’ll get to stop carrying that weight. 

While Kade, Sumi and Alexis are gone talking to Eleanor, Jack, Cora and Christopher stay in the basement, Jack tying a cravat and trying to get more herself inside her sister's body. Cora doesn't really understand what the big deal is, which is frustrating. Christopher asks Jack about Alexis and Jack is scientifically romantic about her and the fact that she will make her babies if she wants them when they return to the Moors and Jack takes her place as Mad Scientist. She's prepared to take over for Dr. Bleak as soon as they get back, but she hopes they'll be able to restore him and he'll get to keep his place for a long bit longer. The rest of the group joins them and then, with a key made of lightning and Jack's terrifying laughter, they go to the Moors.

Upon arrival, everyone notices the moon, the giant red moon that Sumi describes as the blood red cherry on top of the murder sundae. Jack tells them all that the next full moon, when the Master will turn Jill, is in three days. They set off for the windmill, but as they get closer, Cora hangs back, and Alexis notices. There is an ocean in the Moors and it seems that the Drowned Gods there are calling for the mermaid Cora to join them. As Cora runs to the water, Alexis catches up to Kade to tell him what's happening. She tells him that she will never be able to catch up to Cora but that someone needs to go with her, so Kade rushes off, promising to find them again. When the rest of the group gets to the windmill, it's to find the headless body of Dr. Bleak, which sends Jack into hysterics.

Christopher, Sumi and Alexis carry the body inside and Jack begins the work of getting his blood pumping again, which baffles Christopher since Dr. Bleak has no head, but then Jack sends him and Sumi away to choose new clothes so they won't look so obviously out of place in the Moors. When they return, Jack tells them they must go to the sea to retrieve Cora and Kade, or at least get help if they won't give them back. They will leave Alexis behind in the windmill because the journey might be too long for her, plus, the Master might think that lights on in the windmill mean Jack is there trying to make a new head for Dr. Bleak instead of trying to amass an army. It seems like a fine plan.

Jack takes Christopher to the stables to get the horses that she created while Sumi is set to fluffing that hay in the carriage that may or may not be full of rats. Jack's horses are … interesting … and have dog brains and way too many skins and not enough skins. The first, Pony, is made from other horse bits, some cow, and of course, science, and was made by Jack when she was very young. The second, Bones, is made of, well, bones, and not science but necromancy, and Christopher is enthralled. As they travel, they discuss being in a horror movie and that since they are clearly in one, not all of them will survive, and Jack assures them that her sister most definitely will not. As they approach the seashore and the village of the Drowned Gods, Jack warns them to be careful of the villagers who might be inclined to eat their fingers. Uh. Yikes! 

Backing up a little bit, Cora flies across the Moors with Kade running behind, trying to catch up. She is being called by the Drowned Gods, being lured like a fish, and she can't resist their call. At the edge of a cliff, just as she is about to plummet off, knowing?, hoping?, she will transform into a mermaid as soon as she hits the water painfully far below, Kade almost catches up. He tells her to wait, and she does, but only long enough to tell him that she's home. And then she falls backward off the cliff.

Inside the village, Jack, Sumi and Christopher pass through the villagers who are staring at them with eyes that are too big, but Sumi stares them down and wins. As they approach a cave surrounded by acolytes, they see Kade sitting with his head in his hands. He tells them about Cora and Jack seems nonchalant about their friend leaping from a cliff. Kade angrily lifts Jack from the wagon and calls her a monster, but she never said she was anything less. The rest of the group dismounts from the wagon and they continue on to the cave that might be a cathedral. The acolytes attempt to stop them, but Jack declares that a challenge is beginning and the high priest won’t be pleased if they are delayed and so they are allowed to pass. As they cross a rickety rope bridge, a board breaks beneath Kade. Christopher rushes to catch him and Sumi catches Christopher, but they all know they won't be able to save him. Kade lets go, sacrificing himself for his friends.

Christopher is angry about his friend’s death, or friends’ if you count Cora, which Christopher seems to do, and he’s angry that Jack doesn’t seem to care at all, but Jack does care. She didn’t ask anyone to die for her and she will mourn the loss of their friends every single night of her life, but she has to make sure that she has nights to mourn them. If they don’t stop Jill, they will fail and their friends will have died for nothing. Sumi disagrees because they are heroes and they will have died doing what heroes do, fighting to save a world. They trudge on and finally meet the High Priest, Gideon, who is about the same age as them all, dressed kind of like an acolyte and kind of like a pirate with a tentacle for a leg and a voice that sounds like it comes from underwater. 

