Now in a new redesigned edition, featuring an updated introduction from the author and songs!
Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea.
It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running.
They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her.
You can’t kill what’s already dead.
About the Author
Seanan McGuire lives and works in Washington State, where she shares her somewhat idiosyncratic home with her collection of books, creepy dolls, and enormous blue cats. When not writingwhich is fairly rareshe enjoys travel, and can regularly be found any place where there are cornfields, haunted houses, or frogs. A Campbell, Hugo, and Nebula Award-winning author, Seanan's first book (Rosemary and Rue, the beginning of the October Daye series) was released in 2009, with more than twenty books across various series following since. Seanan doesn't sleep much.
You can visit her at www.seananmcguire.com.
Read an Excerpt
And when the night hails down and you’re afraid
That you’ll never get what you’re owed,
Go and talk to the girl in the green silk gown
Who died on Sparrow Hill Road.
And when you see her face in the truck- stop light,
When the final cock has crowed,
Then you’ll go with the girl in the green silk gown
Who died on Sparrow Hill Road.
— excerpt from “The Ghost of Sparrow Hill Road,” author unknown.
There is nothing more human than the ghost story. Every culture in the world creates hauntings for itself, things that lurk in the shadows and wait for the unwary. Yet, at the same time, there are certain ghost stories and certain forms of haunting that seem to be quintessentially American. This leads us to the story of the Phantom Prom Date. Her story is considered an example of the Hitchhiking Ghost sub-type (see Appendix A for further details on the base legend), but has been expanded into a cautionary tale for teenagers about the dangers of driving recklessly. It is perhaps no coincidence that the Phantom Prom Date first began to walk the roads of America in the early 1950s, when concern for teen driving was at a national high.
The most interesting thing about this legend is that it presents a hitchhiking ghost with no specific geographical ties. Unlike Chicago’s White Mary or New Hampshire’s Lonely John, the Phantom Prom Date can be seen anywhere in North America, and has made appearances in locations as diverse as Florida, Ontario, and the Pacific Northwest. The only American state with no recorded sightings is Hawaii, which fits with the legend— how would a ghost whose only means of travel is the highway reach a state surrounded entirely by water?
The physical appearance of the Phantom Prom Date may also be relevant. One would expect a legend this far-ranging to present with a dozen different descriptions, but all recorded sightings have included the same details. She is in her mid-teens, with shoulder-length, light brown or dark blonde hair, Caucasian, attractive enough to be noticed without being strikingly beautiful, and wearing a green silk prom dress with matching dress flats. Neither the style of her hair nor the style of her dress changes from report to report; she seems to be caught in the era where she died, forever roaming the highways of America, forever looking for someone who can help her find the way home . . .
— On the Trail of the Phantom Prom Date, Professor Laura
Moorhead, University of Colorado.
The Dead Girl in the Diner
THERE’S THIS VOCABULARY WORD— “linear.” It means things that happen in a straight line, like highways and essays about what you did on your summer vacation. It means A comes before B, and B comes before C, all the way to the end of the alphabet, end of the road . . . end of the line. That’s linear.
The living are real fond of linear. The dead . . . not so much. It’s harder to make everything fall into a straight line when nothing begins until you die. The dead begin our “lives” as newborns with heads full of memories, and it can make even the most straightforward story a little difficult to follow. I’ll do my best.
My name is Rose Marshall. This is not a story about my life, although my life will occasionally intrude on the proceedings. It’s messy and unfortunate. It’s also unavoidable. Sorry about that. Only not really, because like I said, the dead aren’t all that invested in “linear,” and I’ve been dead for a long damn time.
I was born in 1936. The country was just starting to come out of the Great Depression. Skirts were tight, movies were big business, and everyone was trying to put their best foot forward. Of course, it wasn’t sunshine and roses for everybody. My parents were still tightening their belts and pulling up their bootlaces when little Rosie Marshall made the scene, just one more mouth to feed and one more untried heart to break. They wouldn’t be feeding me for long. Daddy split when I was eight years old. Me, I made it all the way to 1952, sixteen short years of chances and choices and opportunities. And then it was over.
I died on a hot summer night in my junior year of high school, driven off the road by a man who should never have been there. My body was battered almost past recognition by the accident. My spirit fared a little better, sweet sixteen for the rest of time, missing the warm coat of life’s embrace.
I was alive, and then I wasn’t. Someday, they’ll say the same thing about everyone. Someday, they’ll say the same thing about you.
