It’s probably inevitable that any long series, even one I enjoy as much as Seanan McGuire’s OCTOBER DAYE, will have books that just aren’t as great as some of the others. And I want to be fair; I’ve gotten really invested in the Amandine/Eira/August plotline, and it’s made me more impatient with the in-between books, so I want to make sure I’m not being too harsh. But even after thinking it over for a while, The Unkindest Tide (2019) was just kind of middling to me.
The Luideag calls in the favor Toby owes her, so that the Luideag can keep her own vow of resurrecting the Roane. This means that all the Selkies must gather at the Duchy of Ships, including Toby’s daughter Gillian. The Duchy of Ships is a pretty cool new setting, and I also hoped for some development of Toby and Gillian’s relationship. There isn’t much of this, though; Gillian is quickly “swept away by the rapidly-growing Selkie contingent” and the two don’t spend much page time together.
This plotline is then interrupted by the B-plot, which initially doesn’t even seem related other than that they both take place at sea. I wondered if it would be used to create conflict by, for example, making Toby late to help Gillian or something like that, but no. Toby is so powerful now that the stakes never quite feel high during this section. (She almost dies, but that’s kind of her signature move at this point, and yes, that’s a weird sentence to type.) This plot does get tied in later, but when we’re in the middle of it, it feels a bit like one of the side novellas got dropped into the middle of the novel.
The ending seemed a little deus-ex-machina to me, but that may be inevitable, since some of these beings practically are gods. In any case, the Selkie/Roane thing gets resolved. I’m glad I read it, but it’s not one of the standouts of the series for me.
The Unkindest Tide includes a bonus novella, “Hope Is Swift,” which is told from Raj’s perspective and explores his relationships and his coming to terms with the idea of being King much earlier than he’d planned. It’s also, I think, kind of a paean to animal rescuers. It’s well worth a read if you like Raj and/or cats in general.