Book Review: Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire

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Title: Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day

Author: Seanan McGuire

Number of Pages: 183

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Rating: B

Recommended?: Yes

Jenna, the heroine of Dusk or Dawn or Dark or Day, is dead. This is established right off the bat, with a scene where she goes running out into the rain in a fit of grief after her sister Patty’s suicide and falls into a ravine. Jenna died too young, so she is put on this earth as a spirit and is expected to ‘work off her time’ volunteering at a suicide hotline in Manhattan, far away from her home town of Mill Hollow, Kentucky. When ghosts start disappearing from Manhattan and foul play is involved, Jenna teams up with a witch named Brenda to figure out what’s happened to the missing spirits.


The characters in this novella didn’t really seem fully developed, possibly due to it’s brevity,  but I really enjoyed the world-building and the way Seanan McGuire developed the supernatural element in a fun and unique way. I read this book right after I read Every Heart a Doorway by the same author, and I think I liked Every Heart a Doorway a little bit better, it might have been because I thought the characters were a little more distinctive or it might just have captured my interest more. Nevertheless, McGuire’s ability to tell a good yarn with truly original elements is indisputable.


I would have liked to know more about Patty, Jenna’s sister who committed suicide, so I could feel more emotionally invested in Jenna’s love for her. Overall I liked Jenna’s character, but I didn’t get to know her all that well; she also wasn’t given any physical description whatsoever, which was slightly odd. I think my favorite character was probably Sophie, the addled witch who was most lucid when surrounded by her rat familiars. When she was first introduced, I thought she was just a homeless woman, so the gradual revelations about her character’s role in the story took me by surprise.


I thought the ending of Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day in particular was wonderfully done and it actually brought tears to my eyes. It was thoroughly satisfying and in my opinion, the prefect way to end the story. I actually think it would be cool if Seanan McGuire wrote a book that existed in the same universe as this novella, there were so many good ideas and some of them weren’t expanded on as much as they could have been. I’m reading Down Among the Sticks and Bones (the sequel to Every Heart a Doorway) now. I seem to be on a role with this author, I don’t generally even read fantasy! There’s just something about her books that really seem to appeal to me.


I think it’s partially because I’m in awe of her concepts, I wish I could come up with ideas that were on the same level of creativity and sophistication as hers. I don’t write fantasy, myself, but I appreciate anyone who can write a fantasy novel or novella that homages other works while still feeling vital and original. Seanan McGuire can do that, it’s enough to make an aspiring writer jealous in the face of her talent. I will continue to seek out McGuire’s fiction and maybe some of her longer works contain a little bit more by way of character development, because both Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day or Every Heart a Doorway felt a little bit lacking in this regard. However, I still really enjoyed both of them and I’m also impressed with McGuire’s apparent versality at dealing in different subgenres.


After Every Heart a Doorway‘s whimsically macabre fantasy, Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day offers a very different take on ghosts, and I enjoyed reading about a ghost who was the protagonist and was a protective presence, not something to fear. That’s more the way I see ghosts and ghosts that are ‘evil’ and hurt people don’t quite work for me. Jenna isn’t a ghost you would particularly mind haunting you, and I liked reading about what it’s like to be deceased and still inhabiting a world where time has left you behind.

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