Continuing my mad dash through Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, today I bring you some thoughts on the 8th book, The Winter Long, as well as an overview of a few more of the Toby short stories.
Warning: Spoilers ahead! I can’t possibly talk about these books without referring to some plot elements, and since this is an ongoing series, it’ll be impossible to avoid spoilers for earlier works. You have been warned!
For once, it seems like the Kingdom of the Mists has reached a point of, if not perfection, at least relative peace. Queen Arden Windermere is getting settled on her family’s throne; no one’s going to war with anyone else; it’s almost like everything is going to be okay. Even October “Toby” Daye is starting to relax her constant vigilance, allowing herself to think about the future, and what it might entail.
And then Simon Torquill comes back, and everything begins to fall apart. In Faerie, nothing stays buried forever. No matter how much you might want it to.
My thoughts: All Toby is good Toby, but I have to say that I didn’t love The Winter Long quite as much as some of the other books in the series. Just to be clear, that simply means that I’d give this one 4 (or maybe 4.5) stars, rather than 5. I still loved it, but it’s not quite on par with some of the best of the best.
In The Winter Long, Toby’s hated tormentor Simon Torquill is back. Simon is the man who turned Toby into a fish years ago (yes, a fish), resulting in her spending 14 years trapped in a pond, under his spell, and subsequently losing the human family who meant so much to her. Simon’s return can mean nothing good, and yet he seems to be trying (awkwardly) to help Toby, or to at least warn her about a looming threat. As Toby quickly learns, both Simon and her trustworthy ally the Luidaeg are under a geas (magical binding) that prevents them from giving certain key pieces of information to Toby. Meanwhile, Toby learns about a crucial secret that her trusted liege Sylvester has been keeping from her, and ends up — again — covered in blood, with her life in danger. Of course, Toby covered in blood is pretty much a daily event, but things seem especially dire this time around.
Okay, can’t say more about the plot without giving away the major secret here, so I’ll just say that once again, there’s an excellent (and dangerous) adventure, and once again, we get to see Toby charge into action with Tybalt by her side. I’m completely gaga when it comes to Toby and Tybalt, and seeing their love deepen and strengthen with each passing book is one of the true pleasures of the series.
As I said, the overarching storyline of The Winter Long didn’t quite seem as dire or breathtaking as in some of the other books (especially #7, Chimes at Midnight), but it’s enjoyable all the same. I can’t wait to see what happens next!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how much I love the writing in these books. Seanan McGuire does world-building, spell-casting, and action sequences incredibly well, but she’s also a master of cute and quippy lines and dialogue. Here are a few choice selections from The Winter Long:
“Once again you underestimate my ability to move you, while simultaneously overestimating your ability not to be moved.”
It was the middle of the day, an hour when all good fae were snug in their beds like happy little monsters.
“I’m not sure how relationships are commonly conducted in this modern age, but I am absolutely certain that a proper suitor does not leave his lady to be turned into a fish because she would feel more ‘comfortable’ were he elsewhere.”
I read a few more of the Toby-verse short stories:
Heaps of Pearl is pretty darn adorable — it’s the meet-cute story of Patrick Lorden and Dianda of Saltmist, who we first meet in One Salt Sea. In Heaps of Pearl, we get to see how the land-based Patrick, a bored tinkerer with a meaningless title, meets Dianda, soon to be Duchess of Saltmist, an undersea kingdom. The unlikely pair hate royal gatherings, and find themselves to be kindred spirits as they hide from a fancy ball in pursuit of sandwiches in the palace kitchen. It’s a very sweet story, available as a free download via the author’s website, here.
Never Shines the Sun is included in the print edition of Chimes at Midnight, and is a brief story of the Luidaeg’s early encounter with a very young Toby, and how this encounter led to Toby’s introduction to Faerie. I enjoyed seeing the Luidaeg’s POV, especially during her interactions with Amandine. This story can probably be read at any point after about book 5 or so in the series.
Full of Briars is a longer story (44 pages), available as a stand-alone e-book. Toby’s teen-aged squire Quentin is the narrator of Full of Briars, and we see his perspective as he faces a truly daunting challenge — standing up to his parents. It’s cute and sweet, and quite fun to see Toby, Tybalt and the others through Quentin’s eyes. Chronologically, it comes right after book #7, Chimes at Midnight — don’t read it any sooner!
Wrapping it all up:
I feel like I should apologize to anyone who reads my blog and expects me to talk about anything other than October Daye, because clearly that just isn’t happening! I love these books, and won’t be coming up for air until I finish #11… and then I’ll probably be busy obsessing over the wait until September and the release of #12.
And if you’ve stuck with my ramblings this far, but haven’t try this series yet — well, what else do I need to do to convince you?
But, seriously, thanks for bearing with me while I fangirl over October Daye. More to come!