Take A Peek Book Review: Discount Armageddon (InCryptid, #1) by Seanan McGuire

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

 

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night… The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity—and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she’d rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance.

Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren’t for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family’s old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone’s spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city…

My Thoughts:

So… you may have noticed that I’ve been reading a lot of Seanan McGuire lately. I got totally obsessed with the October Daye series, and before I knew it, I’d read the 11 books in the series straight through. (Okay, with breaks for eating and sleeping, but otherwise, no stopping!)

Given how much I loved that series, I thought I’d try the author’s OTHER urban fantasy series, InCryptid. First impression after reading book #1, Discount Armageddon? A) Seanan McGuire can do no wrong; and B) this series is promising to be altogether lighter and sillier than the Toby Daye books. Just take a look at the cheese-a-rific cover image — if that doesn’t scream “don’t take this too seriously”, I don’t know what does.

The basics: In Discount Armageddon, we meet Verity Price, wannabe professional tango dancer and for-real deadly monster hunter. But also a monster protector — the Price family split from the Covenant generations earlier, because the Prices believed in studying and preserving “cryptids”, while the Covenant just believes in wiping them out. Verity works as a cocktail waitress in a strip club while she’s not chasing creatures across the rooftops of Manhattan, and gets embroiled in a dangerous quest to locate the last living dragon and prevent the bad guys from treating her friends as human (or non-human) sacrifices.

The plot is fast and clever, Verity is tough and funny, and I really liked the surprising ways that ballroom dancing skills can come in handy when engaged in hand-to-hand (or foot-to-chin) combat. The writing is full of McGuire’s trademark humor, and the banter (and constant encounters with weird creatures) keeps the book moving right along, start to finish.

Based on Discount Armageddon, I’d say that this isn’t a series that demands deep emotional investment (unlike how Toby rips out my heart from time to time). And that’s fine. Sometimes, I need light, fluffy adventures. And talking mice. Did I mention the talking mice?

Awesome.

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The details:

Title: Discount Armageddon (InCryptid series, book #1)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW
Publication date: March 6, 2012
Length: 352 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Library

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Take A Peek Book Review: Burn Bright (Alpha & Omega, #5) by Patricia Briggs

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

 

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

In her bestselling Alpha and Omega series, Patricia Briggs “spins tales of werewolves, coyote shifters, and magic and, my, does she do it well” (USATODAY.com). Now mated werewolves Charles Cornick and Anna Latham face a threat like no other–one that lurks too close to home…

They are the wild and the broken. The werewolves too damaged to live safely among their own kind. For their own good, they have been exiled to the outskirts of Aspen Creek, Montana. Close enough to the Marrok’s pack to have its support; far enough away to not cause any harm.

With their Alpha out of the country, Charles and Anna are on call when an SOS comes in from the fae mate of one such wildling. Heading into the mountainous wilderness, they interrupt the abduction of the wolf–but can’t stop blood from being shed. Now Charles and Anna must use their skills–his as enforcer, hers as peacemaker–to track down the attackers, reopening a painful chapter in the past that springs from the darkest magic of the witchborn…

My Thoughts:

I love this series, and I love Anna and Charles as characters. I love their complicated relationship — as husband and wife, and as mated werewolves. I love their pack, and I love their interactions with Charles’s father Bran, the ruler of all werewolves of North America.

Despite my undying love for the Alpha & Omega books, Burn Bright felt a little weaker to me than some of the other books in the series. Perhaps it’s just that the story took a bit too long to really build momentum, or maybe it’s because Anna and Charles have been together long enough that their relationship here seems like more of a given, rather than something to be explored. In any case, while I enjoyed the story and my “reunion” with these beloved characters, the plot and pacing felt like a little bit less than what I’ve come to expect from this outstanding series.

