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The Up-and-Under #1

Over the Woodward Wall

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If you trust her you’ll never make it home…

Avery is an exceptional child. Everything he does is precise, from the way he washes his face in the morning, to the way he completes his homework – without complaint, without fuss, without prompt.

Zib is also an exceptional child, because all children are, in their own way. But where everything Avery does and is can be measured, nothing Zib does can possibly be predicted, except for the fact that she can always be relied upon to be unpredictable.

They live on the same street.
They live in different worlds.

On an unplanned detour from home to school one morning, Avery and Zib find themselves climbing over a stone wall into the Up and Under – an impossible land filled with mystery, adventure and the strangest creatures.

And they must find themselves and each other if they are to also find their way out and back to their own lives.

204 pages, Hardcover

First published October 6, 2020

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About the author

A. Deborah Baker

4 books328 followers
Pen name for Seanan McGuire writing for the Over the Woodward Wall series. Also a character mentioned in the book Middlegame

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 944 reviews
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,472 reviews9,387 followers
December 22, 2022
**3.5-stars rounded up**

In Over the Woodward Wall, A. Deborah Baker, pen name of Seanan McGuire, brings their book within a book to life.

For those of you who haven't read Middlegame...

I'm kidding. I just couldn't resist using that gif. It's one of my favorites.

A. Deborah Baker is a character first introduced in Middlegame. She is the author of a book called, Over the Woodward Wall; snippets of which you get interspersed throughout Middlegame.

My recollection is that Baker is a powerful alchemist, who was involved with the creation of Roger, Dodger and other children like them.

In Over the Woodward Wall we follow two children, Avery and Zib. These children have very similar personality characteristics to Roger and Dodger, from Middlegame. Avery and Zib live in the same town, on the same street, attend the same school, yet have never met.

That is until one morning on their respective walks to school, they both encounter a detour. Said detour leads them to a wall, one that has never been there before. Refusing to admit defeat and return home, they agree their only option is to go up and over.

They do and find themselves in an entirely different world, with no immediate evidence of a way home.

From there, the kids are forced to become acquainted rather quickly, as they work together to survive the somewhat hostile fairy tale landscape, known as the Up and Under.

Meeting an intriguing cast of side characters along the way, including talking owls and a girl made entirely of crows, Zib and Avery, come to trust in and rely on one another. A far jump from where they started.

This story is absolutely enchanting. There are so many fine details, I know I didn't get everything I could have out of this first read.

McGuire is a master at making every sentence count. Every word is placed for maximum impact. It's truly an impressive display of skill.

Do I think people who haven't read Middlegame can enjoy this?

Absolutely, 100%, yes!

You could compare this to so many things, yet it is like nothing else.

I feel Alice in Wonderland. I feel The Wizard of Oz. I feel The Chronicles of Narnia. But at the same time, it is different; it's its own thing.

If you have read and enjoyed any of McGuire's, Wayward Children series, you should definitely pick this book up. I feel like it could easily be incorporated into that series.

I have so many thoughts, but as you can tell, they're a little discombobulated.

As always, I appreciated McGuire's subtle social commentary with regards to gender roles and the effects of unnecessary expectations placed on children, not just by parents, but by society as a whole.

Although, the ending was a little too abrupt for my tastes, and I would have enjoyed a bit more to the story, overall, I did really enjoy it.

I will end up rereading this at some point, maybe simultaneously with a reread of Middlegame. I am also hoping we see more of Zib and Avery's adventures in the future.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I certainly appreciate the opportunity and will continue to pick up anything this author writes, under any name!
Profile Image for karen.
3,976 reviews170k followers
Want to read
September 9, 2019
seanan mcguire is so awesome and prolific, no number of pseudonyms can contain her.

you can have my name if you need it. along with anything i own, including my organs.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
March 19, 2021
Follow the Improbable Brick Road

3.75 stars. Review first posted on www.FantasyLiterature.com:

Over the Woodward Wall began its life as an imagined book, existing merely as a set of excerpts “quoted” at the end of certain chapters in Seanan McGuire’s Middlegame. But these excerpts were compelling enough that McGuire decided to use them as the building blocks for an actual fantasy series, using the pseudonym A. Deborah Baker (the alchemist credited with authoring this book in Middlegame).

