books

Seanan McGuire

Books

October Daye: Rosemary and Rue (2009), A Local Habitation (2010), An Artificial Night (2010), Late Eclipses (2011), One Salt Sea (2011), Ashes of Honor (2012), Chimes at Midnight (2013), The Winter Long (2014), A Red-Rose Chain (2015)

InCryptid: Discount Armageddon (2012), Midnight Blue-Light Special (2013), Half-Off Ragnarok (2014), Pocket Apocalypse (2015), Chaos Choreography (2016)

Short Stories: In Sea-Salt Tears (2012)

Anthologies: Home Improvement: Undead Edition (2011), The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius (2013), Fiction River: Hex in the City (2013)

 

 

October Daye

 

Rosemary and Rue (2009)

October Daye disappeared for thirteen years. When she returned, she refused to return to her life as a changeling knight or as a private investigator, but is instead trying to squeak by as a human. Unfortunately for her, Faerie refuses to let her go.

The Faerie from which Toby comes is the mercurial land of Faerie queens and kings who seem to rule as much by whim as by anything else. Toby doesn’t trust anyone from Faerie, and unfortunately she doesn’t have much reason to. Those with whom she has dealt in the past have most often either used her or ignored her–sometimes both (although not at the same time).

I like how Faerie is presented here. It seems to have all the edge and danger or folklore–never thank the fey, iron hurts and destroys, and the fey always want something in return for their help.

Yet things are not always as Toby expects–or as I expected either through folklore or Toby’s expectations. We did have the requisite boinking, but it occurred behind closed doors, and it actually had bearing on the story, which was nice.

Toby is a complex character, and although she has many faults, most of them are understandable, due to her past. Though I did wonder after awhile about her common sense (or lack thereof in some cases).

But mostly it was an interesting story, different from much of what I’ve been coming across recently, and I’m looking forward to more books in the series.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Daw

A Local Habitation (2010)

Toby has gotten her PI license back, and has started taking cases in the mortal world, however, the big case that comes to her is from her liege, Sylvester: Go into the county of Tamed Lightening, and check on Sylvester’s niece. She gets to take one person with her–the fosterling Quentin.

Unfortunately for Toby, the situation turns out to be far more complicated–and dangerous–than either she or Sylvester expected.

As with the previous book in this series, the mystery was good, the story was interesting, and the majority of the characters were well done.

I did have a couple issues, however. First, some of the “twists” were extremely obvious to me. The other thing was that I thought the ironic foreshadowing at the beginning was a bit heavy.

One thing I particularly like about Simon Green’s Nightside series is that each book usually starts off with an easy case–something John Taylor solves that usually has nothing to do with the major story arc. However, when you don’t have a history of that, the main character talking about how easy the case is going to be is… annoying, and always strikes me as foolish. It’s not a big thing, but it is a peeve.

Regardless, I still highly recommend A Local Habitation and the prior book in the series, Rosemary and Rue.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Daw

An Artificial Night (2010)

How many miles to Babylon?
Three-score and ten.
Can I get there by candle-light?
Yes, there and back again.
If your heels are nimble and light,
You will get there by candle-light.

Things are not going well for Toby Daye. She sees an unpleasant harbinger, she’s getting calls from Connor, and to top it off, children are being kidnapped. Oh, and the Wild Hunt is making its presence known. Toby, being the hero she is, cannot sit by while children are in danger, so she agrees to take on unknown and perhaps insurmountable danger to save those children.

And then she’s told that children’s rhymes are necessary to the rescue; Faerie always works in mysterious ways.

I’m thoroughly enjoying this series.

Besides the Babylon rhyme, there is a whole lot more folklore sprinkled through the story, waiting for you to stumble over them and recognize them for what they are.

And then there’s Toby. She’s a hero–she’s finally willing to admit that now–but that doesn’t mean her life is easy. Instead it seems only to make things more complicated, and to worry those who love her.

