May 10, 2021

Seanan McGuire: "Angel of the Overpass" (ARC Review)

Title: Angel of the Overpass [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Ghost Roads (3rd of ?? books)
Author: Seanan McGuire [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Afterlife, Urban Fantasy
Year: 2021
Age: 14+ (but I shelved it as Adult because the lead, though technically 16, has been around for decades as a ghost)
Stars: 4.5/5
Pros: Engaging character voice. Creative spin(s) on a few classic urban legends. Humour, depth and heart.
Cons: A bit meandering. Recaps too much of the previous installments while dropping a bomb from a related series in our laps.
WARNING! There's a road accident (with kids involved) sporting some potentially disturbing imagery, and an instance of homophobia. 
Will appeal to: Urban legend fans. Readers with a penchant for dead characters who know how to come alive on the page.

Blurb: Rose Marshall died when she was sixteen years old and on her way to her high school prom. She hasn’t been resting easy since then - Bobby Cross, the man who killed her, got away clean after running her off the road, and she’s not the kind of girl who can let something like that slide. She’s been looking for a way to stop him since before they put her body in the ground. But things have changed in the twilight world where the spirits of the restless dead continue their “lives.” The crossroads have been destroyed, and Bobby’s protections are gone. For the first time, it might be possible for Rose to defeat him. Not alone, though. She’ll need every friend she’s managed to make and every favor she’s managed to add to her account if she wants to stand a chance…and this may be her last chance to be avenged, since what is Bobby Cross without the crossroads? Everything Rose knows is about to change. (Amazon)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley and Edelweiss, and got approved for it on both sites. Thanks to DAW Books for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

THE LONG AND THRILLING ROAD

I love this series with all my heart and soul, and there's plenty to love about it - from its engaging main character and her backstory to its rich mythology. I have to be honest though: this time I ran into a few bumps in the road (or, well, in the Ghost Roads 😁), and even if I cherished the time I spent in Rose's world and the ending went above and beyond my expectations, I'm not going to pretend those bumps never happened. Anyhow, let's start with the reasons why this book was almost a five-star read:
  • McGuire has a strong hold on the protagonist (well, all her characters really - practically none of them is short of tridimensional and complex), and I never tire of staying in Rose's head. Everyone who's familiar with my blog knows how much I love my dead/undead book people, but Rose is a special case - a 16 y.o. girl pushing 90 in ghost age, which makes for the most interesting character ambivalence/development (mind you, it's not like she sounds 16 and 80+ at the same time - she sounds like "an ageless being with a grown woman's/creature's wisdom and sass, and a girl's heart underneath", as I said in my review for the first installment. I stand by my words). And yes...I said "character development", because all the best dead/undead book people grow, despite their predicament. Just when I was thinking that Rose might have no more (un)life left in her, McGuire pulled an awesome twist, and now...everything's going to stay the same, except everything changed. If the powers-that-be are listening, I DEMAND more Rose adventures (because I know the author, for her part, would be nothing but happy to provide them).
  • This world is to die for - no pun intended. It's got "ghost cars, highways turned goddesses, itinerant or multilayered diners" (from my review of the second installment) and much more...all kinds of urban legends you can think of, and even a few you can't, because McGuire either put a spin on them or created them from scratch. This book in particular weaves a bunch of new details into the geography of the dead, and gives us both new perspectives about characters we already know and new characters to get acquainted with...some of which decidedly unusual.
  • For a ghost world, things get real enough. See Rose and Gary's relationship. I admire a writer who doesn't shy from real, whatever the cost.
  • The writing. Duh. [...]