Avery and Hepzibah (“Zib”) are two “very different, very ordinary” children who live on the same ordinary street but don’t know each other at all. They’re as far apart as A and Z in their personalities: Zib is free-spirited and adventurous, with a mass of frizzy, untamed hair; Avery is cautious, neat and sensible. One morning, on their walk to school, they find themselves faced with a stone wall that blocks their way. When they climb to the top of the wall, their town disappears and they find themselves in a strange, fantastical land, the Up-and-Under, filled with even stranger creatures. Immense candy-colored owls speak to them; a girl breaks up into crows and then reforms.

A boulder unfolds into a man and advises Avery and Zib to follow the Improbable Road to the Impossible City, and ask the Queen of Wands there to help them get home. There’s both wild adventure and deadly danger before them, and they’ll need each other to get back to their home world. But they need to escape the dangers of this world, and especially keep out of the clutches of the cruel Page of Frozen Waters and her master, the King of Cups.

There’s a sense of familiarity to Over the Woodward Wall, and it’s not just from the excerpts that appeared in Middlegame, which McGuire has woven into the text of this book. The parallels to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz are obvious, and the story has the same episodic, meandering plot, though the actual details are different and the dangers are more pressing. Stylistically it fits in more with McGuire’s WAYWARD CHILDREN series, where children wander through a magical portal into a fantasy world that follows an unfamiliar set of rules. The wise and insightful omniscient narrator, a voice that McGuire uses to such good effect in her WAYWARD CHILDREN books, also makes an appearance here.

Over the Woodward Wall was referenced in Middlegame as the basis for a completely different worldview, one that L. Frank Baum was intentionally diverting readers away from when he wrote his OZ books. In that sense, Middlegame set up expectations that Woodward Wall doesn’t quite live up to, at least in this first book of the UP-AND-UNDER series. I have to admit I expected something more from Woodward Wall based on the groundwork laid in Middlegame. Middlegame was mind-blowing and wildly creative; Over the Woodward Wall, despite its fantastical Oz-like setting, is somewhat mundane in comparison, never rising to the same imaginative heights.

Nevertheless, it’s an enjoyable and whimsical fantasy portal tale, with the perceptive narrative voice doing most of the heaving lifting in making this story better than your standard run-of-the-mill fantasy adventure. The reader can see Zib and Avery begin to subtly change as a result of their growing friendship and their frequently life-threatening escapades, with Zib learning that all adventures aren’t wondrous and delightful, and Avery learning that he can be more courageous and daring than he would have guessed. Perhaps they’ll meet in the middle of the alphabet by the time they make their way out of the Up-and-Under.

Over the Woodward Wall ends mid-tale: it’s not quite a cliff-hanger, but the overall story arc is clearly unfinished. The adventures of Avery and Zib in the Up-and-Under are just beginning.

I received a free ebook for review through NetGalley. Thanks!

Original post: This is a companion book to Middlegame and I am SO interested to see what she does with it! I may just have to read Middlegame again.
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,421 reviews77.6k followers
September 27, 2020
This is a really tough one to review, but I think my rating is floating somewhere between 3-3.5 stars.

"Remember this: that it was a very safe, very ordinary town. This will be important later."

So, I'm a major Seanan McGuire fangirl, and I cannot emphasize how much I love and respect her as an author, and just a person in general. She has created so many worlds where anyone can dive in and feel welcome, and she writes under so many different genres that a reader could simply never get bored with what her mind creates. While this book features a character seen in Middlegame, you do not have to read it first to comprehend what goes on in this novella. Over the Woodward Wall is truly its own story and you can dive right in.

Perhaps the reason why I couldn't fully settle into this tale is because it's a bit confusing who it was intended for. Is it truly a middle grade novella intended for children? Is it a child's fantasy marketed for adults by its inclusion of ambiguous social commentary? Either way, it's truly enjoyable, especially throughout the middle portion, but be prepared that this is the first installment in a new series, and it does finish quite abruptly. Once again, McGuire/A. Deborah Baker has me ready and waiting for the next book, and I can't wait to see where she takes us next.

