Sparrow Hill Road — Seanan McGuire

Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

TITLE: Sparrow Hill Road
AUTHOR: Seanan McGuire
SERIES: Ghost Roads, #1
RE-RELEASED: June 5th, 2018; DAW Books (originally released May 2014)
GENRE: Paranormal/Gothic horror
AGE RANGE: Adult

SYNOPSIS: 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.

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I’ve yet to meet a Seanan McGuire story that I don’t like, and Sparrow Hill Road sure isn’t going to be the first. The recipe for this story includes a tablespoon of creep factor, a pinch of humor, a healthy dose of sadness, and a heaping cup of absolute lovability.

One in three hitchhikers on the North American road died long before anyone offered them a ride, and for the most part, we’re pretty friendly.

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First of all, let’s talk about the lore behind this book—it’s full of all sorts of characters both living and dead, whether they’re hitchers like Rose, phantom riders, homecomers, bean sídhes, routewitches, or everyday living, breathing human truck drivers. As someone who grew up beyond obsessed with paranormal and cryptid folklore, I felt like every chapter brought a new facet to the story that filled me with absolute delight. As always, Seanan’s writing is well-researched and downright clever.

O Lord who art probably not in Heaven, deliver me from men who’ve killed me once and would kill me again, if I gave them the chance. O Lady, hallowed be thy name, get me the hell out of here.

There’s a fantastic element of suspense layered underneath everything, too; Rosie is being chased by the man who killed her once and wants to kill her again, and no matter where she is or what she’s doing, there’s always this underlying fear of the scent of wormwood and rot that precedes the terrifying man-turned-demon hunting her down.

And she looked at him, and she said, so sadly that it just about broke his heart, “No. I’ve never killed anyone. I just want to make sure that somebody’s there to see that they make it all the way home.”

Besides the spooky factor of the paranormal entities, and the suspense of Bobby Cross’s desperate search to find Rose, there’s a sadness and beauty in this book that stunned me. Maybe it’s just who Rose is, or maybe it’s because she died at sixteen years old, trapped forever in this state of perceived immortality and determination to right wrongs and fight injustice, but she spends her death trying to save others from Bobby Cross—and when he isn’t a direct threat, and all she has is the scent of lilies and ashes, time and time again, she puts herself through her own version of hell just to lead new spirits to their resting place.

I have never wanted to punch a highway in the face as badly as I do right now.

On a less existentially traumatic note, a particularly fun twist comes about in the fact that the people and supernatural aren’t the only characterized entities—the roads and cars are, too, both dead and alive. The absolute reverence and love that Rose holds for the spirits of cars, and (some of) the ghost roads, is fascinating and fun to read, especially as someone who is such a huge fan of traveling by roads (I totally hope to be a phantom rider when I die).

No one works the night shift in a diner for long without learning that the world is bigger, and bleaker, than they ever dreamed.

You see, Sparrow Hill Road doesn’t feel like just a ghost story—it also feels like a love story to truck stops and diners, the quiet night life of the rural in-between towns, and a life lived out on the open road. It’s the kind of rare story that makes you want to go get lost in the wild for a while, just to get out in the quiet and listen to what the roads have to say. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll find yourself at the Last Dance Diner, where I hear you can get the best malts this side of the twilight.

Thank you so much to DAW for providing me with this finished copy in exchange for an honest review!

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Just a 25-year-old trying to juggle motherhood, grad school, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

13 thoughts on “Sparrow Hill Road — Seanan McGuire

  1. Ahhhhh I need to read this one! It was already on my TBR but I’d forgotten about it haha. I’m gonna try to read everything Seanan McGuire in my lifetime hahaha

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  2. Great review! As someone who is a self-confessed wimp, I’ve always stayed away from horror, but recently I’ve developed a fascination with them. This book sounds super creepy and just what I’m after. I’ll definitely need to check out more from the author as well!

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    1. Thanks, Kelly! Haha you should definitely check out this one, then – I actually think it would be a GREAT read for someone who’s just getting into horror, since it’s not too over the top. And Seanan is amazing, you really can’t go wrong with any of her writing!

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  3. Well, this is not something i’ve ever come across as far as i remember. With a ghosty protagonist it sounds super interesting and i heard a lot of great things about the author’s writing style.

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    1. Her style is amazing! It’s very unique and she never shies away from talking about important issues, especially in her more recent works. This was originally written years ago but re-released this year, and I’ve heard the sequel to this one is even better (I’ll be reading it soon). I definitely recommend it if you like ghost stories!

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  4. I hadn’t heard of this book before, but after reading your review, I reeeeaaaaaalllly want to read it now! I love all things paranormal, and I can’t believe I’ve never read anything by Seanan McGuire. I need to remedy that ASAP! Thanks for the great review!

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