Book Review: Seanan McGuire’s Sparrow Hill Road

Posted January 31, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Seanan McGuire’s Sparrow Hill Road

Sparrow Hill Road


Seanan McGuire

It is part of the , series and is a urban fantasy in eBook edition that was published by DAW Books on May 6, 2014 and has 312 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Home Improvement: Undead Edition, Indexing, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, Half-Off Ragnarok, Midway Relics and Dying Breeds, Games Creatures Play, The Winter Long, The InCryptid Prequels, Pocket Apocalypse, Black as Blood, Blocked, White as a Raven's Wing, The Ghosts of Bourbon Street, IM, "Good Girls Go to Heaven", A Red Rose Chain, "Full of Briars", Reflections, Once Broken Faith, "Dreams and Slumbers", Shadowed Souls, Chaos Choreography, Magic For Nothing, Indigo, Every Heart a Doorway, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, The Brightest Fell, "Of Things Unknown", Beneath the Sugar Sky

First in the Ghost Stories urban fantasy series about a ghost … who once lived in Buckley Township in Michigan.

My Take

Man, even thinking about this story again makes me cry, for the loss and for the stupid horror of the accident that changed Rose’s life. Then what Gary does? What can I say, keep those tissues handy. Keep ‘em handy for the night Rose gets pushed into telling her story. I don’t care who you are, you will weep.

It reads like a series of short stories woven into a single story, a truly fabulous story — even with all the tears — as McGuire creates a whole new culture about ghosts with hierarchies and specialties. And McGuire teases, tantalizes, and leads you on, giving out hints and tastes that lead to the whole story. What I enjoyed was how well she teased, lol.

Makes sense that carnie workers know a ghost and their cultures; they’re a very generous group.

Do pay attention to the dates as McGuire has you hopping back and forth from today to 1952.

The Story

Rose Marshall came from the wrong side of the tracks but it didn’t keep Gary from loving her. He knew how much he adored his Rose, if only Rose had kept the faith that night.

Angry, miserable, Rose ignores all around her until the white-haired trucker who bought her a cheese sandwich.

After that, it’s the smells that warn Rose how badly her help is needed: ashes and honeysuckle is negotiable, of the road; ashes and lilies is a foregone conclusion;

The Characters

Rose Marshall is a hitcher who travels the roads doing good deeds as a psychopomp. The urban “myths” call her anything from the ghost of Sparrow Hill Road, the woman at the diner, Phantom Prom Date, Girl in the Diner, and the Lady in Green. Arthur and Morty are her older brothers. Gary Daniels is the boy from the right side of the tracks, the boy she loved. Bethany is a routewitch and Rose’s grandniece, and she oughta know better. Mary Dunlavy also died in Buckley, now she’s a crossroads ghost.

The Last Dance Diner is run by Emma, a beán sidhe, an Irish death omen and collector of the unquiet dead. The Last Dance is a safe diner for ghosts until it becomes the Last Chance. Amy O’Malley is a three-fer. Will is the boy she loves. The last of her family, she’s looked after by Emma. The Valhalla Valkyries give Rose their blessing. The Kindly Ones watch for oathbreakers.

Larry Vibber is a truck driver; Tommy wanted to win that race to marry his girl; Mckenzie is a cheerleader; Dinah and Josie are waitresses; Michael and Anthony, the college boy, are caught in the crossfire; Chris is a sweetheart who doesn’t deserve it; and, Dennis was a hitchhiker caught up in more than anyone could believe. Patrick Swenson and Josh are alive because they listened.

Apple is the Queen of the Routewitches, not someone you want to cross, and holds “court on the old Atlantic Highway”. The Ocean Lady is the ghost version of this highway. Eloise is a routewitch who gave Rose the information. The last ruler was the King who took on the punishment for what he did. Mikey does the tattoo. Carl is the routewitch who helps Gary with his last request.

The evil Bobby Cross is wormwood and ashes; he’s made a deal with the crossroads, and it’s not one that favors anyone else. Dmitri doesn’t know what he is. Professor Laura Moorhead is a survivor, and she’s furious about her boyfriend’s death. Jamie, Marla, Angela, Tom, and Katherine shouldn’t have listened to Laura.

Hitchers know their roads whether they’re ghost roads or the real thing. Homecomers forget everything but wanting to get home. Not much is known about the trainspotters except that sometimes they can see the future. Strigoi are trapped by wanting to finish something. Routewitches hunt down the stories of the roads, make bargains with it, use its power. Phantom riders bring their cars with them, home, and are tied to the stretch of road where they died. Crossroads ghosts oversee the bargains. A haunt lost love at some point and their kiss can kill or cure. “The twilight is another country”, a place where you adapt or die. A Maggy Dhu is a Black Hound of the Dead whose bite kills.

The Cover and Title

The cover is perfect with a slightly transparent Rose and a letter jacket resting on a vintage car beside a cornfield. She may not be in her green prom dress, but she’s still dressed for her time period in a pair of rolled-up jeans and a form-fitting, satin shirt with a sad look on her face.

The title is where Rose was killed, on Sparrow Hill Road.