There are a lot of names for people like me, the ones who can’t let go, even when the movie’s over and the credits finish rolling. Specter, haunt, phantom . . . and my personal favorite, the sweet and simple “ghost.” “Ghost” is a lot like “linear”: it’s a word that doesn’t fuck around pretending to be something it’s not. There are even a lot of names for me in specific, names that try to dance around the word “Rose.” I’m the phantom prom date, the woman at the diner, the girl in the green silk gown, and the walking girl of Route 42. But most of all, I’m the ghost of Sparrow Hill Road. Rosie Marshall. Just one more girl who raced and lost in the hand of the forest, the shade of the hill, on the hairpin curves of that damned deadly hill.
People call me a lot of things these days. You can call me Rose.
Now come with me.
The truck stop air has that magical twang that you only ever find in roadside dives that have had time to fully merge with their environment. It’s a mixture of baked asphalt, diesel fumes, hot exhaust, and hotter exhaustion. The smell of grease and lard- based piecrusts join the symphony as I get closer to the obligatory diner, the charmingly named FORK YOU GRILL. The smell of ashes and lilies runs under it all, cold and enticing as the grave, and I know that I am where I am supposed to be.
My fingers are cold. My fingers are always cold, and the coat I’m wearing is too thin to really warm them up. I got it from a twenty-something on his way to California to be a rock musician. He said it belonged to his little sister. From the smell of the perfume permanently bonded to the denim, she was only his little sister if his little sister was moonlighting as a prostitute. But who am I to judge? I traded the coat for a backseat quickie, and now my hands are cold no matter how far I shove them into my hooker’s-coat pockets, and I can taste the truck stop air. Being dead is one of those things that really teaches you how to be glad to be alive.
The distant drone of cars on the highway accompanies me across the parking lot, my shoes crunching on the glass and gravel. The sound of the jukebox slithers out to meet me as I open the diner door, Top 40 country hits with all the passion of a dead dog on the side of the highway. I keep on going. I’m not here for the music.
The air inside the diner is hot and dry and sweet with coffee and apple pie and the distant ghosts of greasy breakfasts past. Half a dozen truckers sit belly- up to the counter on stools twice the size of standard; this is a place that stays alive on the trucker trade, and isn’t ashamed of that reality. Another half- dozen patrons are sprinkled around the place, seated haphazardly at booths and tables. That tells me what the deal is even before I see the hand- written sign inviting me to “PLZ SEAT YOURSELF, B RIGHT WITH U.”
From the expressions of the folks who aren’t too tired to enjoy their food, the staff here cooks better than they spell. That’s for the best. Killing your customers with food poisoning isn’t a good way to stay in business.
There’s something not-quite-right about one of the truckers, a barrel-chested man with a neat little goatee and the hands of an artist. He has those artist’s hands wrapped tight around a coffee mug, stealing heat through the porcelain like a small child stealing cookies from the cookie jar. Most of the eyes in the diner skitter right off me, frightened mice catching the scent of a cat, but not him. He doesn’t look at me for long, but when he does, he sees me.
That, even more than the scent of ash and lilies lingering in the air around him, tells me he’s the one I’ve come here for; he’s the one that called me, made me give up a perfectly good westward ride to come to this middle-of-nowhere dive with nothing but the coat on my back and the frostbite on my fingers. I can’t save him, but I know him.
At least, I know his kind. He’s in the process of sliding into the space between two Americas. This one, where the air tastes like apple pie and the jukebox plays the Top 40, and a quieter, colder America, one where the kisses pretty girls sometimes give never taste of anything but empty rooms and broken promises. He’s falling into my America, and there’s not a damn thing to be done about it. It’s not the sort of trip that you recover from. If the scent around him were rosemary and sugary perfume, maybe, but ashes and lilies . . .
There’s nothing to be done. The record on the jukebox changes as I walk toward the counter. The Country Gentlemen, “Bringing Mary Home.”
I hate it when the inanimate pretends to have a sense of humor.
He looks up when I sit down, a flicker of interest showing in his eyes. They’re the color of sun- faded denim, all their darkness bleached out by the road. The blue-eyed boys have always been my weakness. I meet that brief look with a smile that’s more sincere than I intended, flashing white teeth between candy-apple-red lips.
It’s hard to dress for the truck stop circuit. Can’t be too wholesome or they’re afraid to even talk to you; there’s too much of a chance that you’re some sort of lure set out by the local cops. Sandra Dee doesn’t play with the long-haul boys. Neither does her evil twin: going too far the other way makes you look like you’re just another lot lizard, worth the price of a blow job, but not worth the cost of conversation. So here I am in flannel shirt under denim jacket over too-tight wife-beater tank top, faded jeans worn as thin as paper, hiking boots, and makeup that would verge on slutty if it wasn’t so inexpertly applied.