Side note (without spoilers!): There’s a certain conversation early on in the book that has fans of this series (and the Mercy-verse as a whole) very up in arms. Yes, I also found it upsetting… but I guess I’m busy compartmentalizing and deciding that I’m going to ignore it, because otherwise it will make me feel differently about people I don’t want to feel differently about. Ugh, why???

Okay, beyond “the conversation” controversy riling up Briggs’s readers…

I raced through Burn Bright in about 24 hours, was very hooked by the end, and will absolutely read each and every book in the Alpha & Omega series (and Mercy Thompson too) for as long as Patricia Briggs chooses to keep writing them… which I hope will be for a long, long time.

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The details:

Title: Burn Bright
Author: Patricia Briggs
Publisher: Ace
Publication date: March 6, 2018
Length: 308 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Purchased

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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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Series check-in: October Daye, book 8 (The Winter Long)… and a few more short stories

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!

Book #8: The Winter Long

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.”

Short stories:

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!

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Series check-in: October Daye, books 5 – 7, plus some short stories too!

October Daye, the character, and October Daye, the series, both keep improving with each passing book. I’ve fallen hopelessly under the spell of this spectacular urban fantasy series, and there’s no escape for me! At this point, I’ll just have to keep moving forward until I’ve read them all — and then I can join the legions of fans waiting for the next book in the series to be released.

Over the past week or so, I’ve read three more novels in the series, plus four pieces of shorter fiction that add to the series overall and provide some backstory for beloved characters.

In this series wrap-up, I’ll include the synopsis for each book or story, plus a few thoughts of my own. 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 #5: One Salt Sea

October “Toby” Daye is finally doing all right—and that inevitably means it’s time for things to take a turn for the worse. Someone has kidnapped the sons of the Duchess Dianda Lorden, regent of the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist. To prevent a war between land and sea, Toby must not only find the missing boys, but also prove that the Queen of the Mists was not behind their abduction. She’ll need all her tricks and the help of her allies if she wants to make it through this in one piece.

Toby’s search will take her from the streets of San Francisco to the lands beneath the waves. But someone is determined to stop her—and whoever it is isn’t playing by Oberon’s Laws. As the battle grows more and more personal, one thing is chillingly clear. When Faerie goes to war, not everyone will walk away.

My thoughts: October (Toby) can’t have an uneventful life for long, so naturally she gets pulled into an impending war between the kingdoms of land and undersea. There’s action, heroism, and sacrifice — just what we expect from Toby. This series continues strong, with deeper emotional tolls related to Toby’s quest. There’s a development in Toby’s romantic life that I wasn’t crazy about, but that’s probably just because I’m on a different ship altogether. While the romance ends in tragedy, there’s an opportunity for a new chapter in Toby’s love life to unfold in the future. Sadly, Toby also reaches an end (or so it would seem) in terms of the potential for her to have a relationship with her estranged, mortal daughter. All in all, I really enjoyed One Salt Sea, which provides answers to some of the ongoing mysteries, but leaves plenty still to explore in future volumes in the series. The introduction of the undersea is a fabulous addition to Toby’s world, with new settings, characters, and complications. I love how Seanan McGuire continues to find ways to broaden the scope of the kingdoms we know with each volume in the series.

Book 6: Ashes of Honor

 

It’s been almost a year since October “Toby” Daye averted a war, gave up a county, and suffered personal losses that have left her wishing for a good day’s sleep. She’s tried to focus on her responsibilities—training Quentin, upholding her position as Sylvester’s knight, and paying the bills—but she can’t help feeling like her world is crumbling around her, and her increasingly reckless behavior is beginning to worry even her staunchest supporters.

To make matters worse, Toby’s just been asked to find another missing child…only this time it’s the changeling daughter of her fellow knight, Etienne, who didn’t even know he was a father until the girl went missing. Her name is Chelsea. She’s a teleporter, like her father. She’s also the kind of changeling the old stories warn about, the ones with all the strength and none of the control. She’s opening doors that were never meant to be opened, releasing dangers that were sealed away centuries before—and there’s a good chance she could destroy Faerie if she isn’t stopped.

