Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire

Trigger warning:  this novella references suicide and dying. 

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day is a good, old-fashioned ghost story, so it is definitely paranormal, with some fantasy elements, but light on the horror and gore, and Seanan McGuire mixes things up with witches thrown in.

McGuire creates a fascinating world of ghosts and how their afterlife works.  She did it in her other ghost story, Sparrow Hill Road, too. This time, her focus is on the suicides and those who went before their time, so there is a twist to completing unfinished business before moving on.  Ghosts can “buy” back the time and earn enough to reach their actual dying day and finally pass on.  Each ghost’s amount of time to earn is different, and ghosts earn it at their own pace (or refuse to, thus lingering).  In this novella, ghosts have an ability to take time from people to get the time to reach their dying day, a sort of fountain of youth.  The witches fit into this story because witches are the only ones who can control ghosts and their ability to take time. 

Jenna Pace is a small town ghost who moved to New York City in her afterlife as a ghost and has been earning her time in small increments for over forty years.  Things change when the ghosts in NYC start disappearing, and it is too unlikely that all of them reached their dying day at the same time and passed on.  Jenna is forced to play hero when she is the only ghost left to do anything about it, and her small town and witchery are somehow connected.

This novella is a short read but packs a wallop.  McGuire writes sensitively and with compassion about a sensitive subject.  Jenna is a fascinating protagonist, a small town girl with a big heart.  She has no super skills, smarts, or sass, just someone trying to help and do the right thing, and, even dead, she continues growing as a person.  Plus, she gets help along the way from friends and acquaintances, including other ghosts and several witches.  There is no guide or organized system in place for ghosts, so Jenna continues to figure out what being a ghost means (and readers learn with her).  McGuire always focuses on inclusion, and, even in a ghost story, she reminds readers of the cast-offs, the misfits, and the ghosts who are still people.

Look for Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day in the VBPL Catalog.  Try Sparrow Hill Road (see review) for another McGuire ghost story. For another fantasy and more-than-a-ghost story, try Michelle Sagara’s Queen of the Dead teen trilogy (starting with Silence).

Review posted by Tracy V.

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