I know my audience. I’ve had a lot of time to study it.
“Hi,” I say, with a questioning lilt that blurs the remnants of my accent, blotting out the route signs that might lead back to my origins. “My name’s Rose. Do you, um, come here often?”
He looks my way again. His eyes are kind. That makes it a little easier. We’re about to get to know each other real well, and it’s better when their eyes are kind. “Let me stop you right there, honey. You’re way too young for me. Hell, you’re way too young to be out here at all. Don’t you have a home to go to?”
“Not for a long time.”
“I see.” Disapproval overtakes the kindness like the sun going down— but the disapproval isn’t directed at me, and that makes what has to happen next easier still. “When’s the last time you ate?”
This time I don’t have to force myself to smile. “Too long ago.” It’s the truth. I’m always hungry— one more consequence of being what I am— and I have to follow certain rules. If the living choose to feed me while I’m material, the food has flavor and substance. If I try to feed myself, it’s only air and ashes, like chewing on nothing.
“Would you mind if I bought you a burger?”
“Not at all.” I slide over a little on my stool, trying to make myself comfortable. “If you’re going to buy me a burger, can you tell me your name, maybe? I like to know who I’m thanking.”
“It’s Larry. Larry Vibber.”
“Pleased to meet you, Larry.”
“Pleased to meet you, too, Rose,” he says, and laughs as he waves for the waitress to come over to our little stretch of counter. I’d feel guilty, if I had anything to feel guilty about. There are worse ways to spend your last night on Earth than buying dinner for a stranger in a diner, and if I wasn’t here, he’d be spending this time alone.
The burger tastes like Heaven on a sesame seed bun, assuming that Heaven comes with ketchup and raw onions. If Larry wonders why I ask him to pass me the condiments before I dump them on, he doesn’t say anything about it. The coffee is even better than the burger, and the apple pie is so damn good I could cry. The living don’t know how lucky they are.
Larry finishes his food well before I do. After that, he just watches me demolishing my meal, until I’m chasing crumbs with the tip of my index finger and wishing I’d thought to chew a little slower. I wish that every time. I never do it.
Then Larry clears his throat, and I turn to look at him again. He smiles, weakly. “I was thinking, Rose . . .”
“A girl your age shouldn’t be alone in a place like this. Now, I know you don’t have much reason to trust me, and I’ll understand if you don’t think it’s a good idea, but I’m rolling for Detroit tonight. I’d be happy to take you along, get you to a place where maybe . . . you could find somewhere to stay.”
Oh, Larry. He won’t be getting anywhere near Detroit tonight. I know that, I’ve known it since I saw him across the diner, but that doesn’t matter, because this is what happens; this is what I came here for. I push my plate away, and if he sees that my smile is painted on over sorrow, he’s polite enough not to say anything. He’s trying to help. Most truckers are essentially good people, living one of the few vagabond lifestyles that’s survived into this changing world, where it gets harder every year to keep from putting down roots. They help each other when they can, and they like to be seen as shining knights riding dragons instead of snow- white chargers.
“Thank you.” I tug my borrowed coat tighter, smelling old perfume, old sex, old lies. My lies are some of the oldest of them all, but I tell them for the very best of reasons. “I’d really appreciate a ride.” Rides are what I don’t live for, after all.
The waitress who takes Larry’s money looks at me a little too hard, a little too intently. She knows me. She’s deep enough into the twilight Americas to know me, but she’s still in the shallows. She’s still too close to the daylight layers to understand why she knows, or what, exactly, it is that she’s seeing. I flash her a smile. She steps backward, counts Larry’s change wrong twice, and finally— once she has the register closed again— flees into the back.
She won’t be here much longer. She’ll go back to the daylight, leave this blacktop twilight to the people who can breathe its air and not worry about suffocating. That’s good. People like her should get out while they still can, to make up for all the people who never get the chance.
Then Larry leads me out of the diner, out into the night, and the waitress doesn’t matter anymore. We’re on the road again, and there’s nothing that can save us now.
