Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day

April 11, 2017 at 5:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

duskDusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire

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Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day is about Jenna, a young woman who died before her time after her sister committed suicide. This makes her a ghost, forced to wander the real world until she can take enough time from the living to take her to her own death date. She could do this quickly, but she feels like she can’t take time until she has earned it, so she volunteers at a suicide prevention center and starts counting her time based on the people she helps. After forty years as a ghost, something happens, and she finds herself aligning with a witch to discover what happened and how to fix it.

Hands down, McGuire can write. She has an ear for dialogue, a knack for plotting, and a keen eye on human behavior that makes her stories compelling. She also writes like a poet, writing narrative that flows with grace and fragility while writing about death, suicide, and witches. I’m sold on her.

The thing is, I’ve only read two of her stories: this one; and Every Heart a Doorway. Both are novellas, and both of them wind up feeling like they should have been longer stories. Like Every Heart a Doorway, Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day ends almost as soon as events start to pick up. McGuire sets up her story perfectly, capturing the emotion of a young woman torn apart by her older sister’s suicide, and then continues to set up the story using rules of magic that make sense and don’t cheat the story, but then when we finally reach the conflict, it reaches the climax quickly, without giving us proper time to feel the helplessness of the conflict.

Both of the stories are good, and I recommend them, but I can’t help but feel like McGuire took ideas for longer stories and crammed them into a novella-length piece. I have no problem with shorter or longer works, so long as the story fits the length, but neither this novella nor Every Heart a Doorway feel suitable for their length. Both of them feel like a large part of the story is missing. For the writing alone, though, I recommend anyone with a passing interest in urban fantasy give them a read.

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