Saturday, December 3, 2011

Review: A Local Habitation

A Local Habitation
A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second in a series that will, hopefully, go for a really long time. I read the first standing in lines at Dragon*Con, which should give you a good enough idea of how riveting it was. This one matches, then outpaces it, for sheer sucking-the-reader-in.

This book has Toby on Faerie business, checking in on her liege's niece in a politically-charged little corner of the realm. It starts out showing a side we missed of Toby in the first book: she's stumbling home after a night of drinking. Not that the reader needs a lot to endear them to Toby, but it adds a new dimension the first book didn't have much time to go over. It was a nice touch, showing more of Toby's humanity before tossing her to the wolves.

And tossed to the wolves she is. I found myself wincing sympathetically a lot, and wondering just how much blood Faerie bodies hold. She spends probably a third of the book bleeding profusely, and another third dealing with other people bleeding.

It was easy to keep charging along, though. I was invested in making sure Toby made it through okay, despite all the obstacles tossed in her way. While the author, Seanan McGuire, confessed on her blog that she tortures her characters out of glee, the obstacles rang true in a way that many plot complications in urban fantasy fail to. Perhaps more authors need to find that glee.

All of the above delight may give you the impression my 4-star rating is too harsh, so I'll take a paragraph to outline the flaws. Some of the dialogue felt off, to me, especially toward the beginning. There was something involving a Selkie's skin that felt like a plot hole, until I went back to check; I thought a sentence could've made that a little less confusing. Also, I felt like there were times when there was a little too much filler, that the page was being filled up for no good reason, before the plot could take off again. Maybe that's a sign of good pacing, feeling impatient for what happens next. But it irritates me.

Not enough to keep me from reading, clearly.

But the good parts definitely drowned out the above complaints. The plot plays off Toby's weaknesses well, without ever feeling forced. She really is a technological plebian, and for good reason. The interactions between characters were wonderful. There were several laugh-out-loud moments, all the better for being right smack in the middle of a crisis. People behaved in ways that made perfect sense, giving them a sense of being real people stuck in a bad situation, rather than characters on a page.

I left this book looking forward to the third in the series, and looking forward even more to watching the rest of the series unfold. Let's hope McGuire gets that chance.

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