Book Review: Smoke Bitten (Mercy Thompson, #12) by Patricia Briggs

Title: Smoke Bitten (Mercy Thompson, #12)
Author: Patricia Briggs
Publisher: Ace
Publication date: March 17, 2020
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Purchased
Rating:

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Mercy Thompson, car mechanic and shapeshifter, faces a threat unlike any other in this thrilling entry in the #1 New York Times bestselling series.

I am Mercedes Athena Thompson Hauptman.

My only “superpowers” are that I turn into a thirty-five pound coyote and fix Volkswagens. But I have friends in odd places and a pack of werewolves at my back. It looks like I’m going to need them.

Centuries ago, the fae dwelt in Underhill–until she locked her doors against them. They left behind their great castles and troves of magical artifacts. They abandoned their prisoners and their pets. Without the fae to mind them, those creatures who remained behind roamed freely through Underhill wreaking havoc. Only the deadliest survived.

Now one of those prisoners has escaped. It can look like anyone, any creature it chooses. But if it bites you, it controls you. It lives for chaos and destruction. It can make you do anything–even kill the person you love the most. Now it is here, in the Tri-Cities. In my territory.

It won’t, can’t, remain.

Not if I have anything to say about it.

A new Mercy book is always cause for celebration! Twelve books in, the Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series is still going strong. Long may Mercy reign!

Mercy, our favorite VW mechanic and mate of the Columbia Basin werewolf pack Alpha, is tough, strong, determined, loyal… and also easily hurt by anything that damages the bond between her and Adam.

And, in a move that absolutely broke my heart, author Patricia Briggs kicks off this newest adventure in the series by letting us know that something is very, very wrong with Mercy and Adam’s mate bond. He’s holding himself apart from Mercy, and it’s tearing her heart to pieces.

But there’s other trouble as well. A dangerous new enemy is taking over people’s minds and making them do terrible things. A group of outsider wolves are trying to invade Adam’s territory. And the scary vampire Wulfe seems to be newly obsessed with Mercy.

In typical Mercy fashion, she never backs down when her loved ones are in danger, and she throws herself into the fight against everything threatening her marriage, her friends, and her pack.

I won’t say too much about the plot, but I loved the answer to the riddles about the bad guy’s identity, and I was thrilled when a certain magical artifact makes an appearance after being gone for a while.

I tend to give all Mercy books 5 stars because I just love this series so much! But, relative to some of the other books in the series, I’d put Smoke Bitten as maybe a smidge less earth-shaking, so I’m being a little stingy here and only going with 4.5! Still a great book, but not quite the best of the best!

As I said, a new Mercy book is always cause for celebration… but also sadness, because now that I’ve read the newest, it’ll be another year of waiting for the next installment.

For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of reading this series yet, jump in! I love the characters, the world-building, the relationships… just really everything. Mercy is an amazing lead character — you’ll love her too!

Book Review: No Fixed Line (Kate Shugak, #22) by Dana Stabenow

Title: No Fixed Line (Kate Shugak, #22)
Author: Dana Stabenow
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication date: January 14, 2020
Length: 400 pages
Genre: Mystery/crime
Source: Purchased
Rating:

⭐⭐⭐⭐

… though there is no fixed line between wrong and right,
There are roughly zones whose laws must be obeyed.

It is New Year’s Eve, nearly six weeks into an off-and-on blizzard that has locked Alaska down, effectively cutting it off from the outside world.

But now there are reports of a plane down in the Quilak mountains. With the National Transportation Safety Board unable to reach the crash site, ex-Trooper Jim Chopin is pulled out of retirement to try to identify the aircraft, collect the corpses, and determine why no flight has been reported missing. But Jim discovers survivors: two children who don’t speak a word of English.

Meanwhile, PI Kate Shugak receives an unexpected and unwelcome accusation from beyond the grave, a charge that could change the face of the Park forever.

A quick word before diving into the review: The synopsis above is not entirely accurate. The details of finding the children are off. Kate gets something from a dead man, but not exactly an accusation. The whole thing is not quite right… just know that ahead of time if such things matter to you.

Anyhoo… let’s talk about No Fixed Line!

Kate Shugak is one of my favorite fictional characters, and naturally, I’m beyond thrilled to get a new volume in this terrific ongoing series — three years after the last book came out, and believe me, it’s been a long three years!

Kate is a Native Alaskan of Aleut descent, a former investigator for the Anchorage DA’s office who now works as a private investigator, generally at risk to her own neck in one way or another. She lives on an isolated homestead in the fictitious Niniltna Park, and associates with a wide array of quirky and unusual characters, from aunties to state troopers to law enforcement types to bush pilots and beyond.

