“Rose Marshall lived. Rose Marshall died. And as of the time of this writing, Rose Marshall does not yet rest in peace.”
Once and twice and thrice around,
Put your heart into the ground.
Four and five and six tears shed,
Give your love unto the dead.
Seven shadows on the wall,
Eight have come to watch your fall:
One’s for the gargoyle, one’s for the grave,
And the last is for the one you’ll never save.
For Rose Marshall, death has long since become the only life she really knows. She’s been sweet sixteen for more than sixty years, hitchhiking her way along the highways and byways of America, sometimes seen as an avenging angel, sometimes seen as a killer in her own right, but always Rose, the Phantom Prom Date, the Girl in the Green Silk Gown.
The man who killed her is still out there, thanks to a crossroads bargain that won’t let him die, and he’s looking for the one who got away. When Bobby Cross comes back into the picture, there’s going to be hell to pay—possibly literally.
Rose has worked for decades to make a place for herself in the twilight. Can she defend it, when Bobby Cross comes to take her down? Can she find a way to navigate the worlds of the living and the dead, and make it home before her hitchhiker’s luck runs out?
There’s only one way to know for sure.
Nine will let you count the cost:
All you had and all you lost.
Ten is more than time can tell,
Cut the cord and ring the bell.
Count eleven, twelve, and then,
Thirteen takes you home again.
One’s for the shadow, one’s for the tree,
And the last is for the blessing of Persephone.
TW: murder, suicide, some sexual content (no explicit scenes), panic attacks, abuse mention, bodily functions
It almost seems strange to be writing yet another positive review after a string of positive reviews, but here we are with another one! And a five star, too, which almost doesn’t surprise me because this is Seanan McGuire! This is a Ghost Roads book! And I adored Sparrow Hill Road with my entire heart! So basically, everything was up to expectations and I was a very happy camper.
I’ll admit it: if you haven’t read Sparrow Hill Road yet, you should probably turn around now, because there’s definitely going to be some spoilers for it here. And also, it’s just an amazing book, so do yourself a favor and read it, y’know?
ANYWAY, I think the best part about this book is easily the characters. While Emma figures less prominently than she did before (which is a shame because I really like her and want to know more about beán sidhe in general), we see more of Apple, the Queen of the Routewitches, and we see a ton more of Laura Moorhead, Rose’s enemy and suddenly ally. We get more of Gary, who loved Rose so much he found a way to engineer his afterlife to be by her side. We also get more of the horrible Bobby Cross, and most of all, we spend a ton of time in Rose Marshall’s head.
It’s a far cry from the last book, which was originally a string of short stories with a common narrative thread before being bound up into a novel as Sparrow Hill Road. Back then, there wasn’t nearly as much time spent in Rose’s head, and there was more time spent on the ethereal lore and wanderings. Rose is, after all, a hitcher, a ghost who will fade if she doesn’t hitch rides in the world of the living now and again. She does a lot of traveling, and much of the magic in both books is intrinsically tied to distance in the most fascinating way. But while Sparrow Hill Road had a loosely connected, beautifully nonlinear structure, The Girl in the Green Silk Gown was more focused, and there was a lot more time spent in Rose’s head.
I’m a little torn on this, admittedly. I miss the loose structure because it had an ephemeral feeling to it that really appealed to me. Then again, because of plot reasons I won’t spoil, it made a phenomenal amount of sense to spend this much time up close and personal with all of Rose’s thoughts and feelings and fears, so I really can’t say it took away from my enjoyment when it was so genius and grounded in the plot.
It also allowed for a better look at all of Rose’s stubbornness and snark and humanity, something she gets detached from now and again, being dead and whatnot. It’s this character strength that makes me love this book so much. You see Rose as a fully developed character with some sixty years of ghost hitchhiking behind her. You get Laura, conflicted by her grief and her desire for knowledge. You get Gary, wrestling with what the afterlife means for him, and how to love a girl he outlived and is now reunited with. You get Apple, routewitch at heart and tied to her throne, unable to wander as her people do and set on seeing justice in the world after experiencing so much of it up close and personal. All the characters have depth and nuance to them that I really appreciate, and it makes even the dead seem like living, breathing people again.
Interestingly, you don’t get that from Bobby Cross, and for once, I’m so delighted to say that I don’t care for a villain with complexities. You hate Bobby Cross and the things he does. It doesn’t matter how human he once was, or how human he can pretend to be, you hate him. It’s cathartic, in a way, and makes him a remarkably effective villain. They say the best villains are relatable, but sometimes, the best ones are actually the ones you can’t wait to see defeated, and Bobby Cross is absolutely one of those.
Additionally, I really enjoyed the plot. As I said, it has a very different flavor from the loose structure of Sparrow Hill Road, but it was wonderful in a way I was not expecting, and the way it twisted towards the end to take on some more Grecian aspects made the classics major in me very happy. It blended this unique American paranormal with pieces of ancient tradition, and I thoroughly enjoyed the crossover.
I hope someday that there’s another Ghost Roads book. Sure, everything ends, but Rose Marshall’s story is captivating and eerie and filled with a lot more heart than you might expect from a ghost. Best of all, its about characters who are ultimately doing the right thing, being the best people or ghosts or what have you that they can be. It’s about doing the right thing instead of the easy thing, and it’s about the right thing winning. It’s hopeful in that sense, for all its paranormal grimness, and now more than ever, I truly appreciate that.
Have you read the Ghost Roads books before? Think you’ll join Rose Marshall on the road someday if you haven’t already? And what are your favorite fictional ghosts? Tell me all about it!