I have enjoyed Seanan McGuire’s OCTOBER DAYE urban fantasies, but a few of her more recent novels in the series seemed to introduce too many characters and bring too many different magic systems into play. However, the latest two novels, Chimes at Midnight and The Winter Long (which I’ll review soon), have knocked my socks off with tight plotting and memorable characters. Now I once again find myself impatient for the next one to arrive, and annoyed that the September 1 publication date is so far away.
In Chimes at Midnight, Toby is working with her team — her lover, Tybalt, the local King of Cats; May, Toby’s Fetch; Jasmine, May’s shapeshifting lover; Quentin, Toby’s squire; and Raj, Tybalt’s heir — to hunt for goblin fruit. Goblin fruit is no problem for pure-blooded fairies, but for changelings like Toby, it’s an addiction. More than that, it’s ultimately a killer. And there’s no cure. So Toby decides that she needs to petition the Queen of the Mists for help, even though the Queen despises her. She is shocked when the Queen proves to be the channel by which the goblin fruit has reached the realm outside Faerie. Worse, the Queen is so put out by Toby’s petition that she gives her three days to get her affairs in order before she is banished from the Kingdom of the Mists.
It’s a great wind-up for a plot that soon has Toby charging both within and without the Kingdom to discover how the Queen got her throne and whether she truly belongs upon it. In the process, she uses every connection she has formed in the prior seven books in the series to solve her problem. After visits to a number of locations, including a Library that sounds wonderful, and Borderlands, a San Francisco SF bookstore that actually exists in our world as well (and is also wonderful),* it appears that Toby is well on her way to having this case cleared up — until she gets hit with a complication so immense that one wonders if McGuire has finally given her character a problem she can’t solve.
And from there it gets worse.
McGuire writes with such urgency that it is difficult to cease reading Chimes at Midnight once you start. The plotting doesn’t apply just to this book; McGuire pulls on threads she has left hanging throughout her series to weave one big tapestry. As one character puts it, to mix my metaphors, Toby lives in a “stew of myths,” and every myth is called into play here. It is a masterful performance.
Don’t start the OCTOBER DAYE series here; you’ll be lost. Go back to Rosemary and Rue and read straight through all of them. You’ll want to do it at a frantic pace, so set aside some serious time. Enjoy!
*Borderlands is in dire financial straits, but it could survive with a sufficient number of sponsors. I’m one of them. If you’d like more information, please go to Borderlands’ website.
About a month ago, Seanan McGuire was guest of honor at my “home” SFF convention, Archon in the St. Louis area. My first thought was, “Yay! I get to meet Seanan McGuire!” and my next was, “Hmm, what should I ask her to sign?” My third thought was, “Oh, wow, I’m several books behind in the OCTOBER DAYE series.” So, I purchased Chimes at Midnight to take to the signing table, so I could read it afterward and catch up. Multitasking for the win!
The beginning of Chimes at Midnight finds Toby happier in her personal life than she’s been in forever, but troubled by an epidemic of goblin fruit sweeping through San Francisco. Goblin fruit is a harmless high for pureblood fae, but deadly for changelings and humans, and Toby goes to the Queen with her concerns — only to be banished from the kingdom with three days’ notice.
It soon begins to look like the only solution to these and an assortment of other problems is to overthrow the Queen. Because Toby Daye never gets to do anything the easy way. The rest of the novel is a frantic cascade of events; every time it seems like Toby has a plan worked out, another wrench is thrown into the works, and readers will find it hard to catch their breaths.
As Terry mentions in her review, Chimes at Midnight draws upon plot threads from previous novels as well as upon the hard-won team of friends Toby has gathered around her. It’s nice to see her not so alone in the world.
I will also agree with Terry that you don’t want to start here. Start with the beginning of the series, but I highly recommend the whole thing.
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.