The Kate books also feature a Very Good Dog. Mutt is half wolf, half husky, is Kate’s constant companion, and is truly one of the very best dogs in fiction.

In No Fixed Line, book #22, Kate finds herself drawn into a mystery after two young children are recovered from a plane crash in the remote mountains, leading to a complex conspiracy involving drug distribution and human trafficking. The case itself is harrowing and disturbing.

But beyond the mystery driving the plot, one of the main pleasures of the Kate books is the community that we come to know over the course of the series. I love the beautiful Alaska setting, the gritty reality of life in Anchorage as well as the more remote locations, and the variety of characters who represent the different factions and strata within Alaskan society, from tribal elders to oil and mining tycoons to isolationist homesteaders — it’s a unique and eclectic bunch. All are present and accounted for in No Fixed Line, and the web of politics and corruption and influence sneaks its way into all of the day-to-day concerns of the Park folks just trying to live their lives.

As in all of the books, Kate herself is marvelous — fierce and loyal and strong as steel, but with internal and external scars that she carries with her always. She’s incredibly devoted to her family and the wide group of people she considers hers, and will do whatever it takes to keep the people she loves safe.

I would not suggest starting anywhere but at the beginning of the series, with book #1, A Cold Day for Murder. It’s worth the effort, I promise! I binged the entire series a few years ago, and loved every moment.

No Fixed Line is an engaging addition to the Kate Shugak series, and leaves me hungry for more! Here’s hoping that #23 will come along before another three years go by.

2019: My year in books

Another reading year has come and gone! Here’s a look back at the highlights of my year in books:

Thank you, Goodreads, for letting me know that I’m probably good at other things besides reading! Funny, last year, I read 202 out of 170 books… so I’m slowly increasing? Or probably just throwing in a lot more shorter works into my reading mix.  

Goodreads stats as of 12/31/2019:

The Picture of Dorian Gray is the most popular book I read this year? Color me shocked! Who would have thought that a book from 1890 would have close to a million readers in 2019?

According to my average rating, I’ve been pretty successful this year when it comes to choosing book that appeal to me. Kind of crazy, but for the second year in a row, my average rating was 4.1 stars.

Star rating used most often: 4 stars (87 total)
Star rating used least often: 2 stars (6 total — and I didn’t give any books only 1-star. I think if I thought that little of a book, I just DNFd.)
DNFs: 4 – Between not getting into a book or just not being the right book at the right time, I officially put aside 4 books that I’d started… although I know there are several more that I put down within a page or two, and just didn’t even count.

Highest rated on Goodreads:

Apparently everyone loved this book!

First and Last:

Neither my first nor my last reviews of the year were for books I’d consider favorites… but then again, I didn’t get around (yet) to writing up reviews for the two books I just finished… so I guess they’ll have to just wait to be the first for 2020!

Reading highlights:

Complete series: I read three series start-to-finish this year:

  • Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (8 books)
  • Beka Cooper by Tamora Pierce (3 books)
  • The Beauty graphic novels by Jeremy Haun (5 books)

New sequels or books in ongoing (or finished) series:

So many great new additions to stories I love! Including…

Stellar historical fiction:

Enthralling re-reads: Books that stand up superbly to a 2nd (or 3rd…) reading:

Great graphic novels:

Fun and light contemporary fiction:

Weird, creepy, disturbing, otherworldly:

Fantastic fantasy:

Story/essay collections:

A quartet of classics:

Aaaaaaand… I’m stopping now before I end up including every single book I read in 2019!

Eye-candy covers:

Let me just take a minute to appreciate some of the most beautiful and/or eye-catching covers from my reading this year… because who doesn’t love a great looking book?

 

Goodbye, 2019!

It’s been a blast… and now it’s time to look forward to all the wonderful books I’ve yet to read.

Wishing everyone a very happy 2020, full of good cheer, good health, and great reading!

 

Book Review: The Unkindest Tide (October Daye, book 13) by Seanan McGuire

I am beyond thrilled to have received an ARC of the newest book in the amazing October Daye urban fantasy series. Thank you, NetGalley and DAW Books! I love this series just as much now, 13 books into it, as I did many books ago… maybe even more! October herself continues to grow and change as a character, and the big-picture story arcs continue to evolve in a way that moves Toby’s world in new, exciting directions, all the while keeping us in touch with the huge cast of characters and letting us see their ever-changing roles and lives.

Hundreds of years ago, the Selkies made a deal with the sea witch: they would have the sea for as long as she allowed it, and when the time came, she would call in all their debts at once. Many people assumed that day would never come. Those people were wrong.