*Many thanks to the publisher for my review copy.
Profile Image for B .
110 reviews12.1k followers
August 24, 2021
“It's fine not knowing things. Not knowing things means you have room to learn, and learning's about the most important thing there is”
I loved this so, so much, but it’s really no surprise I did. It’s all the beautiful writing I’ve come to expect from Seanan McGuire & her Wayward children series plus the added whimsy of Furthermore. I loved the nonsensical world and the nonsensical pair Zib and Avery make. I love how well it ties in with Middlegame while still standing wholly on its own. Oh, and I love that there’s going to be another book, because I originally thought this was going to be a standalone
Profile Image for Ashley.
782 reviews422 followers
October 27, 2021
Star Rating: —> 5 [ fun & whimsical ] Stars


“I’m sorry to be the one to tell you that, if you didn’t want an adventure...sometimes adventures happen whether or not they are requested. They’re like Tuesday afternoons, or headaches, or birthdays. They do as they like.”

My GOD; I am CRYING and I don’t even know why.

I guess it is because this was an AMAZING BOOK, and reading it was JUST like reading an installment of the Wayward Children series.
That series has such a very, very tight grip on my heart.

So, naturally, this does as well.

I LOVE Zib & Avery SO SO SO SO SO MUCH! I absolutely love their so-perfect-for-each-other, yin & yang personalities, COMPLETE opposites, that when together, create a perfect fit like two adjacent puzzle pieces. I absolutely loved reading the beginning—their climb up & over a mysterious stone wall 'that was not there before' into the mysterious, fantastical, dark, yet still whimsical Up and Under, a strange new world, filled with improbable, yet not impossible, things, & 'stuff & nonsense'.

I LOVED their adventure— their QUEST.
I loved all of the strange creatures ( which happens to be one of my favorite tropes of all time !), both benevolent & evil ( though 'evil' here is super subjective; especially in the Up & Under ! There may be secret motives afoot we have no clue about yet! Even though said 'evil' characters, well, erm... they kinda, most definitely, were prrrettttyyyy damn evil, hahah, but I still loved MOST of these characters; I suppose just because they were so wonderfully written ); but I loved, especially, the Crow Girl, & Quartz, & the Owls, & just every single thing about this book. BUT Seanan McGuire reaaaallly does a spectacular job in making you doubt your judgement, consistently consider each character's secrets, & wonder about all of the characters' probability for devious motives every step of the way! Everything seems to be a mystery,, made it anything is possible!!!

This absolutely amazing, clever, & brilliant woman/ writer/ creator of pure works of ART; ink & paper her medium, can absolutely do no wrong in my eyes.

AHHHHHH! And it is the first in a NEW SERIES! I am utterly jubilant (I don’t think I have ever used the word jubilant, pretty much ever? It’s too formal and fancy schmancy. So that, my friends, is surely saying something about this book!) about this being a freakin’ SERIES!!!!

YAY!!!! ALSO, I finally read Middlegame; crazy, yeah?! Haha. That is one densely written novel! Though the prose is often jam packed, lol, IMO once you get used to her style, it becomes totally readable.

[ Still—I love that we know whats happening for the most part, but the characters kiiiinda don't, at ALL, lol (again talking about Middlegame, though it does apply to this novella as well—we don't know WHAT in the bloody hell is going on 😉). Or I suppose we learn as they learn? UGH— none of this is relevant/necessary for THIS review (So you can totally skip this paragraph, especially since you do not even HAVE to read Middlegame to enjoy this series, even though MG is very much revolves around the Up & Under, but the Up & Under does not reciprocate this—at least not in any vital way—meaning, as I said, these novellas can totally be read alone! ), & apparently I can't even remember the facts correctly—Re: please see above text in italics.

*Le sigh*

*embarrassingly enough, SUPER overwhelmed* (lol)

Although, a character FROM Middlegame may (or may not 😉😉🤐) have made a VERY, VERY short, short, short cameo. They, just based on the description of Middlegame, SEEM like they do make that cameo, for sure—but honestly I have no idea because I haven’t read it, YET!😂
Totally have, as of 2021, now read Middlegame, hehe.
You can totally tell me, if indeed, you’ve read both books, hahah. Please just mark it as a spoiler as to not ruin anything for anyone who HASN’T read either novel/ both novellas. (I seriously WANT someone to talk to about these freaking books! !😉)

100% recommend!!!!

Profile Image for Jasmine from How Useful It Is.
1,270 reviews338 followers
October 1, 2021
An interesting start, this story caught my full attention when the large owl spoke. The characters were well liked even though they were very different. This book was different in a way that the author or narrator seemed to talk to readers. The improbable road disappearing was interesting. I liked the Crow Girl’s magic, it reminded me of a character in Renegades by Marissa Meyer, but that character were butterflies while this one are crows. I liked Niamh’s magic as well. I liked how the author had the characters analyzed things like the heart, being safe, and more but I forgot to note it down. Now I see why many readers has those tabs on pages of the book! The term murder of crows as a description for many crows was interesting. I rarely hear of it.

