|Spoiler Warning: Plot details follow.|
The World Compass is a way of describing worlds and mapping them into a multiverse. In Every Heart a Doorway, it's also referred to as the Great Compass as a book title, and Seanan McGuire has referred to it as the Alignment System. In Beneath the Sugar Sky, it's referred to as The Compass.
- 1 Description
- 2 Doors
- 3 Types
- 4 Nonsense Worlds
- 5 Logic Worlds
- 6 Virtue Worlds
- 7 Wicked Worlds
- 8 Rhyme
- 9 Linearity
- 10 Gallery
- 11 Trivia
- 12 References
"Here in the so-called 'real world', you have north, south, east and west, right? Those don't work for most of the portal worlds we've been able to catalog. So we use other words. Nonsense, Logic, Wickedness and Virtue. There are smaller subdirections, little branches that may or may not go anywhere, but those four are the big ones." 
Whether a world is nonsensical or logical is divided into three parts, described as:
- Nonsense 3 = Environment completely pliable and redefinable. Change motivated by personal whim. Near-chaos. Examples include: The Dreaming from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.
- Nonsense 2 = World on the tipping point between fantastical chaos and realistic environments. Examples include: Oz.
- Nonsense 1 = Reality is pliable through wish fulfillment, but cause and effect actions are still most effective. Examples include: Neverland from the Peter Pan tales.
- Nonsense/Logic 0 = Stasis, no change occurs in world.
- Logic 1 = Most things follow rules of cause-and-effect but there is still doubt as to how many things follow rules. Examples include: Lyra Silvertongue's world from The Golden Compass.
- Logic 2 = Everything can be explained eventually, but there will always be unique exceptions. Examples include: Our own world!
- Logic 3 = Everything can be explained, no exceptions to rules. Examples include: Narnia, and most any other world where its god/creator has a direct influence.
Whether a world is wicked or virtuous is described as:
- Virtue 3 = Pure and providential, world provides everything you need. Is in an “ideal” state. Examples include: Narnia once Aslan’s control is restored.
- Virtue 2 = Overriding harmony in world, active championing of human/being rights, but still threatened. Examples include: L. Frank Baum’s Oz, after the Wicked Witch and Wizard are taken out of power.
- Virtue 1 = World provides for its denizens but in a limited capacity, passive promotion of human/being rights. Could be seen as only slightly better than our own world. Examples include: UnLunDun, from China Mieville’s book of the same name.
- Virtue/Wicked 0 = Balance between virtuous and wicked desires, but not harmony. Examples include: The Dreaming from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.
- Wicked 1 = Unbalanced. Passive or secondary limiting of human/being rights. Examples include: Our own world!
- Wicked 2 = Overriding disharmony. Active limiting of its denizens. “Crapsack World” but livable. Examples include: Narnia when the White Witch is in power.
- Wicked 3 = Actively malevolent, apocalyptic, near-unredeemable, near-unlivable. Examples include: The Dark Tower.
It should be noted that there are other directions:
- Loriel's Webworld is described as high Rhyme and high Linearity.
- Lundy tells Nancy during her orientation that there are also Whimsy and Wild minor directions.
- At the end of Every Heart a Doorway, Kade says that they are planning to add Vitus and Mortis as minor directions for worlds connected to the dead.
Seanan McGuire has said that "The alignment system is actually intentionally a little bit blurry because [the characters] are trying to figure it out and unify a system that does not unify, where different worlds will have different applications of the same words and mean different things."
Portals to other worlds are referred to as doors, though they can also take the form of mirrors, wishing wells, staircases, towers, gaps between tree roots, etc. In Beneath the Sugar Sky, Kade explains that doors always lead to worlds that suit the traveler, as they were born in the wrong world originally. However, in Every Heart a Doorway, Eleanor offers to take some of the students to her world for safety, proving either that you may suit several worlds or that you can go through doors that aren't yours. Some doors only appear once, some are passed down through generations, and yet others are constant.
The appearance of Doors is very unpredictable. The only particular thing they have in common is that they only appear for children; at the least, the Moors do not summon doors for anybody over eighteen. The exceptions to this are a few documented stable doors, such as the one to Eleanor's World and the mirror that led to the Unnamed Mirror World before it was smashed. Some Doors appear only once, drawn by the need of children who don't belong in their birth world; the doors will belong to worlds that better suit the children and bring them to a place where they can be free. Webworld apparently chooses its inhabitants, and can sometimes hold doors open for children through magic, for about two years and six months. The Lady of the Dead says that she is aware of when the doors to the Halls of the Dead are opened or closed, which is why she was suspicious of Cora, Kade, Christopher, Nadya and Sumi when they arrived.
If a traveler should return to their original world, it is very unlikely they will find their door again. Travellers are usually children, because at a young age, you are more malleable and can adjust to things better.