When the Luidaeg—October “Toby” Daye’s oldest and most dangerous ally—tells her the time has come for the Selkies to fulfill their side of the bargain, and that Toby must be a part of the process, Toby can’t refuse. Literally. The Selkies aren’t the only ones in debt to the Luidaeg, and Toby has to pay what she owes like anyone else. They will travel to the fabled Duchy of Ships and call a convocation of the Selkies, telling them to come and meet the Luidaeg’s price…or face the consequences.

Of course, nothing is that simple. When Dianda Lorden’s brother appears to arrest Dianda for treason against the Undersea, when a Selkie woman is stripped of her skin and then murdered, when everything is falling apart, that’s when Toby will have to answer the real question of the hour.

Is she going to sink? Or is she going to swim?

This book! This story! Toby… Tybalt… the Luidaeg… Gillian…

Ugh, someone stop me before I become a totally incoherent, mumbling nincompoop.

I just love them all so much!

The Unkindest Tide is EXCELLENT. I love the plot and the character development. I really don’t want to give anything away here, so…

In this newest book, Toby is called upon to pay her debts to the Luidaeg by using her magic to fulfill the Luidaeg’s vow to the Selkies, to force the Selkies to answer for their ancestors’ long-ago crimes. The backstory of the Selkies and the Luidaeg’s relationship to them never fails to make me want to cry. The Luidaeg has been portrayed throughout the series as the scariest thing around, but over the course of these thirteen books, we’ve been able to also see her heart and her pain, and I love her to absolute pieces.

In terms of the plot, the gang gets together to travel to the Duchy of Ships, a sort of floating kingdom where the Selkies gather to learn of their fate. But there are other political forces at play, involving violence and intrigue and murder, and Toby has a limited amount of time to fix it all, save the day (yet again), and be back in time to carry out the Luidaeg’s plans.

The end result of all this is the beginning of a new chapter in the world of the fae. I absolutely can’t wait to see what happens next!

And yes, I really did love everything about this book, other than my ongoing annoyance with Gillian, who needs to stop being such a brat and start appreciating her mother. But hey, what kind of dramatic tension would we have if everyone got along perfectly?

I’ll wrap things up with a quote from the book, without providing any context, just because I love the writing and dialogue in this series so, so much.

Whatever. I’ve been mocked by better than a few octopus people…

A final note:

The Unkindest Tide includes a bonus novella, Hope is Swift, with Tybalt’s nephew Raj as the main character. It’s fun and affecting, and a nice bit of entertainment after the more intense subject matter of the main novel.

And, okay, a word from Raj, just for fun:

I don’t have my Uncle Tybalt’s skill with flowery, archaic declarations of love, a fact for which I’m genuinely grateful — sometime listening to him is like listening to the audio version of some dreadful period romance, the sort of thing where the men are constantly losing their shirts and all the women keep swooning at the shameful sight of their exposed pectorals.

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The details:

Title: The Unkindest Tide (October Daye, #13)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW Books
Publication date: September 3, 2019
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

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Top Ten Tuesday: My top ten auto-buy authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Auto-Buy Authors, a topic I did for TTT posts in 2013 and 2015. So what is an auto-buy author? For me, it’s a favorite author whose books I’ll buy pretty much on faith — no matter what the plot is about, if it’s by one of these favorites, I know I’ll want to read it!

Some of the authors on my 2013 list are included here as well (proving that fandom is eternal!), and there are several others whom I’ve only had the pleasure of discovering since then. Without further ado, my old and new auto-buy authors as of summer 2019:

1. Diana Gabaldon: Because of course Diana Gabaldon is — and always will be — at the top of my list! I’m an Outlander fan, through and through, and will never stop reading these wonderful books.

2. Patricia Briggs: I love the Mercy Thompson and Alpha & Omega series so, so much. Give me more and more and more, and please don’t ever stop.

3. Seanan McGuire: Surely, if you’ve ever visited my blog before, you’ve seen me rave about the October Daye books, the InCryptid series, the Wayward Children series, and more… not to mention everything she writes as her alter ego Mira Grant. I will absolutely read whatever she writes!

4. Gail Carriger: I’m such a fan! True, I haven’t read her San Andreas Shifters books yet, but I’ve read everything else she’s written, and find her books just delightful.

5. Neil Gaiman: I mean, who isn’t a fan? Okay, I didn’t love American Gods, but I do love almost everything else, so chances are whenever a new book comes out, I’ll buy it.

6. Dana Stabenow: I fell crazy in love with her awesome Kate Shugak series (#22 comes out next year!), and I do plan to read her non-Kate novels too one of these days.