This book started with two ordinary children in an ordinary town living on the same street without knowing each other. They both attended schools in opposite directions. One was named Hepzibah aka Zib and the other named Avery. The parents of Zib still waiting on Zib to grow into her name while Avery’s parents were satisfied with their son. Avery liked to spend his time at the library while Zib liked to catch frogs at the creek by her house. Avery was responsible and woke up on time for school while Zib forgot to set her alarm and woke up late. They always take the same route to school except this morning there were unexpected construction blocking the road. They had to take a detour route and stumbled upon a wall never seen before. They both climbed up the wall and fall onto the other side. They finally met and introduced to each other even though they only lived 3 blocks away. As Avery was arguing about how Zib is not a normal name, a big owl neither ever seen before spoke to them. The children then went on an adventure to find the Impossible City and the Queen of Wands for the way home. There’s an epilogue at the end to inform readers about the status of the children’s parents.

Over the Woodward Wall was well written and developed. Loved the illustrations at the beginning of each chapter and behind the book cover as well as the book cover. There was an inconsistency with the owl named Oak delivering Zib from her fall to the ground. On page 134, the owl took her to the ground and they said their farewell and then the owl took off up the sky again. On page 166, readers get the impression that the owl was still flying when the King of Cups lashed out at them and the owl cried out. If Zib was delivered to the ground, I thought she ran into the King of Cubs by mistake but it wasn’t the case. Despite the inconsistency, this book was an enjoyable read nonetheless. Great adventures and magic. I’m excited to read the sequel called Along the Saltwise Sea. I recommend everyone to read this book!

xoxo, Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.com for more details

Many thanks to Tor.com for the opportunity to read and review. Please be assured that my opinions are honest.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books3,911 followers
January 19, 2022
Re-Read 1/19/22:

Still, also, a light MG tale that holds up on re-reads. :) Had to read it right next to Middlegame and before the sequel. HAD TO. lol

Original Review:

Stories within stories within stories.

Of course, this book happens to be written by a certain imaginary character, A. Deborah Baker, who wrote an imaginary book within Middlegame about two F/SF children who are bound in inexplicably and impossibly opposite ways only to meet in the center. And this book is about two improbably opposite Fantasy children who couldn't be more different who must meet, eventually, in the center.

Sound complicated? It's just mirroring within mirroring and it gives us, finally, a delightful reflection that displays both Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children and Middlegame, equally.

Mind you, I like both Wayward children and Middlegame better than this particular YA tale, but when I admire the symmetry, I like this much, much more than the ACTUAL tale.

Stories within stories within stories.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,877 reviews3,383 followers
January 31, 2021
Ordinary, predictable, every-day ...

There once were two children living in the same street in the same city. And yet, it was as if they were living in two different worlds. For Avery is precise and loving order and routine. Whereas Zib is wild and passionate and unpredictable.
One day, on their way to school, they both end up at a brick wall that wasn't there before.

Up and over the Woodward Wall they go thus landing in the Forest of Borders in the land of Up and Under. Now they need to travel the Improbable Road to the Impossible City or they won't be able to go home again. And they must do it together or won't be allowed to leave. But staying together in a world inhabited by girls bursting into crows and talking animals, sometimes made of flesh and feathers and sometimes made of quartz, is turning out to be rather difficult.
What is a journey without obstacles?

What indeed! And there are more than enough obstacles here.

So this is an adventure of two children (and the friends they make along the way) that will no doubt delight children readers when it is taking them to this enchanted realm. While I didn't love this as much as the author's The Wayward Children (yes, A. Deborah Baker is Seanan McGuire's other pseudonym), adult me was just as delighted. The writing is magical and whimsical (but not in a fake or forced kind of way), the worldbuilding is magnificent.
Unaware of how far their children had gone or how far they had left to go, their parents watched and waited and hoped for a quick and easy ending - the sort of tidy thing that only ever comes in stories and so rarely graces us here in the real world where real costs can be incurred and real prices must be paid.