What People are Saying About This
"Seanan McGuire doesn't write stories, she gifts us with Myth—new Myths for a layered America that guide us off the twilight roads and lend us a pretty little dead girl to show us the way home." —Tanya Huff
"McGuire is a writer to be reckoned with, landing stone-cold emotional blows in quick succession while simultaneously stringing laugh-out-loud moments alongside lush descriptions, knife-sharp badinage and quickfire action sequences." —Strange Horizons
"McGuire applies a hard-boiled mentality and a keen appreciation for mythology to a blend of politics, magic, and romance." —Publishers Weekly
"Hitchhiking ghosts, the unquiet dead, the gods of the old American roads—McGuire enters the company of Lindskold and Gaiman with this book, creating a wistful, funny, fascinating new mythology of diners, corn fields, and proms in this all-in-one-sitting read!" —Tamora Pierce
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Rose Marshall's story starts as a tragedy, blossoms into an urban myth, and yanks you sideways into the mystical byways between life and death. Seanan weaves a masterful tale around one of the urban myths we've all shared around a campfire or by flashlight. I would love to visit this world again. Thank you for sharing the road with us, Seanan!
This is a marvelous ghost story, told as a series of linked stories that move backwards and forewords through time. Rose is a great narrator with a distinctive voice and a strong sense of purpose. If you like travel stories, ghost stories, or strong female protagonists, your must give this a try.
This will be a book I read and re-read. I am a speed reader and usually speed read everything. This book made me take my time a savor the words and story. I'd recommend it.
Reading the sample of this made me put down the Mercedes Lackey book I was reading to purchase and devour it within 24 hours. McGuire is a furious, fabulous witch of a writer.
Both Seanan McGuire's October Dayes series and her Wayward Children series are among my all-time favorites. And her Incryptid series is pretty high up on that list. So I had high expectations going into Sparrow Hill Road. While this series has a slightly different tone, the same magic is still present. Sparrow Hill Road is the story of Rose Marshall, also known as the Girl in the Green Silk Gown or the Girl in the Diner. It’s told somewhat non-linearly, which took me a bit to get used it. However, I ended up loving the format, I felt like it really allowed me to connect with Rose and understand how she became who she is in the present. As usual, the world-building was absolutely fantastic! The amount of though that goes into every single detail is amazing. From ghosts to psychopomps to diners to ghost riders who are forever young, this world comes alive in vivid color. I also loved the exploration of America’s ghost stories, nomads, and road culture. Fun fact- This series is actually set in the same world as the Incryptid series (you can definitely catch some faster eggs if you’re looking but you don’t need to read that series to enjoy this one). I wish I had better words to describe this novel but I think it’s best if you just read this one for yourself. At its heart, Sparrow Hill Road is more a character study of a girl who is just trying to figure out where she belongs than a spooky paranormal action story. *Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Sparrow Hill Road is a bit disjointed. Now I’m not sure if that is literary genius because the main character is a ghost and so her life/afterlife IS a little disjointed time-wise or because that is just the nature of this collection of stories. Rose is dead and she has been for about sixty years now but that doesn’t stop her from hitching a ride now and again and dropping into the living world to have a little bit of a good time or help someone in need. Sometimes she is able to save them, but other times, she is only able to help them after and make sure they don’t get stuck in the in-between of life and death. Some of these stories could be really sad, depending on how you view death. I tried to just go with this storie's version of it; it was just a doorway to a new adventure and so it was okay when one of the people Rose tried to help live ended up dead. At least she was there to hold their hand and make sure they ended up where they were supposed to go. Rose is the main character of a thousand different ghost stories. Some of them more true than others, in some she is the source of death and in others she is the guardian angel looking out for the living in diners, truck stops and on highways. Overall Rose is really likable and she has a pretty good understanding of her death now. She even has a bit of a calling and a few friends to boot. Still she is always looking over her shoulder, watching out for the man that killed her on Sparrow Hill Road and trying desperately to save more people for becoming another victim to the man in the car that made a deal with the devil. There are parts in this which made me happy and some made me almost cry. I really loved getting Rose’s story of her death; it was beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time. I have mixed feeling about Gary and his choices BUT I reserve judgement because I think later it is going to work out as a really weird type of HEA, if ghosts get those. The world building of the twilight and midnight was interesting and I liked the glimpses we got into the different kinds of ghosts that can be made and what they might be up to. I also really liked the possibilities this presented for future stories and other things from death lore that popped up like Valkeries (I’m very interested in those creatures). It seems like just about anything could happen and I like jumping into Urban Fantasy that stretches the norms of the genre and takes chances on new ideas you don’t see often, especially as the main focus and a dead girl being the MC is definitely not something I’ve read until now.