7. Sarah Gailey: Well, I’m three for three for Sarah Gailey — loved the two American Hippo stories, and loved Magic For Liars too. So yes, I’ve already preordered her next book!

8. Lisa See: Wow, what can’t she do to my heart? I love her characters and her exploration of cultures and societies that I’d otherwise know little to nothing about. Such beautiful writing.

9. Cat Winters: So creative! So expressive! I always enjoy her books, and even the ones that aren’t my favorites are still really great reads.

10: Taylor Jenkins Reid: I still need to read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo *hangs head in shame* — but I’ve read all her other books, and have loved every single one!

Do you have auto-buy authors? Do we have any in common? (And if so — which are your favorite of their books?)

If you wrote a TTT post this week, please share your link!

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2018: My year in books

2018 has had its ups and downs… but one thing has remained constant, and that’s the joy of spending time with great books. Here’s a look back at my reading life in 2018.

I love the little words of encouragement from Goodreads! My 202 books reads this past year include novellas, children’s books, audiobooks, and graphic novels, in addition to novels and a handful of non-fiction books. It’s always fun to mix things up.

 

Goodreads stats as of 12/31/2018:

I don’t particularly like that Goodreads uses “least popular” in this context. Maybe it should just be “least read”? In any case, Rat-Catcher is a story set in the Toby Daye world, I loved it immensely, and I think more people should read it!

According to my average rating, I’ve been pretty successful this year when it comes to choosing book that appeal to me:

Star rating used most often: 4 stars (83 total)
Star rating used least often: 2 stars (4 total — and I didn’t give any books only 1-star. I think if I thought that little of a book, I just DNFd.)
DNFs: 3 – I gave up on three different books this year — one science fiction, one fantasy, and one historical fiction. With the historical fiction, I just wasn’t in the mood at that moment (and needed to return it to the library). For the other two, the tone of the writing simply didn’t work for me, and I decided not to push myself to continue something I wasn’t enjoying.

First and Last on Goodreads:

Interestingly (or not), my first and last (and bunches of others) were re-reads. I’ve definitely become fond of re-reading the previous book in a series right before the newest gets released. What can I say? I value a good refresher.

Highlights from my series reading:

2018 was the year of the series for me. I started the year with some idea of a few series I wanted to try — and was happy to discover that I picked some great ones! My best series reads this year were:

The October Daye series by Seanan McGuire: 12 novels, plus all sorts of related novellas and short stories.

Newsflesh by Mira Grant: 4 novels and a collection of stories.

From the world of Tortall by Tamora Pierce: I read three quartets and a duology (and am now reading the first book in a trilogy), for a total of 14 books set in Pierce’s amazing fantasy world.

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi: 6 novels

Eye-candy covers:

Let me just take a minute to appreciate some of the most beautiful and/or eye-catching covers from my reading this year… because who doesn’t love a great looking book?

 

But wait! What were my favorite books of the year?

It’s too hard to narrow down! It’s like choosing my favorite child! But, okay, if I must… I’m working on my Top Ten list for tomorrow, when I’ll finally have my list whittled down to just 10 (or so) books that I loved to pieces in 2018. Stay tuned!

An early look: October Daye, book 12 — Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire

I am beyond thrilled to have received an ARC of the newest, soon-to-be-released book in the October Daye urban fantasy series. Thank you, NetGalley and DAW Books! October Daye continues to be at the absolute top of my list of ongoing series (and October herself is definitely a favorite hero) — read on to find out why!

Things are not okay.

In the aftermath of Amandine’s latest betrayal, October “Toby” Daye’s fragile self-made family is on the verge of coming apart at the seams. Jazz can’t sleep, Sylvester doesn’t want to see her, and worst of all, Tybalt has withdrawn from her entirely, retreating into the Court of Cats as he tries to recover from his abduction. Toby is floundering, unable to help the people she loves most heal. She needs a distraction. She needs a quest.

What she doesn’t need is the abduction of her estranged human daughter, Gillian. What she doesn’t need is to be accused of kidnapping her own child by her ex-boyfriend and his new wife, who seems to be harboring secrets of her own. There’s no question of whether she’ll take the case. The only question is whether she’s emotionally prepared to survive it.

Signs of Faerie’s involvement are everywhere, and it’s going to take all Toby’s nerve and all her allies to get her through this web of old secrets, older hatreds, and new deceits. If she can’t find Gillian before time runs out, her own child will pay the price. One question remains:

Who in Faerie remembered Gillian existed? And what do they stand to gain? No matter how this ends, Toby’s life will never be the same.

