Spelunking Through Hell, (A Visitor's Guide to the Underworld), by Seanan McGuire (DAW)
I have enjoyed Seanan McGuire’s “Incryptid” series since I discovered it. Earlier volumes felt like related, spin-off stand-alones set in the same world with characters who were loosely related to one another. I was particularly delighted to discover that Rose Marshall, from The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, a series I loved, is a distant, although usually off-scene character. The last couple of volumes were a bit of a disappointment, but on the strength of the earlier ones, I decided to give Spelunking Through Hell a try. It was richly worth it.
The crossroads—as in the place you go to make deals with the devil that never, ever turn out well for you—are sentient entities who make an appearance from time to time in McGuire’s related novels. To say they are nasty is an understatement. One of those bargains involved the magician, Thomas Price. He’s been confined to the premises of his (haunted, see Rose, above, and Mary Dunlevy, a ghost who occasionally doubles as a babysitter) house, but it’s part of the price he pays (to the crossroads, see above) for getting to be with his adored wife, Alice Healy. But when the crossroads eventually come to collect their debt, not even Mary can forestall them. Then he vanishes in the middle of the night and everyone is convinced he’s dead…except Alice, who waits only long enough to give birth to their second child and then embarks upon a five decades-long cross-dimensional search for her husband.
Along the way, she acquires friends and allies, including Ithacan satyrs, Helen and Phoebe, and Naga, the giant snake-man who is a professor of extra-dimensional studies. She also survives dimensions that are dying because their world-souls have been stripped, world inhabited by maniacal cannibals, and worse yet. Her kids won’t talk to the mom who abandoned them. Yet she refuses to give up.
This book is about her happy ending and what it cost her. It’s a brilliant, touching page-turner.