If you have not read any other books in this series, you should be able to start here with minimal difficulty. However, I always recommend going back to the start of a series, just on general principles.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Daw

Late Eclipses (2011)

Apparently the beginning of March is THE time for new releases. I received a TON of books I’d had on pre-order this week, and had a very difficult time deciding what I wanted to read first. C. S. Harris and Rob Thurman won that decision hands down. Additionally, I started Jim Butcher‘s Changes but got so pissed off at it I’m not going to read the whole thing until the NEXT book comes out in paperback.

That brought the Toby Daye up next on the list, although she almost lost out to Carrie Vaughan, Jeanine Frost, and Robert Crais (I really wasn’t kidding about the number of long-awaited new releases I’ve received).

As if her life wasn’t complicated enough before, things get even more so for Toby. First, she’s called before the Queen of Mists. Then, as she’s reeling from that meeting, she’s told that Lily, Lady of the Tea Gardens, is deathly ill, and no one understands how or why. Then, while she’s trying to solve those problems, things get really ugly.

So, wow. That was an awful lot to pack into a single book. Yes, most of the events ended up being related, but not all of them, and… wow. In fact, it’s rather difficult to talk about this story without giving away a major plot point or five.

Did I enjoy the book? Yes, very much. It was fast paced, the characters were good as expected, and once things tied, pretty amazing story-telling.

And although there are plenty of open threads for further stories in this series, she did a very good job finishing the story arc and creating a satisfying ending.

I do believe you could read this book without having read previous books in the series, however, there may be some things that would be extra confusing, so you probably want to start at the beginning and read your way forward.
Rating: 8/10

Published by DAW

One Salt Sea (2011)

Most fantasy series, the longer the series goes on, the weaker the stories get. Or perhaps the series remains strong, but for a book or two it seems like the author is struggling to figure out where they are going with the characters. Or, to work with the overarching story arc, we get a random cliffhanger ending (and we all know how violently I dislike cliffhanger endings).

Seanan McGuire’s Toby Daye series is not following that path. Instead, the story and the characters seem to get stronger with each book, as the characters find their voices and their paths.

After the last book and the tremendous changes Toby was subjected to, I might have expected a slow book, perhaps a lot of discovery as she comes to term with her new self.

But no, here, Faerie is complex place, constantly changing and doing (to humans anyway) the unexpected.

Toby is now Countess of Goldengreen, in addition to being one of Sylvester’s knights, and still thoroughly hated by the Winter Queen.

I think one of the things I particularly like about this series is how not just mercurial many in faerie are, but how for some it seems as if the eternal time on their hands has driven them insane, as if the world truly has no meaning except as entertainment. Yes, others have explored this, but I think Seanan McGuire goes further. After all, eternity might well push anyone over the edge after several millenia of dealing with it. It’s an interesting thought.

I think the only thing I didn’t particularly like was Toby’s relationship with Connor, but that was more because I prefer Tybalt, so we’re just looking at a personal preference.

If you have not been reading this series, I would not recommend beginning here. Start at the beginning and work your way forward–you’ll be glad you did.
Rating: 9/10

Published by DAW

Ashes of Honor (2012)

Toby has, in theory, been putting her life back in order. But mostly she is still grieving the loss of her lover and her daughter.

When she is asked to find a lost Changeling child–a child who has powers that may well turn out to be a threat to Faerie, she doesn’t even hesitate before taking on the case.

I really like Toby, and I’ve enjoyed watching her changes throughout this series. To be honest, I could be perfectly happy if the series ended here, but I don’t believe it is ending here.

I was delighted with events with Tybalt–I’ve adored Tybalt from the start, so I was very happy to see his feelings for Toby out in the open.

I think about the only thing I took issue with was Bess. I had a very hard time believing her actions at the end of the book. It didn’t feel true to the way she’d acted throughout the story. But, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t a huge deal, as she wasn’t a major player. Just a sense of, “Really? After all that, you go along like a lamb?” It seemed a bit rushed–like the resolution was needed, and we know this is how things would eventually happen, so we’ll just skip the working things out bit.

But really, it wasn’t that big a deal, and I really really enjoyed the story.