Our Review by LITERAL ADDICTION's Pack Alpha - Chelle: If you're a fan of ghost stories, creative worldbuilding, and fun, quirky heroines, you'll want to check out SPARROW HILL ROAD. Rose Marshall is a sixteen-year-old from the 50s, killed nonsensically on prom night and taken from her one true love. For over 60 years, she has performed the job given to her by the Lady upon death, and has traveled the roads as a hitcher, helping other ghosts that die on the road get home--one way or the other. But she has one other driving purpose: find and eliminate the jerk who killed her. Bobby Cross. Told as a series of interconnected snippets jumping from past to present in her encounters with other ghosts and witches and the living, SPARROW HILL ROAD is a very creative tale that engages and entertains. It can get a little confusing at times if you're not thoroughly invested, as the McGuire uses small chapter flashbacks to help drive the tale and there is lots of random character interaction for different purposes depending on the ghost story she is attempting to tell, but the creativity that went into the creation of this world and its characters was a breath of fresh air.
Wonderful story sets. Really enjoyed Rose's adventures.
This was not what I expected after reading the books sysnopsis. I thought it was going to be a single story telling when in reality it was a collaboration of short stories and novella length stories all focusing on the legends surrounding Rose Marshall, a ghost, and her battle against the man, now ghost, Bobby Cross that killed her and set the path for her ride the ghost roads for eternity. That being said, Seanan McGuire pens magical tales that catapults the reader into a world of myths and legends. This is not a HEA type of read, with a heavy dose of dark urban fantasy...its a ghost story what else could you expect. I received this copy of Sparrow Hill Road from Berkley Publishing Group. This is my honest and voluntary review.
f you ever told ghost stories around a campfire, you've heard some variation of this one. That combined with the intriguing blurb for this caught my attention. I expected something a bit creepy and possibly some action. I didn't find much of either, but that's on me and my own assumptions. On the whole, the book is well written and the author is certainly talented, but I found myself struggling to get through the book. What started as a seemingly great premise ended up being what was more like a series of not so scary ghost stories told from the ghosts point of view. We do have the underlying plot line of this man that is forever hunting Rose, but he's only mentioned here and there through a tangle of seemingly disjointed tales with little in common other than Rose. Some of these stories were interesting, some not so much, which led to a lengthy, drawn out read. I did keep at it to see where things would go and that underlying plot did finally bear some fruit, but it was a rather disappointing conclusion. There were also several unfamiliar words used throughout the book - some easier to figure out than others - and I was surprised to find a glossary of sorts to explain those words. Sadly, it was at the end of the book. Since I don't read the back of the book first, I wasn't aware of this, but it would've been nice to know as I was actually reading the story. So, while the idea was terrific, the end result was just okay for me and certainly wasn't enough for me to read further into the series.
I had a lot of fun reading this book. The writing was amazing and brought such a lyrical aspect to the story that there were moments where I forgot I was reading a ghost story and yet sometimes it reminded me that this really was a ghost story. I fell in love with the characters and had a great time seeing how they got to where they were and how all their stories came into play with Rose. The one thing I wasn’t crazy about was how the story was written. It was a lot of jumping back and forth from present to past and even though you are given warning about it, I wasn’t fully prepared for how much it was done. It was my biggest issue with this book. There would be moments when I was almost biting my nails to see what would happen next, only for it to jump back into the past and the rest of the scenes would be like that. It took the drama and suspense out of moments that should have blown me away. I do want to pick up the sequel though and see how everything turns out. That characters where just that well written, that it left you want more.