Seanan McGuire never fails to amaze me… and to wreak utter havoc with my emotions. Night and Silence is a strong addition to the October Daye series, with new twists and turns and some totally startling revelations and developments. How many series can get to book #12 with no signs of slowing or slumping? The October Daye series has always been excellent, and this new book lives up to all the rest.

Since this is a pre-release review, I’m going to be vague about just about everything. I know I’d hate to discover spoilers before the book even comes out, so I’ll be discreet, I promise! If you’re reading this review, chances are more than good that you’re a Toby fan, and that you’re panting (and maybe drooling a bit) to find out what happens next, after that doozy of an ending from book #11, The Brightest Fell.

As the synopsis above makes clear, things are NOT okay at the beginning of this book. Toby and Tybalt are more or less estranged, since Tybalt is suffering serious trauma after his ordeal at the hands of Amandine in book #11. And this just breaks my heart. I love the two of them together, and I love Tybalt as an individual. It hurts to see him suffering, and it hurts to see Toby suffering from his distance and her inability to reach him and help him.

When Gillian is kidnapped and Toby springs into action, it brings her back into contact with both the humans from her past and some nefarious folks from the fae part of her life too. Still, it’s great to see Toby on a mission, and to see her allies rallying round to back her up and give her their support.

There are some MAJOR reveals, including the answer to a question that’s bugged me almost from the start of the series. But see, I’m being discreet, so I won’t even say what the question is, much less the answer.

The hunt for the kidnappers and the outcome are not what anyone would expect. Let’s leave it at that. The ending of this book is a game-changer, and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

It’s startling to me to realize that as of the beginning of this year, I had not yet entered the amazing world of October Daye. What a difference a few months make! I love this series to bits and pieces, and can’t recommend it highly enough! Seanan McGuire must be part Fae herself, because she spins the best magical stories. I love everything she writes, and Night and Silence is a treat. Read it! And if you haven’t read any October Daye books yet, start with Rosemary and Rue. I dare you to stop after one book!

I’ll wrap things up with a quote from the book, without providing any context, just because the dialogue in these stories always makes me smile:

“You have got to stop defusing every conversation you don’t want to have by talking like something out of a Regency romance.”

But wait, there’s more!

As an afterward to Night and Silence is the long short-story Suffer A Sea-Change. I’m not going to tell you who’s in it (okay, obviously the Luidaeg, but I’m not saying who else) or what it’s about, because anything I might say would be majorly spoilery. Suffice it to say that Suffer A Sea-Change picks up from the end point of Night and Silence, and is a fantastic side note to the main novel — absolutely not to be missed.

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The details:

Title: Night and Silence (October Daye, #12)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW Books
Publication date: September 4, 2018
Length: 510 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

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Series check-in: October Daye, book 11 — The Brightest Fell

Well, here it is, folks — my last October Daye review post until September. Because after an eleven-book binge, I’ve run out, I’ve caught up, I’m done for now! I finished book #1, Rosemary and Rue, on February 3, 2018… and here I am, not quite two months later, and I’m head over heels in love with Toby’s world, and I don’t want to leave it!

This book series — 11 novels, lots of related stories — creates a world that’s rich in mythology and great characters, where the people we come to know and love grow and develop, and where secrets hinted at early on end up having major impacts down the road. Suspense, tears, laughter — the October Daye series has it all.

As for book #11, The Brightest Fell

I give you fair warning:

I’ll be talking about my reaction to events in this book, the questions I’m left with, and what I’m hoping for in future books. So yes, there will be spoilers — you have been warned!

Book #11: The Brightest Fell (published 2017)

For once, everything in October “Toby” Daye’s life seems to be going right. There have been no murders or declarations of war for her to deal with, and apart from the looming specter of her Fetch planning her bachelorette party, she’s had no real problems for days. Maybe things are getting better.

Maybe not.

Because suddenly Toby’s mother, Amandine the Liar, appears on her doorstep and demands that Toby find her missing sister, August. But August has been missing for over a hundred years and there are no leads to follow. And Toby really doesn’t owe her mother any favors.

Then Amandine starts taking hostages, and refusal ceases to be an option.

My thoughts:

Wow. Insane. And did this book really end on that kind of note?

The Brightest Fell starts off silly and happy, with an all-gender, all-Faerie-species bachelorette party for Toby. While she and Tybalt (sigh… I love me some Tybalt) haven’t set a date yet or figured out the politically fraught subject of where to hold the wedding, they’re in agreement that they want to get married, and soon. What better way to celebrate than with a drunken karaoke party attended by Toby, her nearest and dearest, and even a Bridge Troll? The highlight for me is when the Luidaeg (aka the Sea Witch) gets up to sing “Poor Unfortunate Souls” from The Little Mermaid, but I digress.