Now Toby must find Chelsea before time runs out, racing against an unknown deadline and through unknown worlds as she and her allies try to avert disaster. But danger is also stirring in the Court of Cats, and Tybalt may need Toby’s help with the biggest challenge he’s ever faced.

Toby thought the last year was bad. She has no idea.

My thoughts: Ashes of Honor provides another excellent adventure for Toby, and marks a turning point for her in terms of her private life and looking toward the future. The kidnapping plotline provides for interesting challenges, and by the end, (SPOILER) Toby and Tybalt take a major set forward. Since I adore Tybalt, and I love Toby and Tybalt together, my poor little heart was beating faster and faster during the final chapters. The adventure at the center of Ashes of Honor didn’t grab me as much as the action in some of the other books, but all in all, it was another terrific read.

Book 7: Chimes at Midnight

 

Things are starting to look up for October “Toby” Daye. She’s training her squire, doing her job, and has finally allowed herself to grow closer to the local King of Cats. It seems like her life may finally be settling down…at least until dead changelings start appearing in the alleys of San Francisco, killed by an overdose of goblin fruit.

Toby’s efforts to take the problem to the Queen of the Mists are met with harsh reprisals, leaving her under sentence of exile from her home and everyone she loves. Now Toby must find a way to reverse the Queens decree, get the goblin fruit off the streets–and, oh, yes, save her own life, since more than a few of her problems have once again followed her home. And then there’s the question of the Queen herself, who seems increasingly unlikely to have a valid claim to the throne….

To find the answers, October and her friends will have to travel from the legendary Library of Stars into the hidden depths of the Kingdom of the Mists–and they’ll have to do it fast, because time is running out. In faerie, some fates are worse than death.

October Daye is about to find out what they are.

My thoughts: I had so much anxiety reading this book that I thought my heart would stop! I have never — seriously, never — been quite so tempted to flip to the end of a book just to make sure that the people I care about would all be okay. The fact that I was reading on a Kindle is probably all that stopped me. If I’d had a paperback in hand, it would have been too tempting to resist! I was so over-the-top worried about Toby in this book — becoming forcibly addicted to deadly goblin fruit, losing almost all of her fae nature and powers, facing exile and the possible loss of her place in Faerie — the anxiety was so hard to take! At the same time, the plot was fantastic. I love Toby to death, and I love her gang of allies and sidekicks, and seeing them undertake no less daunting a quest than overthrowing a reigning queen is truly amazing. I couldn’t put this book down — I just loved it so much.

And I need to add that one of the awesome things about having an author set a book series in the town where you live is not just seeing familiar landscapes — which happens all the time for me in this San Francisco-based series — but seeing the author include actual people from real life! In this book, Seanan McGuire makes my favorite bookstore, Borderlands Books, an important part of the plot, and includes the bookstore’s manager as a character, which is just so incredibly cool! Borderlands is an amazing place, and it’s made the news in all sorts of interesting ways in the past few years, as the owner developed a new business model as a means of keeping the store afloat against the odds. It’s worth reading about – here’s an article about it. And yes, the bookstore cat (to whom Tybalt has quite a reaction) is real too:

Ripley of Borderlands

Short stories:

In Sea-Salt Tears is a beautiful, sad story about the Luidaeg, one of Toby’s dearest allies and one of the most powerful beings in Faerie. In Sea-Salt Tears should be read after book #5 (One Salt Sea) and not before, as it provides the back-story just hinted at in the 5th book. The Luideag is a mysterious character whom I’ve loved since meeting her in book #1, and it was a treat to get to learn more about pivotal years in her life before Toby came along.


I really loved Rat-Catcher, which introduces us to a young Tybalt back before he was King of Cats. Tybalt is one of my favorite characters, and I loved getting to see his youth in London (Londinium), escaping the cruelties of his father’s court by hiding out in theater rafters watching productions of the latest Shakepearean play.

