Reviewed: March 31, 2011
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: October Daye, Book 4
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 400 Pages
Formats: Print, eBook
October Daye wears many hats. She's a half-fae, half-human changeling private investigator and an oath-sworn knight of Duke Sylvester Torquill. Roommate to her personal harbinger of death, the Fetch May; friend to the feared and the friendless. Mostly she's a hero, and the mantle weighs heavy on her, though never more so than when a powerful Faerie monarch, the Queen of the Mists (by far not Toby's biggest fan), elevates her to the peerage as Countess and cedes her the Goldengreen lands formerly held by her friend Evening Winterrose.
It wasn't out of the goodness of her heart, for sure, but before Toby can suss out the dangerous machinations of an insane Queen, her world is rocked by the death of an old friend and shaken by fear when another falls ill. Everything she thought she knew about herself is called into question and her life is on the line...again...as she races to solve the mystery of who is poisoning those closest to her before the Queen can execute her for crimes that Toby's almost positive she hasn't committed. As old enemies and bitter rivals play deadly games, Toby struggles to find answers before a monster's death toll climbs and more friends fall.
I have such a good time reading about Toby and her various and sundry sarcasm-laden exploits. She's the sort of flawed but determined, fallible heroine that I find most interesting to read about and most rewarding to root for. She's also the biggest reason I've been enjoying this series as much as I have.
The biggest...not the only. I also thoroughly appreciate the imagination and creativity of the world building and mythos in this rich, complex series, and both recognize and admire the deft technical skill required to create and maintain recognizable, realistic, likable characters as they are being thrust into difficult and dangerous situations. That it is all told with an intelligent, witty, flowing narrative and deliciously caustic, sometimes humorous, always natural dialogue is another facet that delights.
But it's Toby that takes it to that next level. I pretty much adore her, and I so rarely say that about heroines, especially in urban fantasy. She doesn't have all the answers - hell, she doesn't even know half the questions. She's not the strongest, smartest, or quickest tool in the shed, either. She's got some issues (and by 'some' I mean 'holy hell, therapy is our friend!'), can be a little self absorbed, and she's really not all that happy a person. Or nice. Or pleasant to be around. And she's so adorably clueless about some of the most blatantly obvious things...and kings I could name (meow).
She fights the good fight, though, and she does what she does not only because she can, but because she feels that drive, that sense of responsibility for people who can't. I admire that about her, and I love this series because of her.
Sure, there are some issues that pop up now and then; I had one or two with the main plot of this book. Though it was an action-packed and pulse-pounding thrill ride almost from the gate, I had a hard time understanding motivations and actions of all the interested parties. I get that some people think Toby is Public Enemy No.1, but I'm not totally sure why she's such a target, given her 'lesser' status as a changeling, her time as a fish, and the many years since. I'm unclear on Toby's inherent importance in the grand scheme of Faerie, but I'd previously thought she was more a weapon or tool for others to use when needed. It seems more and more lately that she's a focal point for hostilities and evil plot machinations, but beyond some nebulous new developments about her and her mother's bloodline, I'm not sure why that would be.
There were a couple of abrupt emotional about-faces in this book that didn't feel natural, where two separate ancillary characters who have been vehement in their animosity towards Toby were suddenly talked out of it - or at least talked down from the killing edge - with relatively little effort, despite both being issues for more than one book. I'm fairly sure I got lost somewhere in the revelation about Toby's blood and her mother's influence, because I'm still confused about what happened there. I also have an intense personal dislike for romantic triangles, so some of the developments in the book that more clearly define the Tybalt/Toby/Connor dynamic made me a little nervous. I'm holding my breath to see how that's going to shake out.
On the other hand, among the many and varied wonderful things about this book (and this series), I admire McGuire's ability to refresh the mind of a reader familiar with the series or bring a new reader up to speed on the series without overloading the story with exposition and unnecessary description, definition, and discussion. She doesn't weigh down the beginning with a ton of recap, instead she folds in nice little reminders of past history and descriptions of previously introduced characters as the story progresses and when its apropos for that particular moment. This allows the plot to kick off and the action to start and stay at a nice, fast, streamlined pace even as it provides necessary information.
I would still strongly recommend anyone new to the series start from the beginning, because while what happened in the first three books can be summarized, the development between the characters - and the characters themselves - are all too intricate and three dimensional, and in many cases have formed very deep bonds through their previously penned exploits. Too much of the nuance and depth of the story would be lost if unfamiliar readers don't start with the first book of the series, Rosemary and Rue - not to mention all that excellent reading they would miss. And it really shouldn't be missed. It's going to feel like a very long wait until the release of One Salt Sea, the next book in the October Daye series, which is set to release in September of 2011.
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