Seanan McGuire has caused me to abandon work and kept me up nights more than any other author I’ve read recently. Her work is so compelling that I absolutely must find out what happens next. Ashes of Honor (2012) was no exception to this rule. It’s the sixth and latest in the OCTOBER DAYE series, and offers up new surprises about the knight and hero of the Court of Shadowed Hills, Toby Daye.
Toby is surprised herself when Etienne, another of the Court’s knights, approaches her for help. Etienne never seems to have approved of Toby, as he’s a more traditional sort of guy — one who lives in the realms of Faerie rather than the real world of its approximate location, San Francisco. But when he learns that he has unknowingly fathered a changeling, and worse, that the changeling, now a teenager and just starting to come into her powers, has gone missing, he knows he needs someone familiar with the ways of the world to find his child. That’s not an easy task, because Chelsea’s blood makes her a teleporter, and she appears to be a powerful one at that, opening doors that are better left closed. Worse, some of the more evil parts of Faerie find her useful, and aren’t afraid to treat her as badly as necessary to meet their goals.
Many of the best characters in the OCTOBER DAYE series make appearances in Ashes of Honor, even if only for a moment. The Luidaeg provides the magic potions necessary to stop Chelsea, offering a few surprises of her own (not the least of which is that Toby doesn’t have to drink something disgusting in order to accomplish her task, though she does have to submit to the Luidaeg’s bite to provide a bit of blood to incorporate in the magical tools). April, the current Duchess of the knowe called Tamed Lightning who played a starring role in A Local Habitation (the second book in the series), is of assistance to Toby in her search for Chelsea. Officer Michael Thornton of the San Francisco Police Department, with whom Toby has had prior run-ins, also makes an important appearance.
More critically, however, Raj, the heir apparent to the Court of Cats of which Tybalt is the present king, has also gone missing. His father, Samson, is plotting against Tybalt, which complicates the search for the missing teenagers, as do the machinations of Treasa Riordan, the Duchess of Dreamer’s Glass, an ambitious woman who wants more than she’s got. It all turns into a tangled ball of plot, but McGuire never loses the thread. By the time Ashes of Honor ends, the loose ends are all accounted for — or officially abandoned, perhaps to serve as possible fodder for further books in the series.
Ashes of Honor is also available as an audiobook from Brilliance Audio, read by Mary Robinette Kowal. Kowal has a lovely way with McGuire’s language, which tends to flow by when one is reading but takes on a special luster when one is listening. Either way, print or audio, this book is a must for urban fantasy fans.
It sometimes seems like Faerie reserves the hardest choices for the children.
It’s been a year since the events at the end of One Salt Sea — events that left October Daye deep in mourning. Since then, she’s been taking unnecessary risks and feeling directionless in her life. But now a new emergency has arisen that requires her attention. Etienne, a fellow knight of Sylvester’s court, has a changeling daughter he never knew about. He only just learned of her existence because she’s gone missing.
It’s surprising enough to Toby that the straitlaced Etienne was incautious enough to father a changeling in the first place, but the real bombshell is that the daughter, Chelsea, possesses a staggering amount of teleporting ability. She could be anywhere, and her travels are opening doors into Faerie realms that were supposed to stay closed. Her talent also makes her a target for ambitious fae who would love to have someone like Chelsea as a weapon. Tied in with this plotline is a crisis in the Court of Cats, in which she also becomes embroiled.
Toby has developed fantastically as a character over the course of this series. This is no longer the character who, I used to complain, would just miss big clues that were staring her in the face. This is a character whose weird adventures have left her with an equally weird collection of knowledge and resources, and she’s gotten really good at thinking outside the box and figuring out what contact or ability can help her with a seemingly impassable obstacle. Her emotional development is also a thing of beauty, as she learns that she doesn’t have to do everything alone and it’s OK to lean on her loved ones and to ask for help when she needs it. And here, in Ashes of Honor, she takes a big step forward in her romantic life as well.
The OCTOBER DAYE series just keeps getting better, and this is the best one yet. Seanan McGuire delivers a suspenseful mystery, haunting magic, hard choices, a dash of humor, and just the right amount of romance. Ashes of Honor grabbed me and kept me glued to the page.
It also has a bit more brightness in it than some of the other books in the series. Sometimes it feels like Toby pays a high price for every step she takes in her life, but here, it actually feels like she gets a few breaks for once. Some situations work out less tragically than I expected them to, and Toby takes time to appreciate the moment in a very significant way. I was smiling when I finished the book.
Also: I want an Afanc.
October Daye — (2009- ) Publisher: The world of Faerie never disappeared: it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own. Secrecy is the key to Faerie’s survival — but no secret can be kept forever, and when the fae and mortal worlds collide, changelings are born. Half-human, half-fae, outsiders from birth, these second-class children of Faerie spend their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations. Or, in the case of October “Toby” Daye, rejecting it completely. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating into a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, Faerie has other ideas.The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose, one of the secret regents of the San Francisco Bay Area, pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby is forced to resume her old position as knight errant to the Duke of Shadowed Hills and begin renewing old alliances that may prove her only hope of solving the mystery… before the curse catches up with her.