My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day, besides having a title that is a heck of a mouthful, is a slim novel that took me way too long to get through due to work, family issues and other commitments that limited my reading time. I only mention this because I feel some of the day-to-day life issues severely got in the way of my being able to fully enjoy and escape into this book. When you can only enjoy a chapter or two a day, and even then are unable to escape interruption, it can really mess with the story's pacing (at least in my opinion...). So, these issues are on me, but I ultimately felt this was a four-star read and I dug the heck out of it. If I were able to really sink in and inhabit the world a bit more freely, this might have been a fiver just for the writing alone. I love McGuire's word-smithing, and her prose here reaches an almost lyrical level at times.
Jenna, our lead, is a dead girl living in New York City and volunteering for a Suicide Prevention hotline when she's not working as a coffee barista to pay rent and buy cat food for the elder felines she shelters. Jenna died thirty-some years before, running away from home to escape the death of her sister. Now she's a ghost, trying to earn back enough time to reach what should have been her actual dying day.
McGuire does a terrific bit of world building, but some of the early proceedings felt a little too stuffy with info dump on the rules of haunting, dying days, and assorted lore revolving around ghosts, their physical manifestations, and relationships (or lack of) with the world's various witches. Oh, yeah, there's witches, too, like Brenda, a corn witch, who leads Jenna through a maze (maize? Get it? Ha.) of sorts in the book's latter half. It's pretty dense stuff, and makes the book feel thicker than it actually is.
There's also a good, solid emotional core behind all the plotting. I get why Jenna volunteers, and she's a good soul all around. She's a feel-good heroine without being all sugary, buttery saccharine sweet, and is, bottom line, just a really good person. I dug that, too. In order to reach her moment of legit moving on, there's all kinds of shady business she could get up to, but McGuire avoids the dark shenanigans and brooding hero with a past that often feels like a staple of Urban Fantasy. While there are elements of darkness in the story itself (this is, after all, a story of ghosts and witches, and some dark deeds as the book progresses), it never feels oppressive. Jenna is, after all, a cat lady six felines deep, and that seems to generate a measure of coziness all its own. Given some of the sort of books I enjoy reading, particularly McGuire's Mira Grant authored books, it's a bit refreshing to read a title that's just plum ol' nice.
[Note: I received an advanced copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley.]
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