Today’s book is an original ghostly tale that delves into the question, “if your afterlife was spent stuck on Earth, how would you spend it?” The characters in this story answer that question in a range of ways that you might not expect. We received a copy of Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire from the publisher via Netgalley, and I will be submitting it for the Colour-Coded Reading Challenge 2017 and the PopSugar Reading Challenge, under the category of a book from a non-human perspective. You can check out my progress toward my challenges here. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
When her sister Patty died, Jenna blamed herself. When Jenna died, she blamed herself for that, too. Unfortunately Jenna died too soon. Living or dead, every soul is promised a certain amount of time, and when Jenna passed she found a heavy debt of time in her record. Unwilling to simply steal that time from the living, Jenna earns every day she leeches with volunteer work at a suicide prevention hotline.
But something has come for the ghosts of New York, something beyond reason, beyond death, beyond hope; something that can bind ghosts to mirrors and make them do its bidding. Only Jenna stands in its way.
Considering that, at its heart, Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day is a ghost story, there is a significant amount of philosophising about the nature of life and the meaning of atonement in this book.
This is not a bad thing.
In fact, it gives what could have been a basic urban fantasy (or urban paranormal, possibly) story a deeper element on which to ponder.
I found Jenna to be an immediately likable narrator. Having accidentally met her own death while grieving after the suicide of her older sister, Jenna spends her afterlife working on a volunteer suicide prevention hotline in order to avoid other families having to experience the death of a loved one by their own hand. In doing so, Jenna is “earning” her way towards her final death – the day on which she was intended to die, had she not run out into a lightning storm and been prematurely frazzled.
The early parts of the book are heavy with world-building, because the author has set up specific rules regarding the type of person who can become a ghost, what ghosts can affect in the living world and why some ghosts have been around longer than others. In fact, the bulk of the story involves Jenna finding out more about the laws that govern her afterlife, as ghosts start disappearing and her semi-comfortable existence begins to crumble. For those who like a fantasy twist in their paranormal, McGuire’s world also includes witches (who can be male or female), whose powers link them to a particular object, be it organic or built, and shape how that power might be wielded.
The characters are the strong suit of this particular story, with Jenna ably accompanied by Delia, an elderly ghost who provides cheap housing for both living and dead tenants, Sophie, a homeless young woman with an affinity for rodents, and Brenda, a corn witch who has made Manhattan her home. This is definitely as much a story of relationships and social connections as it is a ghost story.
After all the build up and time spent developing the afterlife concept at the beginning of the book, the resolution came along quite quickly and was all tied up in record time, which surprised me a little. Having said that, I was quite satisfied with the pace of the final chapters because there is nothing worse than having a book drag out the denouement when there is no need to do so. There is plenty of action and some unexpected reveals regarding who is behind the ghostly disappearances that I certainly didn’t see coming and by the end of the book, Jenna comes to terms with her misplaced guilt regarding her role in her sister’s death.
While I didn’t find this to be an absolutely stellar read, it was certainly original and had a tone that will appeal to those who enjoy books about female and family relationships, as much as those who enjoy paranormal and fantasy stories.
Until next time,