Whenever things seem like they’re going well in Toby’s world, whenever she’s about to settle in for some happiness and relaxation, you just know that something’s about to break or get ugly or end up bloody. So yes, it’s no surprise that post-party bliss is interrupted by the arrival of Amandine, who will never win a mother-of-the-year award. She orders Toby to go find her long-lost sister August, and when Toby refuses, Amandine takes Tybalt and Jazz (one of Toby’s housemates and the girlfriend of her adopted sister) as hostages, in pretty much the cruelest way she possibly can. The only way Toby can get her people back is by fulfilling the quest for Amandine, and to accomplish the task, she’ll have to work with Simon, her long-time enemy that she’s only recently starting to realize might have a shot at redemption.

The adventure itself feel like an epic road trip, as Toby, her squire Quentin, and Simon set off through various lands of Faerie under all sorts of enchantments, encountering old friends and enemies and swarms of menacing pixies before landing right back in San Francisco. When they finally do find August and learn what she bargained away in order to set out on her own adventure 100 years earlier, there are no easy solutions, and it’s all rather heartbreaking.

Okay, enough with the plot summary Here’s my reaction, which may not mean much to anyone who hasn’t read the book:

  • Simon’s sacrifice is so sad! Toby finally sees that Simon still has good in him, and the corruption at his core has finally started to wash away. So of course, in the end, he loses all the ground he’s gained. I understand that he had no choice but to sacrifice himself for August, but it’s really tragic and awful nonetheless. And now, Simon goes back to being Toby’s enemy, so that’s not good.
  • Every time someone messes with Toby’s blood, I absolutely freak out. This has happened in several books now, where the balance of Toby’s blood is shifted away from fae and more toward the human/mortal end of the spectrum. Even though I felt fairly certain that she’d get her magic back, I just can’t stand the tension of Toby losing her mojo and her powers and her fae essence! It’s just so upsetting. Please, please, please — stop doing this to her! My heart can’t take it.
  • Amandine is awful and I hate her. There, I said it.
  • I still want to know who Amandine’s mother is. She’s Oberon’s daughter, but isn’t descended from Titania or Maeve. More mysteries to unravel.
  • I know it’s not really August’s fault, but man, I wish she’d never entered the picture. The amount of suffering caused by Amandine’s insistence on finding August is unbelievable.
  • It’s always nice when we get another visit to Borderlands, one of my favorite book stores (and yes, it’s a real place here in San Francisco, and quite awesome).

And finally, let’s talk about the end. As far as I can remember, almost every book in the series has ended with the end of the quest/adventure/major threat, and then things more or less get back to normal. Yes, there have been losses and bad times, but Toby usually lands on her feet. But in The Brightest Fell, we end with so much damage! Tybalt is not okay, and I am not okay with Tybalt not being okay! It hurts my soul to see him so tortured and hurt. I just want him and Toby to be happy! Is that too much to ask for???

We stood there, wounded, frozen, exhausted, and waited for home to start feeling like home again. We waited for the safety to come back.

We were going to be waiting for a very long time.

And oh yeah, what about the wedding? The engagement has lasted a few books now. I’m ready for Toby and Tybalt to make it official, celebrate, get some much earned happiness, and move on to the next chapter in their lives. If something happens to ruin their future, or if anything (further) happens to Tybalt, I can’t be held responsible for the objects I may throw and break.

I’m so worked up over that ending, and I cannot believe that I’ve run out of books for now! How am I possibly going to wait until September for book #12? The downside of book binges is what comes after, when you have to just sit and stew, wait and wonder, and count the days until the next new release.

And that’s all, folks! I’ve reached the end (for now) of the October Daye series, and now must return to the mortal world and find something else to read.

A footnote:

Included in The Brightest Fell is a novella from the Toby-verse, Of Things Unknown, starring Countess April O’Leary. It’s always fun to see supporting characters take center stage in the Toby short stories. This one includes some sad moments, weird interludes inside April’s unusual mind, and a twist at the end that should shake things up in future books. Don’t skip it!

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Series check-in: October Daye, book 10 — Once Broken Faith

And onward I go with my obsessive reading of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series! I just finished the 10th book, Once Broken Faith. Here are a few thoughts on this terrific book, plus the bonus story included with it.

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!

Book #10: Once Broken Faith (published 2016)

Politics have never been October “Toby” Daye’s strong suit. When she traveled to the Kingdom of Silences to prevent them from going to war with her home, the Kingdom of the Mists, she wasn’t expecting to return with a cure for elf-shot and a whole new set of political headaches.