I found Sparrow Hill Road at my local Barnes & Noble when I was picking out books for my birthday present from my parents. I've read and loved several of Seanan McGuire's other books, and I definitely don't regret one of her books being a birthday buy. :D For those familiar with the InCryptid books (Discount Armageddon, Midnight Blue-Light Special, etc.), Rose's story takes place in the same universe, and while some of the characters from that story are mentioned very rarely (the Healy family), I have only read Discount Armageddon so far and didn't feel that I was necessarily missing anything. :) I do think that someone who is more familiar with the universe will definitely appreciate the mentions, though! Going into Sparrow Hill Road, it is necessary to mention that it was originally serialized. Due to the original format, there is a lot of repetition across the stories, so if that's something that you as a reader wouldn't be able to look past and would get horribly annoyed by, Sparrow Hill Road may not be for you. That said, there is a really awesome story here, so it would be a shame. :) The collection opens up with "The Dead Girl in the Diner," and the story completely blew me away and even made me cry. It was creepy, sad, and awesome all at once. While some of the following stories didn't grab me quite as much as that one did, they all showed us another piece of Rose's world, and I really liked what I was seeing. I will warn potential readers that the stories don't seem to have a connection between them until about halfway through. At that point, the skips through time between stories becomes much smaller and each story is more closely linked to the one before it. While I liked the short story-esque aspect of the collection, it also has the downfall that, for the most part, once a story concludes, the reader doesn't feel a huge need to continue on to the next one until they want to know what Rose is going to get herself into next time. I think this is basically just because of the original way the story was told, so be prepared for the beginnings of most of the stories to slow down a bit, but I will say that once each story gets going, it's hard to put down again. My only complaint in terms of the writing (which I'm not factoring into my rating) is that a lot of the terms of this world are mentioned and then not really explained. While it can be gleaned from the text what and who these terms refer to, I personally found it a bit overwhelming at first. I was happy to discover that there is a field guide at the back of the book which explains some of them in more depth (however, there are some minor spoilers in the explanations, as a warning). My confusion with the terms may be related to not having read other stories from this universe, though, and the field guide at the back of the book cleared up the grand majority of my questions. I also admit that it would probably be a little strange for Rose to need to explain them, since they are and always have been a part of her world. :) I LOVED the idea of the different layers of America, and the ghostroads, and the twilight and midnight and daylight and all of it. I just... I can barely express how much I loved it. Such an awesome idea and McGuire does awesome things with it. I was completely entranced by the imagery of the several layers of America, and I just... AHHH, I just loved it. So awesome. Overall, I found this to be a really enjoyable collection, and I'm really looking forward to (hopefully) seeing where Rose's story goes next!
I didn't have the pleasure of reading Rose Marshall's story when it first appeared in serialized form on the Edge of Propinquity website, so everything in this book was new to me (whereas some of it might have been old news to long-time McGuire fans). There were some very pleasant surprises and reveals throughout, and even a somewhat subtle connection to McGuire's InCryptid books, which I really love. (I think there's also a solid connection to McGuire's short story "Homecoming" from the September 2013 issue of Lightspeed magazine, but I don't think the author's confirmed that one yet.) Rose Marshall herself is a fascinating focal character, and with a small exception here or there, the novel is told in first person from her point of view. It's not easy to write a character who is forever sixteen but has been around for seventy-something years and manage to keep her feeling young without also having her feel too precocious. McGuire walks that line by showing us in various flashbacks how Rose was as a living teenager versus a newly-minted road ghost versus how she is now. It's also not necessarily easy to take short stories that were published independently of each other and whip them into shape as a cohesive novel; sometimes the cracks show no matter what the author does. Not so here; if any massaging of the serialized website version was done for the print edition (such as removing repetitive "here's what happened last month" info-dumps), it wasn't noticeable to this reader as it has been in similar books I've read. The time-jumps in each section of the story also build the reader's suspense, not only about what actually happened that night on Sparrow Hill Road, but also about how Rose has "lived" (for lack of a better term) from then to now. The constant jumping around might annoy some readers, but it kept my attention and enhanced the world-building with plenty of small "a-ha" moments as I made connections Rose herself hadn't necessarily revealed yet or as connections I hadn't made became evident. Rose is the narrator but she's far from the only well-developed character: McGuire takes the time to develop the demonic Bobby Cross, the baen sidhe (and proprietess of the Last Chance Diner) Emma, and several other supporting characters who become more or less important to Rose's story as it jumps from present to past and back again. I'm always enamored of McGuire's world-building, whether it's in the Toby Daye books or Incryptid or in self-contained short stories. Here, she takes various ghostly urban legends (like "the girl who just needs a ride home / a ride to prom") and spins a whole universe of different types of traveling ghosts out of them, with her own unique touch. Around the ghosts, McGuire also creates various cultures that interact with road ghosts and with the roads themselves: ambulomancers, routewitches, trainspotters and umbramancers. The routewitches are the most well-developed because of the way their own cultural story connects so deeply to Rose's personal journey; I'm hoping that in future volumes (and clearly I'm hoping there will be future volumes), McGuire will likewise develop the ambulomancers, trainspotters and umbramancers.
Great ghost story! I really hope there will be more!
I am so confused by what is happening in this book! I actually put it down and didn't bother picking it up again. It runs in circles, zipping from story to story. I would need to start some schizophrenia medication before I consider picking it up again.
Charlaine Harris never disappoints. I cannot wait for the next book. How does she keep coming up with these great story lines. I would not have believed there could be anything new to be said about ghosts. I am really happy to be proven wrong!ooo