Gideon seems to think that everything is just going to continue on as it always has regardless of Jill killing Dr. Bleak and taking Jack’s body and becoming a vampire, but Jack assures him that he is wrong. Jack describes her OCD, her condition, and how being trapped inside her sister’s body, knowing all the terrible things it has done, is upsetting the balance of the Moors. How can she be expected to take Dr. Bleak’s place, how can she be expected to stop her sister from becoming a vampire and killing literally everyone if she can’t manage to survive in this body that she has been forced into? Before Jack can continue, Cora rises from the depths of the waters surrounding them, but she is not Cora. She is the Drowned Gods. And she is carrying Kade in her arms. 

Cora declares in the many voices of the gods that the balance must be maintained and that the Drowned Abbey will stand with Jack against her sister to restore the balance, but there must be a payment for their assistance. Jack declares they’ll pay anything, but Christopher declines. He demands the Drowned Gods return their friends, after all, they are not theirs to keep. Jack suggests that even though Cora went willingly to the arms of the Drowned Gods, she doesn’t actually belong to them. She belongs to her own version of the Drowned Gods in her own world, and they might come seeking vengeance. The Gods agree when Jack offers Jill’s death as payment, but they demand that Jack remain as well. Not in the water, but in the Moors, in the windmill, forever, no matter what. Jack has no problem accepting that offer. The Drowned Gods insist that Gideon and the acolytes help in the battle and then they vomit themselves out of Cora who drops Kade who coughs himself back to life. Whew!

Army sufficiently gathered, they set off for the castle. The journey there is full of conversations about how Sumi thinks Gideon is pretty and about life and death and how Jack is going to kill Jill because if she doesn't, she's going to die inside her sister's body even if she's still alive. They make it to the castle, Gideon using an ability to make it rain in a very precise location to stop the villagers from burning down their army. It doesn't seem like the Master's people are trying too hard to stop the upcoming battle. They finally arrive at the castle and Jack offers to let her friends turn back, but they will not. Mary, the woman who was with the twins when they first arrived in the Moors, greets Jack at a secret entrance. She doesn't try to stop them from what they are about to do.

Jack, Christopher, Sumi, Cora and Kade climb stairs for what seems like forever until they reach the bedroom where Jill has lived her pampered life, but Jill is not there. They leave her room and hear fighting down below, all of the acolytes and villagers against the Master's minions, and travel up more stairs to the parapet. A violent storm is raging above them, but they find Jill up there, seemingly waiting. Jack confronts her sister and apologizes for leaving her behind when they were younger, for taking away her choices, but she tells her that she can't have everything she wants. Jill is very childish and petulant and basically screams that she's going to be a vampire and do whatever she wants, and the Master arrives and agrees, then lunges to attack Kade.

Fortunately, Sumi stops the Master with a baling hook she acquired some time ago and has been twirling around willy nilly. She holds the vampire back while Kade throws bits of masonry directly at his face with Cora’s help. Meanwhile, Jack asks Christopher to add music to the battle, and he begins to play his flute, though it is of course soundless as always. Jack has been planning this all along, for the skeletons of all the Master's victims begin to rise and attack. They climb up the parapet and hold Jill back, stopping her from hurting Jack. Jack grabs Jill's hand and holds it up like a lightning rod just as a huge bolt strikes. The sisters scream, but their voices swap places as each girl returns to her own body. Jill begins to whine once more, telling Jack she's never going to stop trying to become a vampire, which means she's never going to stop hurting everyone that Jack loves, so Jack pushes her sister off the parapet.

Jill falls to the ground below and the Master comes for Jack. She tells him that, unless he returns Dr. Bleak’s head and she's able to restore him, she is his equal now and he cannot kill her without disrupting the balance of the Moors. He relents and leaves to retrieve the head while Jack, Kade, Cora, Sumi and Christopher make their way out of the castle. They encounter Gideon, who seems to have been successful in his battles as well, and Jack offers to repair any of his injured soldiers for free, just this once. He agrees, and then the Master appears with Dr. Bleak's head in a bag. Outside, they wordlessly gather Jill's body and return to the windmill.

Jack is greeted by Alexis and goes to get changed while the others put Pony and Bones away. Alexis apologizes for what they had to go through and wishes that one of them had killed Jill, but no, Jack had to do it. When she returns, no longer dressed in the bloody nightgown her sister had been wearing, she offers to let her friends stay in the Moors, but they all decline, even Cora, who the Drowned Gods have been whispering to still all the time. As they head through the door created by Jack and Alexis and a lot of lightning, Kade tells Jack she's not a monster, but oh… she is. Just the good kind. After everyone is gone, Alexis and Jack hook up the body of Dr. Bleak, head recently reattached, to a generator large enough to power the Moors and flip the switch. Jack hopes against hope that her father, for all intents and purposes, will be resurrected. After turning the machines off, she asks him to wake up, and he does.

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