If you haven’t been reading along, don’t even think about starting here. If you have been reading along, you want this book.
Rating: 8/10

Published by DAW

Chimes at Midnight (2013)

I have mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed it. And I tore through it pretty much in a single sitting. But it still felt off for some reason.

First, the good things. I love Tybalt, and there was lots of Tybalt in this story, so that was great. And Toby remains strong and independent, which is good. And as I said, the story pulled me in and didn’t let me go, which is always nice.

But I had two issues with the story. First, is pretty much summed up with this quote:

“When you decide it’s time to up the ante on getting into deep shit, you don’t mess around, do you? You’re just like, hey, what’s the worst that can happen? That’s the worst that can happen? Great. Let’s do that.”

It is starting to feel a little ridiculous, the amount of trouble Toby gets herself into. Don’t get me wrong. She is NOT TSTL (too stupid to live) but the amount of shit that happens to her seems disproportionate.

Second, involved a character introduced in this story, so I’ll rot 13 it.

SPOILER (rot13)

Neqra unq fcrag zbfg bs ure yvsr uvqvat sebz gur Dhrra. Fur ershfrq gb fgnaq hc gb gur dhrra rira ng gur erdhrfg bs ure oebgure. Fur gryyf Gbol ab ubj, ab jnl, naq gura… fur whfg punatrf ure zvaq. V fnj ab ernfba gung jbhyq unir pnhfrq ure gb punatr ure zvaq, V fnj abguvat yrnqvat gb ure punatr bs urneg, fur whfg… punatrf ure zvaq. Vg whfg sryg rkgerzryl hapbaivapvat. V zvtug unir oryvrirq vs gur punatr unq gnxra cynpr bire jrrxf be zbaguf be nsgre n ybat obhg bs fbhy frnepuvat naq qvfphffvba, ohg vafgrnq vg whfg unccraf, naq V whfg pbhyqa’g npprcg vg unccravat ng gur fanc bs n svatre (abg yvgrenyyl).

END SPOILER

So it was enjoyable, but I had some serious problems with how things worked out because it felt too easy and untrue to the character.

But I think if you were aware there were issues going on, you can still enjoy the story. And this definitely contains important events if the series will go forward.
Rating: 6/10

Published by Daw

The Winter Long (2014)

The-Winter-LongI held onto the book for a while, solely because I knew I was going on vacation, and would have the time to read the whole thing in one sitting.

This book tied up some loose ends that I hadn’t realized were loose ends, and made for a slow start to the book.

My phone rang again. I stood, moving to retrieve it once again from my jacket pocket ad blinked. The display listed the caller as “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” which was definitely not within the local service area.

Of course other threads were dropped; leading to new books in the future I’m sure.

As a whole, I’m not certain how I feel about this story. Perhaps reading it immediately after finishing Rob Thurman’s Downfall wasn’t the best idea, because I love Cal, and most other supernatural fantasy characters pale in comparison to him. Not that Toby and her friends aren’t witty, they just aren’t anywhere near as sarcastic and bitter and rude as Cal.

“Remember, there is no fighting in the Library. Simon Torquill has a Library card. He hasn’t done anything that would cause me to rescind it.”

I stared at her. “He turned me into a fish.”

“Did he do it in the Library?”

Weirdly, after spending time with Cal, whose first, last, and always solution to most problems is over-the-top violence, Toby’s reactions to several issues seemed… odd. I had a difficult time accepting her reactions to Simon. Of course I also had a hard time parsing Simon’s actions, period. He talked about not being evil, but some of his actions seemed to defy logic.

But again, it’s quite likely this book suffered from being read immediately following the latest Rob Thurman.
Rating: 7/10

Published by Daw

A Red-Rose Chain (2015)

A-Red-Rose-ChainThis is the 9th Toby Daye book, and Toby and Tybalt have not yet gotten married, but everyone seems to be awaiting their wedding.

But in the meantime, war is preparing to break out, and it’s up to Toby to stop it.