Different worlds can also be separated by type. The ones we know of are:
A classification for Nonsense worlds
A type of world connected to the dead, usually Nonsense
A type of world connected to the dead
A type of world connected to the dead. Unlike Netherworlds and Underworlds, once you've been to an Afterlife you cannot come back.
|Halls of the Dead|
|Seraphina's World||WICKED||The Moors||Goblin Market|
Nonsense 3 / High Nonsense
Logic 3 / High Logic
Virtue 3 / High Virtue
Wicked 3 / High Wicked
Rhyme 2 / Moderate Rhyme
Rhyme 3 / High Rhyme
Linearity 3 / High Linearity
- The Graphic of the chart was created by Jamie Stafford-Hill.
- Seanan McGuire's Continuum 13 Guest of Honour Hour
- Every Heart a Doorway, page 51
- Every Heart a Doorway page 61: "The third was high Nonsense. An Underworld, like the one you visited- although not the same, I'm afraid. That one was accessed by walking through a special mirror, under the full moon. The girl we lost to that world was home for the holidays when the door opened for her a second time. Her mother broke the glass after she went through. We learned later that the mother had also been there-it was a generational portal-and had wanted to spare her daughter the pain of returning." Lundy, talking to Nancy about another student who refound her Underworld after being at the school.
- Every Heart a Doorway, page 38: "The court of the Rainbow Princess was shocked, and they threw me down the next wishing well we passed. I woke up in a field in the middle of Nebraska, back in my ten-year-old body, wearing the dress I'd had on when I first fell into Prism."
- Every Heart a Doorway, page 17: Still, for the time being, her back was strong and her eyes were as clear as they had been on the day when, as a girl of seven, she had seen the opening between the roots of a tree on her father's estate."
- Beneath the Sugar Sky extracts: “We don’t go where we’re not meant to be, even if we sometimes get born the wrong place.” “Your mother and I were born in the same world, and it wasn’t right for either of us, so we went somewhere else.” Kade, addressing Rini
- Every Heart a Doorway, page 99: "Stable doors like Miss West's are less common than the temporary kind," said Lundy, back on familiar ground. "Most children who go through them don't come back, either on their first trip or after making a short return to their original world. So while we have records of several, the chances of finding a stable door that resonates with the story you need are slim."
- Every Heart a Doorway, page 97-98: "You will not all find your doors again. Some doors really do appear only once, the consequence of some strange convergence that we can't predict or re-create. They're drawn by need and sympathy. Not the emotion- the resonance of one thing to another. There's a reason you were all pulled into worlds that suited you so well. Imagine, for a moment, if you'd fallen into the world described by your neighbor instead." [...] "Sumi had Nonsense in her heart, and so a door opened that would take her to a world where she could wear it proudly, not hide it away. That was her real story. Finding a place where she could be free. That's your story, too, every one of you." Eleanor tipped her chin up. Her eyes were clear. "You found freedom, if only for a moment, and when you lost it, you came here, hoping it could be found again. I hope the same, for each of you. I want to make excuses to your parents when you disappear, to tell them that runaways will always run again if they have half the chance. I want to see the back of you more than I want almost anything in this world."
- Every Heart a Doorway, page 95: "I didn't go through. It pulled me. That was how bad the Webworld wanted me."
- Every Heart a Doorway, page 101: Loriel Youngers would never find her door (which had been waiting for her all this time, tucked into a corner of her bedroom at home, half an inch high and held in place by the most complicated magics of the Queen of Dust, her adopted mother, could conceive; it would linger another six months before the spells were released and the Queen took to her chambers for a year of mourning).
- Every Heart a Doorway, page 96: "I said I could do it. That was almost two years ago. I've looked everywhere, but I haven't seen my door." page 101: [the Door] would linger another six months before the spells were released and the Queen took to her chambers for a year or mourning.
- Beneath the Sugar Sky page 58: "You were not invited, and none of Our doors have opened, nor closed, in this last day. Who are you? How are you here?"
- Every Heart a Doorway, page 62: "I won't stand here and say that the door is closed forever, because there's no way of being sure. But I will tell you the odds were against you going in the first place, and those same odds are against you now. They say lightning never strikes twice. Well, you're far more likely to be struck repeatedly by lightning than you are to find a second door."
- Every Heart a Doorway, page 151: "Seraphina is the prettiest girl in school, Nancy- you've seen her. She traveled to a Nonsense world, high Wicked, high Rhyme." said Kade. Pretty as a sunrise, mean as a snake. She ain't here, Angela."
- Every Heart a Doorway, page 144: "As you all know, my door is still open," Eleanor said. "My world is a Nonsense world, with high Virtue and moderate Rhyme as its crosswise directions."
- Every Heart a Doorway, page 50: "Jack and Jill are stupid, stupid girls," said Sumi. She stabbed a slice of melon with her fork, splashing gravy on the table. "They think they're going back, but they're not. Those doors are closed now. Can't go to high Logic, high Wicked if you're not innocent. The Wicked doesn't want people it can't spoil."
- Every Heart a Doorway, page 54: "Lundy's one of us, only she went to a high Logic, high Wicked world where they kicked visitors our on their eighteenth birthdays."
- World Alignment Examples
- Every Heart a Doorway, page 72: "One, a shy girl with brown braids and thick glasses [Loriel], had confessed that her world was at the nexus of two minor compass directions, being high Rhyme and high Linearity."