The messages in here aren't as profound as in the above mentioned series that is similar in worldbuilding, but there were still some lessons to be learned here and some more ahead. The reason I'm comparing these two series is that this seems like the kids' version of the other series. Very similar and yet different enough to be thrilling and beautiful all on its own (not a pale copy at all and certainly not "dumbed down" for younger readers).

Can't wait for the next installment.
Profile Image for Tucker  (TuckerTheReader).
908 reviews1,585 followers
December 23, 2020

Many thanks to Macmillan Audio for the free audio copy in exchange for an honest review

I was very apprehensive to read this. Partly because Seanan McGuire's books haven't been my favorite but mostly because, Seanan McGuire isn't my favorite. I met her a little over a year ago and she was very snappy and unkind (and a little full of herself). That experience left a sour taste in my mouth but I decided to give this book a chance anyway.

So, what's this book about?
Avery is an exceptional child. Everything he does is precise, from the way he washes his face in the morning, to the way he completes his homework – without complaint, without fuss, without prompt.

Zib is also an exceptional child, because all children are, in their own way. But where everything Avery does and is can be measured, nothing Zib does can possibly be predicted, except for the fact that she can always be relied upon to be unpredictable.

They live on the same street.
They live in different worlds.

On an unplanned detour from home to school one morning, Avery and Zib find themselves climbing over a stone wall into the Up and Under – an impossible land filled with mystery, adventure and the strangest creatures.

And they must find themselves and each other if they are to also find their way out and back to their own lives.

I only just found out after reading Meg's review that apparently, this is a whole thing in a different series. Take it from someone who's never read that other series, this can be read on it's own.

This book was, in my opinion, trying too hard. It was quirky and entertaining but to an almost cringy point. It wasn't so bad that it deserved two stars. It just felt... ungenuine and uncreative. It felt like a bunch of stolen themes and ideas.

Overall, this book was short and odd. Yes, it was mildly entertaining but just missed the mark.

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Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews188 followers
September 28, 2020
Over the Woodward Wall is on one side a very straightforward children's books, on the other a very meta experiment in mirroring.
This is A. Deborah Baker's first book, which in our world means "the first novella Seanan McGuire wrote under this pseudonym", but if you've read Middlegame, it means something completely different. And that's where my main doubt comes in: would someone who hasn't read Middlegame get much out of this at all? Because I'm not sure.

This is the story of Avery and Zib, two children who couldn't be more different but have tied fates, as they stumble in a different world on their way to school. If you've read Middlegame, you also know that twins Roger and Dodger were as different as twins can possibly be while still being close in a way no one else can ever be, therefore encompassing the rest of reality between them - like two letters at opposite ends of the alphabet. This similarity has plot relevance in Middlegame, as Over the Woodward Wall sits inside it, but not here; here noticing the parallels is something that enriches the reading experience, but even if you can't, you'll be perfectly fine.
Because, if it weren't for the existence of Middlegame, this wouldn't be anything but perfectly fine in the most forgettable way possible.

This isn't a children's book, the same way Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children isn't YA but an adult response to the YA portal fantasy genre - one that imitates its structure and some of its characteristics. By which I mean, Over the Woodward Wall is a cuckoo and doesn't even really make for a good children's books; I know that if I had read it in middle school, I would have found it bland, boring, and way too interested in its own cleverness. I would have found the Crow Girl bits very compelling, as I found them interesting and cool to read now, especially the tiny spin on gender and being fragmented it took - I wanted more of that, and less of the rest.

And is it preachy. Every single character in the Up-and-Under is interested in giving the main ones life lessons, only disguised in a quirky way - this is, when the narration isn't already trying to do that to the reader. While this is clearly a stylistic choice more than a flaw, it's one I don't really get along with: it's tedious, and I would have felt talked down to had I been a kid. Now I know that books written like this are soothing to listen to while doing chores, but don't work for me on ebook at all. And that's a shame, I feel like this book is (even more) full of easter eggs and meta commentary that I could find while I constantly felt like skimming all of it.
I hope there's going to be an audiobook of Over the Woodward Wall, because it's the format I would recommend it in, and even then, almost only to Middlegame fans.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,877 reviews3,383 followers
January 18, 2022
This story was created as a story-within-a-story for Seanan McGuire's Middlegame . Afterwards, the author actually wrote the entire book and published it and I couldn't be more delighted about that! I only found that out after having read this for the first time (here is my original review).