And… that gets to me no longer being quite sure how I feel about this series in some ways. I get that Toby is a Hero, and as such she gets tasks that no one else wants (or can do) but… it’s starting to feel A Bit Much. Like, how come she’s never Tybalt’s sidekick on an adventure? Why is she always the center of everything.

I dunno.

It doesn’t make this a bad book or anything, it’s just beginning to feel–excessive I suppose.

Even for fantasy. Someone who doesn’t go out searching for trouble probably wouldn’t get into that much of it.

Aside from that, it was a Toby Daye book, with lots of wit and banter.

“At least you didn’t get blood in your hair,” she said.

“I’m not a barbarian,” I said.

“Barbarians bleed less, because barbarians know that actions have consequences,” she countered. “Maybe you should try being a barbarian.”

It was fun. I liked spending time with the characters. I enjoyed it.

I’m just not sure that I am willing to start suspending that much disbelief, especially when there aren’t really a lot of consequence to Toby and her immediate friends. (Someone gets hit with elfshot? Oh, but someone ELSE is researching a counter to elf shot! What do we think will happen?) And I suppose that’s my biggest issue. Toby has become rather indestructible, and when she drags her friends along with her, everything still comes out in the wash.

I’m not trying to say I disliked it, because I didn’t, I’m just starting to have a hard time continuing to suspend my disbelief.
Rating: 7/10

Published by DAW

 

InCryptid

 

Discount Armageddon (2012)

Verity Price is a cryptozoologist. And dancer. And member of a renegade family that supports the rights of cryptids to live as long as they don’t kill humans.

Cryptids? They’re the monsters that go bump in the night. The creatures of myth and folklore.

There is so much that is awesome about this story–so much geeky science. I mean, how often is John Snow mentioned in fiction? (Not often enough, I say.) And parthenogenesis. You almost never come across.

Yet, despite all that awesomeness, this story didn’t grab me the way it ought to have. I kept reading, because I wanted to know what happened, but I also kept reading because I wanted to finish this and move onto something else.

Is it me? Maybe. I’ve been sick for coming up on two weeks, so it’s possible the snot has addled my brains.

I mean, it wasn’t bad–not even close. It, perhaps, just wasn’t what I wanted to read.
Rating: 6/10

Published by Daw

Midnight Blue-Light Special (2013)

midnight-blue-light-specialSo… I had pre-ordered this, and then it sat, unread, for… ten months.

I think, first and foremost, it’s a sign that I’ve become predominately an eBook reader. (Further evidence? The last Cat and Bones book is sitting on my coffee table, staring at me, wondering why I haven’t read it yet. Because I freaking love EVERYTHING Jeaniene Frost writes, and yet… there it sits.)

This is the second book in the InCryptid series, and–surprisingly–the closure of Verity’s story arc, which was both surprising and pleasing. We get to keep the same world, but spend it with different characters, which is good, because I love the world building.

Verity? Well, I don’t dislike her. But I can’t she’s my favorite fictional character to spend time with. She’s not annoying, she’s strong and self-reliant, which are good things. I suppose she just feels like someone I wouldn’t have anything to talk about with in read life.

That said, the world building is AWESOME. I love the Aeslin mice. I mean, what’s not to love about a group that spends a week calling Verity’s boyfriend “the God of Absolutely Never Smiling, No, Not Ever.”

And “The Sacred Ritual of Packing All the Crap” is ALSO awesome.

There was a weird thing. This is–I swear–the third story of read in recent years in which a manananggal made an appearance. (The first was Carrie Vaughn’s story in both “Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives” (2011) edited by Justin Gustainis and also Paula Guran’s “Weird Detectives”. And I really think there was another story with a manananggal in it, but I can’t figure out what it was.) It’s such a strange creature, it’s really hard to forget.

So, it was a good story, I loved the world building, and I’ll be interested to read the next book, which doesn’t star Verity.
Rating: 6.5/10

Published by DAW

Half-Off Ragnarok (2014)

Half-Off-RagnarokI don’t know what it is about this series. I love the Toby McGuire series. I love the Toby short stories I’ve read. But every book in this series I’ve expected to love as much as I love the Toby series, and I just… don’t.

