October Daye is the main character in Seanan McGuire’s ongoing urban fantasy series (conveniently known as the October Daye series), which is set mainly in the San Francisco Bay Area (yay!) and includes all sorts of full-blood and mixed-blood denizens of the world of Faerie. October — Toby — is half fae, half human; in this world, someone of mixed blood is called a changeling, and Toby exemplifies the complicated lives that changelings lead: She has some magical abilities, but they tend to take a toll on her physically. She can’t pass for human without casting an illusion, but she doesn’t belong fully in the Summerlands — the lands of faerie beyond the mortal world.
Toby is also a hero, much as she might dislike the label. As a sworn knight to her liege lord Sylvester, ruler of Shadowed Hills, she fights on his behalf and rights wrongs when needed, usually putting herself into grave danger along the way.
The series kicks off with Rosemary & Rue (reviewed here), a book that sets the stage in terms of world-building. I’ve now read books 2 and 3 in the series (both published 2010), and can (happily) report that the story continues to be fun and exciting and even a little bit heart-breaking along the way.
In A Local Habitation, Toby is sent by Sylvester to investigate an odd situation in the neighboring land ruled by his niece, which happens to be situated on top of/alongside Fremont, California, right in Silicon Valley. The land in question is housed inside a tech company. Weird, right? Something is going on inside the cubicles besides office politics, and what should have been a relatively simple visit turns into a deadly hunt for a killer. And naturally, Toby’s own life is on the line alongside everyone else’s.
In An Artificial Night, fae and human children are stolen by Blind Michael’s wild hunt, and Toby is the only one with a shot at rescuing them before they’re permanently changed into damaged creatures bound to the Ride. The story is quite dark, both because it’s children at risk and because the danger to Toby seems inescapably fatal. The odds of her returning from her travels into Blind Michael’s lands are slim to none, and as the book progresses, it’s harder and harder to believe that Toby will survive.
Of course, I’m well aware that there are another 8 or 9 books in the series so far, and seeing how it’s Toby’s series, I never quite believed that she stood any chance of dying. Still, she gets hurt in the most creative ways in each book, and it’s a wonder that this woman can still stand, much less breathe, by the end.
I’m thoroughly enjoying Toby as a character as well as the stories overall. The supporting characters are quite delightful, especially Sylvester and his wife Luna; Lily, the undine who presides over the Japanese Tea Gardens in Golden Gate Park; Quentin, the teen-aged pureblood learning to be a knight; and the one who stands the best chance of becoming everyone’s book boyfriend, Tybalt, the smirking, dangerous, and sexy King of Cats. (Note: He’s not a cat. He’s a Cait Sidhe, which according to the October Daye Wiki, are “cat shapeshifters. They are ruled by no court but their own after petitioning Oberon for independence. They control the forgotten places and walk the shadows. The Cait Sidhe live in loose alliances called Courts, which each answer to a single King or Queen. The rulers ascend by a trial of combat.”
I’m assuming that Tybalt is the slow-burn love interest of the series, although so far there’s just some unacknowledged chemistry between him and Toby. I’m betting that their simmering interactions will get hotter and hotter as the books progress. (But if you’ve read the books, don’t tell me if I’m right!)
I do still have some unanswered questions about Toby’s backstory and how she came to be Sylvester’s knight in the first place, and it seems like there’s still a lot more to learn about Toby’s mother — especially since fae folk refer to Toby as “Amandine’s daughter” constantly, as if this has great meaning.
This being an urban fantasy series, some of the more predictable elements are really more issues with UF tropes than complaints about the series. Things like Toby being in danger every time she turns around, Toby always being the one to battle the bad guys, even though she has less power than the purebloods, Toby having some sort of undefined mystique in the fae world, and the plethora of enemies who want to do her in. And of course, the fact that as the main character, we know that she’ll come out okay in the end.
The language and terminology and speech patterns used in the books in quite fun, but I am getting a little tired of Toby’s constant use of either “Root and Branch!” or “Oak and Ash!” as interjections. (Yes, they’re kind of cute, but Toby says them A LOT.)
That being said, it’s definitely exciting to see Toby come to turns with past hurts, build alliances, and face the reality of her role as a hero. I’m dying to see what happens next, and will definitely be continuing the series.
I’ve been listening to the audiobooks so far (hence any misspellings of character/creature/place names in this post — sorry!), and have loved the narration by Mary Robinette Kowal. Unfortunately, my library doesn’t have audio versions of the next few books in the series, so I’ll be switching to paper. I’ll miss the great voices and accents, but on the plus side, I’ll probably be able to move through the books a lot faster.
If you’re an urban fantasy fan, definitely check out the October Daye series! It’s fast-paced, exciting, and with plenty of twists and turns to keep you reading for hours on end.