STUMBLING BLOCKS

As much as I loved this new chance to (actually) travel with Rose, there were a few aspects of the book that could have been stronger - though, how you can see from my rating, they didn't make a huge dent in my enjoyment of the story:
  • There's a lot of recapping of the previous installments in the first 30 pages or so. I understand wanting new readers to get their bearings (though, granted, not many people come across the 3rd book in a series and decide to read it because, why not), but it was...a lot, not to mention, the same thing didn't happen in Book 2 - not so heavily anyway.
  • On the other hand, the premise of this particular story gets dumped in our lap with no explanation whatsoever. I expected the thing in question because the blurb tells us about it, but I also expected it to be covered in this very book, while apparently it had happened offscreen...I couldn't get my bearings until I read this review (yes, I did my research) and realised that the event in question took place in an installment of the Ghost-Roads-adiacent series Incryptid (which I haven't read yet...and as much as I love McGuire, I'm not completely sure I will, because 11 books and counting plus a plethora of short stories? Plus spiders and snakes and...stuff? I'm tempted though...). Now, I have to admit I was annoyed. Why recap the first two installments in this very series and otherwise giving it for granted that its readers were familiar with a different one? I understand that summarising a book from a different series would have been a poor move, but to me, so it was to brush the issue aside and apparently assume that we knew what all the commotion was about...Maybe go for a middle ground?
  • The story meanders a little, going as far as to incorporate at least one detour (as in, something that ultimately doesn't fit the main narrative), and overall reading like it wasn't as tightly plotted as the previous installment (I'm not comparing it with Book 1 because it was a collection of short stories).
  • The author came up with a certain character one would never expect, and I can't decide if her creation was a stroke of genius or the most far-out thing I've ever encountered 😂. Also, this character was used a bit like a deus-ex-machina. Not to mention, I didn't particularly buy their connection with Rose. I have to admit they made for some spectacular scenes though, and I...liked them?
Now, judging from the number of points I've made here, it would probably look like the negative aspects balanced the positive ones, except of course they didn't, because when I give 4-5 stars to one of my books, it's earned them. Overall, Angel of the Overpass is a captivating, unpredictable new chapter in a story that I hope will continue for a long time, especially now that McGuire gave Rose new terrain to cover. I know I'll buy a physical copy as soon as it's available.

For quotes from this book click here.
For my ‘Sparrow Hill Road’ review (first installment in the series) click here.
For my "The Girl in the Green Silk Gown" review (second installment in the series) click here.
For more Adult books click here.
For more Afterlife books click here.

12 comments:

  1. That's pretty exciting to be double approved for one of your favorite authors. YEAH! AND it was a great book for you. Double YEAH! That world sounds wild. Glad this was such a hit for you.

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    Replies
    1. Right? It was a shot in the dark, especially since she's such a big name. And yeah, that world is wild!

      Delete
  2. The world sounds great. I love great world building in a book. I've read a couple of her books and liked them.

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    Replies
    1. She's an awesome writer on all counts.

      Delete
  3. I have not read these! I know I know, but too had to get here

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    Replies
    1. She writes so much stuff, it's hard to keep up with it LOL.

      Delete
  4. I'm so glad you enjoy this so much! McGuire is amazing in the sheer depth of worlds she creates, or just how much she produces. And even with the issues you identify, the fact that it works so well for you speaks volumes.

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    1. I don't know how she manages to have so many different story ideas and execute them so well!

      Delete
  5. Okay, so this is the second time I've seen this book today! I'd never even heard of the series before now, but it definitely sounds like something I would like. :)

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

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  6. A double approval, nice! Also, so many great puns in this review, intended or not :-P I also don't like too much recapping, especially since I often binge read series, but you'd be surprised and horrified by how many people think they can jump into the third book in a series and fully understand everything, and then rate the book poorly when they don't. But anyway, I'm glad this was still so great despite a few minor issues! The character sounds interesting, and the urban legend stuff sounds fun.

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    Replies
    1. "Also, so many great puns in this review, intended or not :-P"
      Haha, thank you!

      "you'd be surprised and horrified by how many people think they can jump into the third book in a series and fully understand everything, and then rate the book poorly when they don't."
      This sounds dumb. I mean...I understand hearing about a book and getting interested only to realise it was book 2, 3, etc. in a series, but...why read it at all AND review it before you have read the previous one(s)? Now, this one had a plot point related to a different series, and that's stretching it: you're supposed to have read something else entirely in order to enjoy this very book better. But the same series...c'mon.

      Maybe the best solution would be a recap of the previous events at the start of a new book, so that, if one insists in wanting to read a sequel, at least they understand everything...

      And yep, this was/is an awesome series that I can't recommend enough! Complex in its mythology yet accessible, with a great main character and awesome writing.

      Delete

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