These aren’t bad books, and there are many things I enjoy about them, but I just feel as if I should like them more somehow.

The last two books were about Verity Price, and ended with Sarah seriously hurting herself to save Verity. This third book finds Alex, Verity’s brother, working in a zoo in Ohio, and living with his grandparents to help them take care of Sarah.

Alex totally gets points for that. He also gets points for being a science geek.

(I) turned to help a little girl win an argument about whether or not boa constrictors swallowed their prey whole. (I, and science, said yes. Her mother, who was tired of dinnertime attempts to swallow broccoli without chewing, said no.)

Never surprise any member of a venomous species with a home visit.

But… beyond that, he’s just… okay. I don’t really get what Shelby sees in him, and I get what he sees (literally) in Shelby initially, but aside from her lack of fear of monsters, and her ability to be self-rescuing, I didn’t really get what Alex saw in her either. Which, I suppose, means they are perfect for each other.

I still really like Sarah, and was glad to see her on the mend, but her personality wasn’t much in evidence in this book (what with her continuing recovery) so we spent most of our time with Alex and Shelby.

That doesn’t mean this book didn’t have strengths. It had lots of them, for one, I could actually heat Shelby’s Australian accent her her dialog. And I love the cryptozoology. And the story did pull me in.

I just felt like it should have been something more.
Rating: 6/10

Published by DAW

Pocket Apocalypse (2015)

Pocket-ApocalypseThe 4th InCryptid book.

Alexander Price is a cryptozoologist–he studies and protects the unique and sometimes magical species that inhabit our world with us–species that are often sentient and can even mimic humans.

Alex accompanies his girlfriend Shelby back home to Australia where her family is dealing with an outbreak of werewolves–a cryptozoological disease that has previously been kept off the island.

The cryptozoology is my favorite part of this series. I love the idea of scientifically studying magical creatures–but in a way that allows (most of) those creatures to remain living independently.

A small ring of frilly green plants poked up out of the dirt, each about three inches high. They stood out vividly against the autumnal background. I grinned. “So Dee, you were telling me screaming yams don’t exist.”

“Because they don’t.”

“Says the woman with snakes for hair.”

As for the story? It was okay. Throughout this series I’ve been more interested in the worldbuilding than what the humans are doing. It’s not that I dislike the Prices, I just find their work more interesting than their lives.
Rating: 7/10

Published by DAW

Chaos Choreography (2016)

Chaos-ChoreographyThis is the 5th InCryptid book, and shifts back to Verity and Dominic.

Verity is offered the chance to return to Dance or Die–the reality show she was one before she retired her Valerie persona, and so she decides to take a chance, taking Dominic out to California to compete one more time.

Except it turns out that there is murder and intrigue on the show, and it’s the kind of trouble that Verity and her family are used to dealing with.

Every time I read an InCrypted book, I start it remembering that I was just so-so about the previous book, but hoping perhaps this will be the book I love.

And it’s not that I dislike this series, because I don’t. I think my problem is that everything is just a little to pat, and Verity is just a little to good at what she does, and that keeps distracting me.

On the one hand, it’s hard not to love how much Verity enjoys working with InCryptids.

If I had been able to wall-crawl, there would never have been a day when I couldn’t be found lurking on the ceiling. Never.

On the other hand, some things just seem a little too adorable.

I know you’ve been watching the show,” I said. “I know because your mice have been sending Facebook messages to my mice. They really like the caps lock key. Someone should teach them about proper email etiquette.”

So–although I’ll probably put the next book (because of course there is going to be another book) on my wishlist and pick it up if it goes on sale, I don’t think this series is ever going to be a mandatory pre-order.
Rating: 6/10

Published by DAW


 

Short Stories

 

In Sea-Salt Tears (2012)

In Sea-Salt TearsThe Luidaeg has been a complicated character throughout the October Daye series. This story gives us a glimpse of the relationship between the Selkie and The Luidaeg.