Welcome to the Up-and-Under, a land filled with all manner of mythical creatures (a talking boulder named Quartz or a blue owl named Meadowsweet for example). A land two children get to by climbing over the titular woodward wall that shouldn't be there. A land divided into four quadrants, each ruled by a representative of the tarot (King of Cups, the Queen of Swords, the King of Coins, the Queen of Wands). A land we explore by following the Improbable Road to the Impossible City (where the kids need to go in order to be sent home by the ruler).
Avery (jackdaw) and Zib (crow-girl) live in the same town. There are a lot of similarities and a lot of differences between them. What unites the kids is their climbing the wall and landing in the Up-and-Under. Now, they have no choice but to follow the road to wherever it leads them and try not to get split up. Because if they do get split up, they will never be allowed to go back home again. Along the way, they make friends and have to escape many dangers.

It’s a nice and whimsical story in the tradition of Frank L. Baum’s (for a reason) as well as many other stories of that kind (like Lewis Carroll's).

The children aren’t always friends, there is nothing that ties them together in their past after all (they literally only met when they had climbed the top of the wall), but their hearts are in the right place and they have healthy instincts (most of the time). And the lessons they learn are quite nice as well.

Albeit this story had apparently been conceived as a very nice cornerstone in the other book I linked to above, this is a fully-fledged fantasy quest with great worldbuilding and lively characters that make you care.
Profile Image for NAT.orious reads ☾.
836 reviews329 followers
Want to read
May 11, 2020
Me *promises herself to not request any more arcs for a while, says authors she's not accepting arcs at the moment*

Also me *extremely infatuated with the outline of this book, the cover and everything that goes with it - hit's request like there's no tomorrow*

Profile Image for Rue.
274 reviews215 followers
December 20, 2020
This was very much like "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland". It was definitely packed with advanture, interesting Creatures and friendship but somehow this didn't had the same magic like her Wayward children series. I obviously liked how the author wrote all the different interactions Between Zib, Avery and the creatures they had encountered in their journey. I still feel like this book is for a very specific reader who enjoys whimsical almost fairytale like stories. I enjoyed it but I wasn't really hooked, could be because I couldn't connect to the characters the way I thought I would. Depending upon what you're looking for in a story you might enjoy it more then I did.
And yeah! You can read this even if you haven't read Middlegame.
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
1,978 reviews3,296 followers
October 7, 2020
Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker (aka Seanan McGuire) is the children's story mentioned in her adult novel Middle Game. However, you don't need to have read Middlegame in order to read and appreciate this story- it stands alone and doesn't reference that book. This one is more reminiscent of her Wayward Children series, albeit with younger characters, and I think if you enjoy those books this novella is definitely worth a read.

It follows a girl named Zib and a boy named Avery who are very different children from very different families, and yet end up on a magical and perilous adventure together in a world somewhat reminiscent of Alice's Wonderland, if a bit less bizarre. This very much feels like a Seanan McGuire story, but one that could be appropriate for a mature middle grade reader. It approaches some darker topics, but in a less direct way. I enjoyed my time with this and hope she writes more! The ending is well written but not satisfying in the way I wanted it to be, even if it is appropriate to the story. I received an advance copy of this book for review via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for giulia ♡❁ུ۪.
370 reviews235 followers
August 1, 2020

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley.

I'm a Seanan McGuire stan first, human second.
If you love the Wayward Children series, you'll definitely adore this book. It has THAT magical fairytale vibe, but with that mysterious creepy feeling that keeps you on the edge of your sit.
Definitely excited this is going to be a series.

Full RTC!

read for grade E of potions.
Profile Image for Jenny Baker.
1,254 reviews195 followers
October 6, 2020
3.5 stars

