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.
I’m always up for reading more from Seanan McGuire and I was especially excited to pick up another Tor.com novella from her since her latest, Every Heart a Doorway, made my list of favourite reads of 2016.
I enjoyed Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, though I didn’t quite fall in love with it. The prose is as gorgeous as McGuire usually produces, the world-building is really interesting and the characters feel like real people, but this story didn’t have much of an emotional impact on me.
I know it’s a bit unfair for me to say I’m disappointed in something because I ‘just’ liked it instead of adoring it, but at this point I know I’m going to like McGuire’s work. I’m always hoping for something that’ll make me hide in the bathroom at work to have a wee cry (FEED), inspire me to get a tattoo (Wicked Girls), or end up on my Hugo Awards nomination ballot (Every Heart A Doorway, the InCryptids series).
Oh look, actual thoughts on the book instead of my Seanan feels:
I hesitate to call this book an Urban Fantasy, though that’s probably what it should be shelved under. The story and characters all clearly have deep countryside roots, with the city not being portrayed as much of a character, or all that welcoming of an entity. New York is the place runaways flock to and the place Jenna chose for her flight but it was never quite home. Instead, the pull of Jenna’s small, rural town is ever-present, it’s where her bones are buried and it can never stop being home.
The world-building was fascinating but I found it somewhat confusing, particularly the language around ghosts abilities to give and take time from the living. In the beginning, I kept having to double back to make sure I understood whether Jenna was ageing or getting younger. It took me a while to get into the world and its rules, which wouldn’t be as much of an issue in a novel but in this much shorter work it meant that I was confused for a much larger portion of the story.
Still, I was intrigued by so many things in this story: witches in the corn, covered mirrors, whispering rats, ghost traps. I also especially enjoyed Jenna’s posse of elderly cats, as well as her musings on death, the living and why ghosts who linger behind. I would definitely read more in that world, now that I understand the way the main premise works a bit better.