Book Review: The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, Ghost Roads Book 2, Seanan McGuire
Fantasy: The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, Ghost Roads Book 2, Seanan McGuire
Unlike the first book of this series, The Girl in the Green Silk Gown is a complete novel. The first book was a collection of short stories, collected and reworked into the novel Sparrow Hill Road. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown takes the story of ghost Rose Marshall, her boyfriend/ghost-car Gary (we learned in the first book that Rose’s boyfriend arranged to have his ghost inhabit a car so he could accompany her along the ghost roads), her best friend/banshee Emma, and Apple (the Queen of the Road Witches) to a dramatic new place: life.
Bobby Cross has been trying to kill Rose for 60 years. He successfully killed her once, but was unable to claim her spirit before she got away. He has never gotten over losing her, and he is determined to claim her spirit once and for all. Rose is protected by a tattoo that binds her to the goddess Persephone. Bobby has found a way to weaken that protection, and he traps Rose using a spell cast by a foolish rogue road witch. That proves to be only the beginning of his plan, though. Rose learns that the only way she can break this spell and regain Persephone’s protection is to become alive again for a day and then die at the end of that day (die, not get killed). Halloween is a day when this can happen: ghosts can reclaim life for one day, but if they die before midnight their souls are lost forever.
There’s more to it than that, but I don’t want to reveal too much of Seanan McGuire’s story. Suffice it to say that surviving to the end of Halloween is by no means a given for these ghosts who have the one-day pass. Something worse, though, is meant for Rose. She survives. As in, not just until midnight. She is still alive on November 1. And Bobby Cross is on his way.
Rose has to call on the only human she knows for help, a woman who believes Rose killed her teenage boyfriend in a car accident decades ago. The two women travel from Colorado to Maine to London to Hades seeking to return Rose to her proper deadness, a trip that is punctuated by a very interesting view of life. Imagine not having peed for 60 years, then trying to remember how to do it while in a truckstop bathroom that might have been cleaned about the same time you originally died. I’ll admit, that never occurred to me before this book! All of the normal concerns of living are new to Rose: hygiene, food, menstruation, sleep, cramps, aches, tingling toes, feet falling asleep. Occasionally her complaints about the struggles of the living are a bit much, but for the most part McGuire handles them with the right amount of humor and pathos.
I love how most of McGuire’s characters are not perfectly good or perfectly evil. Rose is able to admit that given the right motivation she would do horrible things. She does not want to kill anyone in order to die again, but she can’t say that she wouldn’t if she had to. Apple wants to help Rose become a ghost again, but part of that motivation is that a living Rose could be a threat to Apple’s throne, and she will not abide any threats. Lauren hates Rose, but also helps her. She knows that Rose did not really kill her boyfriend, Tommy, but she cannot let go of the hate that shaped her adult life. However, she also is willing to assist Rose because Rose can reunite her with Tommy. Humans, alive and dead, are complicated creatures. We are never perfectly good and we are seldom perfectly evil. Monsters pet their kittens and snuggle their babies. The people who betray Rose and assist in her unwelcomed resurrection do so because their daughter has been kidnapped and they see no other options. Seanan McGuire has sympathy for her villains and caution for her heroines. That is part of why I love her work.
The Girl in the Green Silk Gown is a terrific ghost story, even though the ghost is alive for much of the story. It is complex, well crafted, lovingly told, with a twist at the end that, if not completely unexpected, is still rewarding and neatly ties it together. It is funny and poignant and one of McGuire’s best novels in a career that is rapidly adding a number of excellent novels to the fantasy and horror genre. It is not too scary for those fraidy-cats (like me) who get a little nervous at the darker side of the genre, but it has enough eeriness to appeal to most people who want a little haunting in their reading.