Now the events she unwittingly set in motion could change the balance of modern Faerie forever, and she has been ordered to appear before a historic convocation of monarchs, hosted by Queen Windermere in the Mists and overseen by the High King and Queen themselves.

Naturally, things have barely gotten underway when the first dead body shows up. As the only changeling in attendance, Toby is already the target of suspicion and hostility. Now she needs to find a killer before they can strike again—and with the doors locked to keep the guilty from escaping, no one is safe.

As danger draws ever closer to her allies and the people she loves best, Toby will have to race against time to prevent the total political destabilization of the West Coast and to get the convocation back on track…and if she fails, the cure for elf-shot may be buried forever, along with the victims she was too slow to save.

Because there are worse fates than sleeping for a hundred years.

My thoughts: Ooh, another good one! Once Broken Faith is another suspenseful, exciting, and nerve-wracking journey through the inevitably blood-stained days of October Daye — hero of the realm, and all-around trouble-shooter.

In Once Broken Faith, the monarchs and nobles of Faerie (or at least, those who rule on the North American continent) come together to determine whether a cure for elf-shot will be allowed to be distributed, or will be surpressed for the next century or so. Elf-shot is a weapon used by pureblood Fae who, bound by an injunction by Oberon himself against killing one another, seek another way to get their enemies out of the way. A pureblood who’s shot with elf-shot sleeps for 100 years, and while the Fae essentially live forever, no one really wants that long a nap.

But the cure has become a political hot-potato, and each attendee at the convocation has his or her own motivation for either putting it to use or keeping it off-limits. And as a changeling (part-human), Toby is considered an intruder and beneath notice by many of the nobles. Still, as a knight and hero sworn to service, it’s her duty to investigate the murder of a visiting king, and things only get worse from there.

Once again, Toby herself is placed in grave danger, and this time, she faces the all-too-real risk of losing the people she loves most thanks to the manipulations and simmering quest for violence of some of the nobles.

And once again, I felt like my own heart was going to stop at some points in the story… I won’t say why, but if certain events had gone differently, I think I would have had to either throw the book out the window (except I was reading on my Kindle, so no) or put it in the freezer. I absolutely love these books, but sometimes I think they’re not good for my blood pressure! I was so on edge and tense for the last third or so, and it really was touch and go there for a while.

I love how so many of the characters we’ve met come together in this book. Toby’s world has really expanded over the course of the series, so that now we know not only her closest allies and the rulers of the Duchy she’s sworn to, but also neighboring kingdoms and even the High King and Queen. I also love seeing how Toby’s circle of allies have truly become her family. It’s a strange family, sure, but the love and commitment are unmistakable.

Plus, a new short story!

Included with Once Broken Faith is the short story Dreams and Slumbers:

 

By the standards of Faerie, Arden Windermere is little more than a child. Yet, despite her youth, she has already lost almost everything of importance: her parents, her brother, the life she expected to lead, the life she built for herself out of the ashes. Now Queen in the Mists, she is still struggling to find a place to stand. It seems impossible. And yet…

When circumstances present her with the chance to have her brother back again, is there any chance she can refuse? But when that restoration proves to come with a terrible price, is there any chance that just this once, she can win?

“Dreams and Slumbers” was originally published in the print edition of Once Broken Faith, released in September 2016. Copies are available from a bookstore near you. Do not read this story before reading the book!

My thoughts: One of the things I love about the spin-off stories in the Toby-verse is getting a chance to see other characters’ points-of-view. All of the main novels are narrated by Toby, and it can be a pretty cool change to see what the people who interact with her really think about her endless adventures.

In Dreams and Slumbers, Arden Windermere narrates her attempts to wake her brother from his eighty years asleep under the power of elf-shot. Arden is a truly interesting character — someone born to royalty, but who spent most of her years hiding out in the mortal world. From Arden’s perspective, it’s Toby’s fault that she ended up back on the throne instead of living a quiet life as a bookstore clerk. Sure, the throne is where she’s supposed to be, but it’s definitely not an easy life.

This is a great story that lets us get to know Arden (and a few other characters) a little better, and I’m sure the outcome of Dreams and Slumbers will come into play in the next novel.

Wrapping it all up:

No big surprise here — I loved Once Broken Faith and Dreams and Slumbers. The characters all seem to be growing and developing, and I love getting more insights into their lives and relationships. Moving straight ahead with #11, The Brightest Fell. And I hope I’m not heading for a disappointment… because they’ve been talking about a wedding for a couple of books now, and I want to see it happen, dammit!

