The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is the eighth book in Seanan McGuire's October Daye series. I think I say every time that they get better with each installation, but, well, it's true. McGuire does her homework, building intrigue and tension into earlier books that pay off handsomely with each new installment.
The Winter Long opens with the Winter Solstice ball, and Toby's official designation as the realm's hero. No sooner has she dropped into bed to recover from her long night of social obligations than she gets a visit from Simon Torquill, brother to Toby's liege and the one responsible for her spending 14 years as a fish. He wants to help her, only his definition of "help" is wanting to turn her into a tree for the next century so she can't be killed.
There are a number of reveals in this book that have been building for 7 books, and that I won't spoil if you haven't yet had the pleasure. Toby's nemesis is all the more formidable for blindsiding Toby. Alliances shift, relationships change, Toby empathizes with characters she had every reason to hate, and the Luidaeg gets to step outside her snarky-cryptic-adviser role to show off why she's the subject of parents' warnings and children's nightmares.
If a young writer asked me how to write foreshadowing, I would plunk down this series and say, "Get reading." All of the shocking reveals have been telegraphed from the start, yet they still blindside us, because Toby was (and we were) off investigating this shiny clue over here. As I posted elsewhere, McGuire was dropping breadcrumbs while we were following the shiny stones.
Everyone's favorite Cait Sidhe is here, backing Toby up and lending emergency transportation through the Shadow Roads, and providing much-needed levity. His role at the end of the book is probably the least surprising reveal, but it's a pleasant surprise.
The pacing of this book is lightning fast. The bulk of it takes place over a period of 24 hours. The only reason Toby stops is because she's unconscious. That's not a spoiler, because, of course she is. She tests the very limits of her magical abilities (and her body's blood capacity). She's far from the strongest magic user in Faerie, but she's probably the most determined.
There are hints of things to come in future books. I suspect we'll see some way of getting around Elf-shot, because Rayseline and her break with reality is too good to let lie. Er, no pun intended. And there's plenty stirred up by Simon's return that needs addressing. Lastly, the series can't come to a close without Toby having conversation or three with her mother, Amandine.
Beyond that, I won't make any predictions, because this series is too good to pick apart with speculation. It's best enjoyed when you trust McGuire to do what the story needs, and wait to see what that is. I'm still going to take note of clues I pick up along the way, because chances are good they'll pay off nicely, but I'm not going to cling to my predictions. I like how she handles them better every time.
If you're not reading this series yet, go pick up Rosemary and Rue, then
A Local Habitation
, and so on until you're caught up. I'll wait. Because I need more people in my life I can talk to about my love for these books. They're so much fun. You don't hate fun, do you?
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