In Forbid the Sea, we see a lonely Tybalt about 10 years after taking the throne as King of Cats. In this story, Tybalt enters into a brief dalliance with a Selkie who seems to be hiding dangerous secrets. It’s a brief story, with an unavoidably sad ending.

No Sooner Met is set soon after the events of Ashes of Honor (book #6 in the main series), and focuses on Tybalt’s attempt to take Toby out on a special date. Because this is Tybalt and Toby we’re talking about, things go haywire pretty quickly. It’s fun and amusing, and I enjoyed seeing the story told from Tybalt’s POV.

Where to find the stories: Rat-Catcher was released in the anthology Fantasy Medley 2 from Subterranean Press, which is no longer available to purchase in print. However, the story is also included in Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 70 (March 2016), available for e-book purchase here. In Sea-Salt TearsForbid the Sea, and No Sooner Met are available as free e-book downloads via the author’s website, here.

Wrapping it all up:

Can you tell yet that I’m in love? Oh, maybe because I come right out and say so with every other breath? The October Daye series is amazing — definitely must-read books for urban fantasy fans. I did not expect to get this involved and emotionally invested when I picked up the first in the series (Rosemary and Rue, reviewed here).

Yes, there are still some unanswered questions, and areas of Toby’s life that I wish were explored more deeply. However, the fact that I don’t know everything yet just shows that there’s lots more to come!

I’m now about mid-way through book 8, with three more novels left to go until I’m all caught up! And then I’ll be yet another desperate fangirl anxiously counting the days until the release of book #12 in the fall.

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October Daye, book 4: Late Eclipses


October “Toby” Daye, changeling knight in the service of Duke Sylvester Torquill, finds the delicate balance of her life shattered when she learns that an old friend is in dire trouble. Lily, Lady of the Tea Gardens, has been struck down by a mysterious, seemingly impossible illness, leaving her fiefdom undefended. Struggling to find a way to save Lily and her subjects, Toby must confront her own past as an enemy she thought was gone forever raises her head once more: Oleander de Merelands, one of the two people responsible for her fourteen-year exile.

Time is growing short and the stakes are getting higher, for the Queen of the Mists has her own agenda. With everything on the line, Toby will have to take the ultimate risk to save herself and the people she loves most—because if she can’t find the missing pieces of the puzzle in time, Toby will be forced to make the one choice she never thought she’d have to face again…

 

Another “fantastic” entry in this captivating urban fantasy series!

Warning: Expect a lot more October Daye posts in the next few weeks, because I’m hooked, and I probably won’t read anything else until I get through ALL of the available books.

I’m really loving October Daye as a character, and the world of the October Daye series as a whole. Late Eclipses is another great installment, with some really dark and dire happenings. An old enemy of Toby’s seems determined to set her up in the worst way possible, leading to attempted assassinations, the death of one of Toby’s closest allies and friends, and Toby’s own life appearing to be forfeit as punishment for crimes she didn’t commit.

Luckily, Toby being Toby, she doesn’t give up without a fight, and the friends and allies she’s made along the way give her the support she needs to take a stand and save more than just her own life.

The action is non-stop, but there’s still time for character development for Toby, as well as the continuing development of the attraction and deepening connections with two different potential love interests. The plot is completely engrossing, and I read like a madwoman until all hours of the night. I could not stop until I finished!

Clearly, I’m falling in love with this series, deeper and deeper, as I go along. As with the best urban fantasy series, this one gets more complex as it goes along, with mysteries, backstories, and relationships all developing in new and different ways with each subsequent installment.

Late Eclipses is a terrific read, and despite my heart-broken tears over the loss of a favorite character, I loved it from start to finish. Onward to #5!