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Series check-in: October Daye, book 9 — A Red-Rose Chain

Continuing my obsessive reading of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, I’ve now finished the 9th book, A Red-Rose Chain. Before starting the next book in the series (oh, who am I kidding? I’ll be starting it about 5 minutes from now), I thought I’d share my thoughts on #9.

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!

Book #9: A Red-Rose Chain (published 2015)

Things are looking up.

For the first time in what feels like years, October “Toby” Daye has been able to pause long enough to take a breath and look at her life—and she likes what she sees. She has friends. She has allies. She has a squire to train and a King of Cats to love, and maybe, just maybe, she can let her guard down for a change.

Or not. When Queen Windermere’s seneschal is elf-shot and thrown into an enchanted sleep by agents from the neighboring Kingdom of Silences, Toby finds herself in a role she never expected to play: that of a diplomat. She must travel to Portland, Oregon, to convince King Rhys of Silences not to go to war against the Mists. But nothing is that simple, and what October finds in Silences is worse than she would ever have imagined.

How far will Toby go when lives are on the line, and when allies both old and new are threatened by a force she had never expected to face again? How much is October willing to give up, and how much is she willing to change? In Faerie, what’s past is never really gone.

It’s just waiting for an opportunity to pounce.

My thoughts: A Red-Rose Chain is another excellent edition in the Toby series, with fresh dangers and life-threatening situations. As always, Toby ends up covered in blood and with her life on the line. By now, neither of these are exactly surprising, but wouldn’t it be nice for October to have some time to — I don’t know — chill with her friends, plan her wedding, go to a movie? Really, anything where she’s not handling knives, swords, and arrows?

In A Red-Rose Chain, October is send by Queen Arden on a diplomatic mission to the neighboring Kingdom of Silences to prevent a war. Things there are terrible from the get-go. The food is most likely poisoned, and the inhabitants of the kingdom have all been drugged into submission. Changelings are relegated to servant roles and are regularly abused, and even worse, are exposed to the deadly and addictive goblin fruit which caused Toby so much trouble a few books ago. The King is a usurper who believes in Fae racial purity, and in addition to his disgusting views, he comes from a line of fae that specializes in alchemical magic — which he fuels by stealing blood and body parts from other faerie races. Ick. His deepest desire seems to be getting his hands on Toby’s blood to take advantage of the magic that’s so powerful and unique to her.

Despite being accompanied by her trusted entourage, Toby is in constant danger while in the Silences, especially once she realizes that the pretender queen she helped depose in the Mists is also there, eager for a chance to harm Toby however she can. I was practically screaming for Toby to get her people and get the hell out of there… but fortunately, Toby is much more of a hero than I’ll ever be! She knows that if her diplomatic mission fails, war will be inevitable, and war will cause far more damage to far more people than anything King Rhys can do to her directly.

So, once again, Toby ends up in terrifying, excruciatingly dangerous situations where she’s on the verge of death, and I could barely breathe. The tension and suspense are killer. On the positive side, I love seeing Toby and Tybalt continue to deepen the bond between them. Their love is strong, passionate, and durable, and because of his love for Toby, we see some unexpectedly tender and vulnerable sides to Tybalt. I also really enjoy Toby’s relationship with her teen squire Quentin, who’s a sort-of son to Toby. Seeing their mutual love and support is quite touching. Toby has managed to create a family out of the disparate people who’ve entered her orbit, and while it’s an unconventional family, their trust, support, and unconditional love make it very real.

As with all October Daye books, the writing in A Red-Rose Chain is clever and funny (when not being utterly horrifying and bloody):

I’d never been in a knowe this size with so little decoration. It was like Rhys had ordered the whole thing from Castles R Us, and then never bothered to swing by the local Bed, Battlements, and Beyond for the accessories he’d need to make it believable.

“It is a pity you cannot, as you say, introduce a thing that is not present into the blood. I would beg you to come and be a cat with me, and leave this terrible way of doing thing behind.”

I have charged headlong into portals, sealed lands of Faerie, and experienced more dangers than any one woman can reasonably be expected to both encounter and survive. I sighed, and stepped into the quaint little forest cottage.

“Huh,” I said a moment later. “It’s bigger on the inside.”

 

Wrapping it all up:

I loved A Red-Rose Chain. The adventure in this chapter of the ongoing saga is pulse-pounding, dramatic, and full of dire implications for the future — but it also moves the overall narrative of the series forward in a way that creates new possibilities. An ongoing problem in Faerie has finally been solved, but I’m sure that will lead to new complications down the road. Toby continues to build alliances and earn the trust of powerful people, but she makes enemies as well. I can’t wait to see what comes next… and hope we get that wedding with the King of Cats sometime soon!

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