The only way a selkie can become a true fey is to inherit one. But there aren’t many skins, so most selkie don’t receive one. Elizabeth Ryan wants to receive a skin. She wants it more than anything in the world. During the celebration of the passing of a skin, a girl named Annie comes to witness the event, and after one such ceremony, when Liz and her friends are on the beach, wishing the skin had come to them, instead of their friend, Annie joins them.

This is a love story, but not a Valentine’s love story, but instead a story of broken hearts and promises.

Please be aware, however, there is sex in this story. Not a lot, but not none either.

This story could stand on its own, as the Luidaeg is only a minor character in Toby’s story, and might give you an idea of whether you would like to read Toby’s series. (Which I, of course, think you should.)
Rating: 8/10

 

 

Anthologies

 

Home Improvement: Undead Edition (2011) edited by Charlaine Harris, Toni L. P. Kelner

As with most anthologies, there are stories here I really liked, and some that I found to be just okay. What was unusual was that there were some stories that I actually strongly disliked.

...

The story “Through This House” by Seanan McGuire may need a familiarity with Toby Daye’s world to be fully appreciated, but as I’ve read the series as published so far, that wasn’t a problem for me. This is how Toby comes to terms with/takes ownership (sort of) of her knowe. I was reminded why I like Toby so much.

...

All in all, an okay collection, but I’m not sure why it’s been so expensive for so long, and if I could have gotten the Patricia Briggs story solo (I really do enjoy her short stories), I’m not sure I’d necessarily haven bothered with it.
Rating: 6/10

Published by Ace

The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination: Original Short Fiction for the Modern Evil Genius (2013) edited by John Joseph Adamsmad-scientists-guide-to-world-domination

This is the third anthology I’ve read by John Joseph Adams, and I must say that he has a good rack record for creating anthologies with stories I really like. He also has a good mix of stories, some of which I am guaranteed not to like, but that’s okay, because it’s good to read stuff I don’t normally read, and if I really don’t like a story, I can always skip on to the next (even though I rarely do that).

The stories I liked best in this anthology were the straight-up cackling Evil Overlord sort (you know that list, right?), because they were funny. The ones I liked least tended to be the more serious ones, because, well, evil in its true form exists in the world, and it’s generally funny at all.

...

“Laughter at the Academy: A FIELD STUDY IN THE GENESIS OF SCHIZOTYPAL CREATIVE GENIUS PERSONALITY DISORDER (SCGPD) by Seanan McGuire takes a look at the evil genius personality type–as well as what researchers will do to get their work published.

...

Aside from the anthology ending on several depressing notes, this was all-in-all a varied and very good collection of stories, with something for everyone. After all, the stories I disliked were not bad, they were just not my type of story.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Tor Books

Fiction River: Hex in the City (2013) edited by Kerrie L. Hughes

Hex-in-the-City“King of the Kingless” by Jay Lake
“Speechless in Seattle” by Lisa Sliverthorne
“Thy Neighbor” by Nancy Holder
“Somebody Else’s Problem” by Annie Bellet
“A Thing Immortal as Itself” by Lee Allred
“Geriatric Magic” by Stephanie Writt
“Red as Snow” by Seanan McGuire
“Music’s Price” by Anthea Sharp
“The Sound of My Own Voice” by Dayle A. Dermatis
“The 13th Floor Problem” by Dean Wesley Smith
“Dead Men Walking” by Annie Reed
“One Good Deed” by Jeanne C. Stein
“Fox and Hound” by Leah Cutter
“The Scottish Play” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

This is another anthology I realized I wasn’t ever going to read all the stories in, so here is a review of the stories I did read.

“Red As Snow” by Seanan McGuire

This story is set in her InCryptid world, and features two characters from the first books, Istas and Ryan.

I was not the firstborn female of my litter, but the dead are not the family of the living.

I like Istas because she is so very foreign and strange–much like one would expect a Waheela would be. Her thoughts are not ours, and although she likes humanity, she is not human.

...
Rating: 9/10 (based only upon the two stories I read)

Published by WMG Publishing, Inc.

 

 

Seanan McGuire