4 out of 5 Fairy Stars
This is my third read through of this series but I have not written reviews for them! Because I’m stupid. 🙂 This is book 1 in the October Daye series
This is one of my favorite series of all time. I love Seanan McGuire. I recommend this to anyone that likes paranormal or urban fantasy. It doesn’t have any graphic sex like a lot of adult series do, so if that is something that’s held you back from reading any of that, this one’s for you.
October (Toby) Daye is half-fae/half-human (in this series, McGuire uses the term “changeling” for those who aren’t pureblooded fae – changelings are not treated well by the purebloods, whether part human or of mixed fae-race.) She’s also a mother to a little girl, has a fiancee, is a private investigator and knight to the local duchy. That’s a lot. Being a changeling, she doesn’t have a lot of magic, but she does have a lot of physical fae traits that she has to hide from the world. Even that small bit of magic puts a strain on her abilities and causes terrible headaches. Is it any wonder she prefers living in the human world to that under the knowe?
Toby has a knack for finding things. The Fae community has called on her skills in the past, and when the wife and daughter of the local Duke goes missing, she’s on the case. The man she suspects is on to her though, and she winds up changed into a fish living in a pond in the Japanese Tea Garden for 14 years. That puts a dent in your “mortal” human life. Now she’s lost everything, and she has no interest whatsoever in reconnecting with the fae side of her heritage. She works at the local Safeway at night, giving the pixies in the produce department toothpicks to help them in their wars…. But the fae aren’t done with her. Another local Duchess, Evening Winterrose, is murdered, and one of her final acts is to call Toby and magically bind her to solve her murder. So much for that night job.
There may be a prerequisite for loving this series – and that is that you have to love fae and fairyland and such tales. There is a lot of info dumping as far as the races of faerie, what they look like and what their powers are. Also a lot of really difficult to pronounce Irish names for the Sidhe (pronounced shee – and there is a pronunciation guide in the front of the books) – but there is so much magic. And so many magical creatures. It’s grownup Harry Potter with more of a basis in reality.
I love Tybalt, the local King of Cats. He’s arrogant, ancient, gorgeous, and keeps turning up to irritate Toby. The two have never gotten along, but she can’t solve this without some outside help, and the court of cats is separate from the fae court. They are an outside, independent entity by decree of Oberon, just what she needs, since she doesn’t know who to trust. The Queen seems to be wiggin’ out, and won’t help. She has actually instructed Toby to not speak Evening’s name in her presence. It’s like, what?? Purebloods rarely die, and Toby doesn’t know if this is a sign of guilt or madness. Fae go mad pretty regularly. Not dying will do that to you.
We’ve also got her half-mad, absentee mother who has given Toby blood-magic skills. which helps with the murder-death-investigation thing. Toby has to go back into her past to look for some help as well, so we see the abusive asshole, Devin, who sorta shaped her human half at a gathering place for changeling outcasts called Home. There she meets brother and sister pair, Dare and Manuel and takes them under her wing. She also has to go back to the Japanese Tea Gardens and face the fact that it wasn’t only herself that was affected by being transformed into a fish.
Anyway – I love that this series is adult, with a real history around it. You’re with a character that has already had a life (being fae, she might be around 40 or 50 human years but fae ages are very different) so she’s only in her mid 30’s, maybe, but she’s not a kid. It has its drawbacks, I don’t like some of the dialog – which can be of the backslapping-variety. I don’t know how to describe it but some of it comes off weird. But I still love this series so much.
I kinda failed a little because I did not pay enough attention to the diversity quotient in this though I know it is there – it takes place in San Francisco – we’re a very diverse place. I believe Dare and Manuel (their half human side) are Latinx, But most of the main characters are white – except Luna, the Duchess of Shadowed Hills is Kitsune, which is an Asian fox-fae, and Lily of the Japanese Tea Gardens is from Japan – I tried to find the etymology of Undine and it appears to be German, so… I thought it was a Japanese fae, but it’s not. Anyway. This series does have pretty good representation throughout. Also – lots of gay rep through the whole series, including a trans character in later books.