Thursday, August 23, 2012

Good Stuff: Seanan McGuire's Toby Daye series

How is it not September yet? It seems like it's been August for forever.

I don't think it's been showing in my posts, but I've been having a negative kind of month. And, when I feel awash in negativity, it's time to think about things that make me happy. Today, because I'm so looking forward to the next installment next month, I want to talk about the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire.

The series starts with Rosemary and Rue, and October (Toby) Daye is following the person she suspects of kidnapping her liege's wife and daughter. She's a changeling, which, in that world, means a person with a faerie and human parent. (Another definition of the term is a human child swapped for a pale shadow, which often dies soon after the switch.) She's transformed into a fish to stop her chasing her suspect, and she spends the next 14 years in a koi pond.

She returns to a world that's moved on without her, and she's more than happy to sink into a mundane existence. But then a friend dies, drawing her in with a curse that will kill her if she doesn't solve the mystery.

Rosemary and Rue is a murder mystery, and one could be fooled by its seemingly straightforward plot that this is a detective series with a fae twist. But the world expands with each subsequent book. A Local Habitation brings us to a nearby faerie realm that's trying to integrate with technology, to mixed results. That, too, involves a murder mystery, a locked-door that I almost figured out by the end. It's less straightforward, and it expands the world's mythos and its characters. Then, An Artificial Night seems to start out a mystery, but instead becomes a reluctant hero's quest. Still more is revealed about the world and its inhabitants, and there are hints about Toby, herself, not being all she's presented to the reader so far. Late Eclipses confirms that, further developing the world and its rules. Then One Salt Sea brings us to the undersea domain of the fae, just when you thought you understood everything there was to know about Faerie.

The worldbuilding is excellent, because it's a fleshed-out world with surprises yet to be discovered. A lesser author might infodump all of this neat stuff on our heads, but Seanan McGuire patiently reveals it, bit by bit, and only as it's relevant to Toby's perspective. The world, itself, is an amalgam of real-life San Francisco and myths and legends from traditional European fairy tales, Shakespeare, and Eastern mythology.

All of the books are named after things in Shakespeare, though nothing so obvious as play titles or parts of famous soliloquies. They're phrases you'd be familiar with if you had most of the plays memorized, or even if you knew them well, but those of us who've only read them once or twice don't know which play each phrase is from until we read the opening quote.

The tone of the series is fairly dark. There are comic moments, and lots of snarky dialogue, but victories always come at a price. There are no easy choices in these books, nor easy ways out, and Toby always faces the consequences for her choices.

The next book, Ashes of Honor, comes out on September 4th. I'd meant to reread all of the books before that one came out, but it doesn't look like that'll happen. In the meantime, though, I do have a new short story, "In Sea-Salt Tears," to last me until the fourth. It's free on the author's website, and she asks that readers download it rather than reading it directly on the site, to spare her bandwidth.

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