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The details:

Title: Late Eclipses (October Daye, #4)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW
Publication date: March 1, 2011
Length: 372 pages
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Library

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Series check-in: October Daye, books 2 & 3


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.

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Audiobook Review: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire


October “Toby” Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas…

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant and renew old alliances. As she steps back into fae society, dealing with a cast of characters not entirely good or evil, she realizes that more than her own life will be forfeited if she cannot find Evening’s killer.

Rosemary and Rue  is the first book in the ongoing October Daye series — and as the first book, it has a lot of heavy lifting to do, in terms of establishing characters, building a world, and setting up the rules of the supernatural system that dictates the possibilities of plot from the starting point onward. Fortunately, Seanan McGuire is supremely talented and inventive, and in Rosemary and Rue, she’s more than up to the challenge of creating a world we’ll want to stay in.

Set in and around San Francisco, R&R starts with a pretty ominous set-up for Toby (October) in the prologue. While chasing her liege lord’s enemy (who’s also his twin brother), Toby walks into a trap and loses the next fourteen years of her life. I won’t say why or how — it’s just too much fun to find out for yourself.

We re-meet Toby in chapter one after she’s returned to a version of her former life, having sworn off anything to do with the world of the fae, determined to live as simply human and ignore the other half of her changeling identity. She’s been burned too badly and has lost far too much to be able to stomach the idea of returning to the intricate systems of fae courts and allegiances and territories. But Evening’s murder sucks her back in against her will, and soon enough Toby is brought face to face with old allies, lovers, and enemies. Her own life is on the line as she tries to solve the murder. If she fails, Evening’s dying curse will take Toby’s life as well.

The plot of R&R follows Toby’s search for clues and her reinvolvement with characters from her past, some well-meaning, some clearly not. As a changeling, Toby’s magical abilities are only so-so, and each time she engages with a pureblood, she’s at risk. As you’d expect in an  urban fantasy series, Toby is a smart-ass, tough woman with her own set of abilities, not least a talent for thinking on her feet, reading a room, and figuring out how to get what she wants. Still, she has vulnerabilities too, both physical and emotional, and she certainly suffers throughout the book as all sorts of baddies are out to get her and stop her investigation.

I love Toby as a character, and love the odd assortment of changelings and purebloods we meet along the way. Also excellent is the use of San Francisco as a setting. While some of the location descriptions didn’t quite gel with the reality of the area, others (such as the use of the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park) are just brilliant.

I have to give a shout-out to the most endearing and adorable magical creature in the book, a “rose goblin” named Spike. Picture a cat with thorns instead of fur, and you have the basic idea. Just loved it.

I did wish that Toby’s backstory was spelled out in a little more concrete detail. As with many urban fantasy stories, we start in the middle of the action and learn about Toby’s difficult past through various references as we go along. It’s enough to give a general timeline, but I still have questions. What does it mean that she’s a knight? What was the process to become one? How did she first join Sylvester’s court? Maybe future volumes in the series will provide more specifics.

Even thought the solution to the murder wasn’t that difficult to guess, I still enjoyed the revelations, Toby’s realizations about the various people in her life, and the reasons behind the events. The plot is fast-paced and exciting, and I enjoyed the adventure start to finish.

Narrator Mary Robinette Kowal brings her talents to the variety of characters, with accents and intonations and pitches that distinguish them and make it easy to identify the speaker at any given point — not always easy in audiobooks. As with the Indexing books, she does a great job of making the story flow, and I enjoyed her depiction of Toby’s inner life.

Rosemary and Rue was really a fun listen, and I’m planning on diving right in with book #2.

Note: Woo hoo! I’ve started another series from my reading goals list for 2018!
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The details:

Title: Rosemary and Rue
Author: Seanan McGuire
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal
Publisher: DAW Books
Publication date: September 1, 2009
Length (print): 346 pages
Length (audiobook): 11 hours, 20 minutes
Genre: Urban fantasy
Source: Purchased

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