You all know her story - the Girl From the Diner, the Phantom Prom Date, the Ghost of Sparrow Hill Road... killed on her way to prom and forced to forever wander the roads in search of a ride home. Beneath the urban legends, the twisting variations of the story that started it all, is a girl: Rose Marshall.
She wanders the highways and byways of the continent, hitching and helping those whose own fates are tied to the road as well. Some she's able to save, others she helps pass on to their final home.
Savvy Seanan McGuire readers have already met Rose Marshall. The book originally started as a collection of shorts that appeared in The Edge of Propinquity, a webzine whose archives are available here. Twelve of Rose's tales appeared in the zine in 2010 and on her website McGuire notes that one of the stories is still available online through The Edge of Propinquity. Fortunately for the rest of us, most of those original stories have been gathered up and recently released as one volume by the good folks over at DAW!
I could swear that Alvin Schwartz was the first to introduce me to a variation of the popular urban legend that spawned McGuire's latest. Seems like a likely candidate since Schwartz's various Scary Stories collections were tops in my creepy reads lists as a kid. Anyway, McGuire's spin on this classic story is excellent! She fleshes out the tale, giving life to the character in a way those passed along variations never could.
It's interesting that this is still essentially a collection of Rose stories in one volume rather than a linear novel. And our spectral narrator does warn us of this in the beginning of the book. Some may find that leaves the reader with a feeling of disconnection but I kind of felt the opposite. There is a running plot that ties all of Rose's stories together and the book does feel very much like Rose telling us the chapters of her own life and afterlife.
McGuire does a quite effective job of building a really complex world in Sparrow Hill Road. We see some other familiar supernatural presences - a Beán sidhe, mention of a white lady, and a new variation on the strigoi - but many of McGuire's otherworldly presences are new (to me at least). Routewitches, crossroads ghosts, hitchhiking ghosts, homecoming ghosts, and more live in this world. Some - bela da meia-noite, for example - are basically sidebar entries while others like the haunt and the maggy dhu do get brief cameos. It makes me hopeful that this will eventually become another of McGuire's series (and if the Goodreads entry is any indication this does seem to be the plan).