It was such a joy listening to the audiobook narration even though it’s short. Over the Woodward Wall is an entertaining tale with talking trees and owls. I loved the whimsical feel and the vivid descriptions. She does a great job putting you in the scenes. I’m looking forward to following Avery and Zib in this series.
Profile Image for Craig.
4,891 reviews112 followers
January 27, 2023
This is the first book in a classic fantasy series written under a pseudonym by the amazingly prolific Seanan McGuire, who comes close to being able to write faster than I can read. What's even more amazing is that all of her work is so well written and -good!- Baker is also an off-stage character in the much longer adult novel Middlegame, which quotes this novel from time to time, and though it all fits together like a game of 3-D chess (it looks easy until you try it) it's not necessary to have read both in order to enjoy either. This is the story of two children who are swept off into an adventure/quest in a fascinating fantasy world and meet a rich and intriguing group of characters along the way. There are many grand touches and flourishes, such as Baker addressing the reader directly and explaining that if this were -that- type of book instead of -this, - then that might've happened, but since we are where we are, then... It's all very thought-provoking and deftly handled with craft and cleverness. There's nothing really new or surprising, but it's all so well done that you don't notice until you reach the end and want more. If Neil Gaiman had written The Wizard of Oz...
Profile Image for lazybookconqueror.
408 reviews88 followers
May 6, 2021
“Frightened means you've the sense to be afraid, and it's cowards who get things done, more often than not.”

Expanding from the Middlegame world, Seanan McGuire (writing under the pseudonym A. Deborah Baker) brings us to the Impossible Road to the Improbable City.

Hepzibah "Zib" Jones and Avery Alexander Grey are two kids who live on the same street. However, despite their proximity, they never cross paths. They each go to schools on opposite sides and never walk in the direction towards each other.

That is until one very ordinary day (that happened to be not ordinary at all) their paths were blocked, and on the way, there was a giant wall.

Both kids were determined to make it to school on time and decided to go over it. Alas, the wall did not make it easier for them to find their paths, and instead sent them to the hauntingly magical land of The Up and Under.

In order to make it back, both kids must journey together and travel the Improbable Road to the Improbable City. This can be tricky as Zib is a spirited child with wild hair and Avery is a logical boy with pressed-down clothes.

In their adventure, they will meet incredibly large owls, a mysterious but helpful Crow Girl, the menacing Page of Frozen Waters, and many other magical beings.

Heavily inspired by The Wizard of Oz with sprinkles of The Labyrinth and The NeverEnding Story, Over the Woodward Wall is a children's book for adults. Seanan McGuire is so clever in her writing, making this book (although short) dense with meaning and metaphors.

I do think there's a slight issue with pacing around the halfway mark. It's as if there's too much happening at once and then nothing at all. For such a short book it took me a very long time to finish it. This does improve towards the end, creating a nice setup for the next installment in the series.

Thank you so much Macmillan US and Tor.com for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Profile Image for Lisa Wolf.
1,609 reviews172 followers
October 15, 2020
It pains me to give a Seanan McGuire books only 2 stars, but this book made no sense to me. Over the Woodward Wall is the book-within-a-book that's a part of the (excellent) novel Middlegame, but actually reading it is just baffling. Two children get caught up in a nonsensical world that seems to have a lot of symbolism, but I couldn't tell you what it was all supposed to mean, other than the meanings ascribed to it (alchemy, don't ya know) in Middlegame.
Profile Image for Mallory.
1,043 reviews63 followers
July 11, 2021
Ok, I’ll admit I went into this one without understanding. Tell me it’s written by Seanan McGuire no matter the pseudonym and I’m in. I was confused as some bits felt familiar, but the story as a whole did not. Then when I came here to write my review I realized how far the genius went. This is a book that before it existed was quoted in Middlegame. And this pseudonym is the alchemist credited with this story in that universe. The writing is beautiful and I can’t wait to see where this series goes. I did think it was a little short and I was left wanting so so so much more. The characters are amazing and the world building is exquisite as usual.
Profile Image for Steven.
1,052 reviews383 followers
August 18, 2021
I'd say most of this fairy tale story was a three star, but it slowly evolved into a little more, so I rounded up from 3.5 stars.

It's very.... Wizard of Oz, but with Seanan's normal twist on things.
Profile Image for Lauren Stoolfire.
3,474 reviews259 followers
October 5, 2020
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker delightful new Middle Grade fantasy series opener. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to give this novel a try via NetGalley. I jumped at the chance as soon as I realized that A. Deborah Baker is a pen name of Seanan McGuire, one of my favorite authors. Plus, just look at the cover - it's so beautiful! Luckily, the content are just as good as it looks. I particularly enjoyed the quirky and whimsical yet menacing fairytale tone. It's very reminiscent of McGuire's Wayward Children series and that really worked for me. There are also quite a few messages in the story which are really well disguised for younger readers. If you're interested in the author's style, you'll need to give this a try. I'm looking forward to seeing where this series will go in the future.
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