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Book Review: Ashes of Honor and Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire (Series, #6 and #7)

September 5, 2016 Leave a comment

 

Summary:

Book 6

Etienne has a mysteriously powerful changeling daughter no one else knew about who goes missing and now Toby must find her.

Book 7
Goblin Fruit is being sold on the streets and Toby in her grief seeks to eradicate it only to discover the Queen is behind it. Then she gets hit in the face with a pie made of it and since it’s only addictive to humans and changelings she’s now addicted to basically the fantasy equivalent of heroin. Oh also she becomes fixated on reestablishing the rightful heir to the throne, and not just because she’s been exiled by the current Queen

Review:
So here’s the thing. I love reading a good series but generally so long as everything is continuing along at the same quality level as the first couple of books there’s not too much to say about them. But also if you just stop reviewing them it makes it seem like you stopped reading the series, which isn’t the case. So I’m going to be sticking to short reviews for my series reads, and I might start lumping them together, unless there’s one that’s particularly good or one that’s particularly bad.

I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that I’m tired of the series looking for missing kids. This happens again in book 6, and yes it kind of bugged me, but it was different enough that I kept reading. I think having the added factor of learning more about how changelings work and also how Toby’s particular type of fae work helped keep it interesting.

I’d say that book 7 kept me more on the edge of my seat than book 6 because Toby is in more genuine peril and also she is more honest about her feelings for the King of Cats. I find overthrowing one royal person to instill another to be rather boring but Toby’s personal peril helped keep it interesting for me. I also really enjoyed one particular reveal about a longstanding character. That said, all of the political intrigue and the fact that the next book promises only more made me decide it was time to take a break from the series until I’m ready for a read that will be exactly what I am expecting. There’s always room for that in my reading but it can be a bit dull if you read a few too many in a row.

Both of these reads hold enough of what long-time readers of the series have come to expect and new information to be both engaging and not disappointing. It’s a good series but not one that builds intrigue over the course of each book throughout the series.

4 out of 5 stars (each)

Source: Library

Buy Book 6

Buy Book 7

Previous Books in Series:
Rosemary and Rue, review
A Local Habitation, review
An Artificial Night, review
Late Eclipses, review
One Salt Sea, review

Book Review: One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire (Series, #5)

July 22, 2016 1 comment

Book Review: One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire (Series, #5)Summary:
Someone has kidnapped the sons of the Duchess Dianda Lorden, regent of the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist. To prevent a war between land and sea, Toby must not only find the missing boys, but also prove that the Queen of the Mists was not behind their abduction. She’ll need all her tricks and the help of her allies if she wants to make it through this in one piece.

Review:
I’ll keep this review short and sweet, because if you’ve made it to book 5 in this series, you already know if the writing style works for you or not. So specifically, how did this particular plot work out?

This is the Toby Daye book I’ve liked least so far in the series. Part of that is probably for personal reasons, but part of it is for repetitive plot reasons. Toby just….seems to have to save children an awful lot. Now, I’m not saying that an urban fantasy that basically involves someone solving crimes in a world where there’s a huge taboo on murder of immortals won’t repeat some crimes. I am saying that I think doing abducted children again right after a book that did that theme so incredibly well (Blind Michael is the ultimate in creepy) is just too repetitive. There are actually some sly nods to the reader that the author knows abducted children plots are happening a lot. Toby comments something along the lines of gee she’s sure sick of saving children. If your main character is sick of saving kids, maybe the readers are tired of reading it. Just saying. Beyond that, there were two other things that made me meh about this plot.

First, we’re clearly supposed to sympathize with Toby in the whole “whyyy does everyone think I’m a terrible mother” plot, but honestly I don’t sympathize with her, and I do think she’s a terrible mother. So. There’s that. But I fully admit to having some of my own mom issues, so it might be harder for me to see this with a neutral viewpoint. Other readers may have a different experience. But be prepared to possibly like Toby less.

Second, you know how most romances have various love interests and you’re on a certain team? Well, I am 100% #TeamTybalt, and I was not pleased by all the Connor scenes. I just find him dull and drab and I am massively creeped out by the webs between his fingers that never go away. Plus…male selkies….eh. This book could easily be called the #TeamConnor book so readers who like him….enjoy. For the rest of us, you might find yourself rolling your eyes a bit.

I know that sounds like a lot of negatives but it is the book I’ve liked least in the series so far, in spite of really enjoying the series, so it seemed apt to discuss at length why it didn’t work so well for me. All of that said, I read it quickly, and I fairly soon picked up the next book in the series, so I certainly didn’t hate it. A lot about the series works really well for me, there are just certain aspects of this book and plot that I think might make it less enjoyable for certain readers compared to the rest of the series.

Source: Library

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
Rosemary and Rue, review
A Local Habitation, review
An Artificial Night, review
Late Eclipses, review

Book Review: Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire (Series, #4)

August 8, 2015 2 comments

Book Review: Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire (Series, #4)Summary:
One of Toby’s oldest friends is in dire trouble.  Lily of the Tea Gardens is slowly fading away, and no one knows what’s causing it.  On top of that, one of Toby’s worst nemeses whose name is feared throughout Fae, Oleander, is back.  Are the two related or is something else going on? And can Toby save the day without losing herself?

Review:
I picked this book up expecting it to be another mystery of the week entry in the series, but what I found was a surprising development in the overarching plot that kept my heart in my throat but also left me dubious about the possible directions the next book could take.

The plot starts out similarly to the previous entry in the series.  Someone close to Toby is in danger.  In this case, it’s Lily, and she’s sick, slowly fading out of existence.  Over the course of the book, others close to Toby end up sick as well, as it soon becomes clear (this is really not a spoiler, it’s revealed early on) that someone is poisoning them.  When Oleander showed up, I nearly groaned at how obvious it felt that she is the one to blame for all of this.  But it’s not quite that straight-forward, and there’s also a sub-plot of Toby possibly going crazy….which changelings are known to do in this world.  The book then isn’t just about Toby trying to solve the mystery, it’s also about her trying to determine if her blood has doomed her to sink into insanity.  This gives the plot enough depth to keep it interesting.

Long-standing characters receive more depth of character development and new ones are added.  Toby cotinues to have the wit that keeps the book upbeat even when things are grim.  One quote in particular I think would work pretty well as a fitspo positive argument:

I promised myself that if I lived, I’d start working out. Better cranky and alive than cheerful and dead. (loc 1815)

As for the plot twist, I can’t talk about it much without spoilers.  The spoiler free review would be that I am concerned the big overarching plot twist moves things a bit too far into one hero to save us land, which isn’t a fantasy plot I personally usually enjoy.  For the spoiler version of this, see the next paragraph.

*spoilers*
It is revealed that Toby is not the type of Fae she thought, she is rather a very rare type of Fae.  This type of Fae is capable of changing the make-up of their own blood.  She can thus morph into more Fae, changeling, or human as she desires.  It also turns out her mother is from the first born, which makes her kind of Fae royalty.  My issue with this is one of the things I like so much about the series is that Toby lacks the magical powers to the extent the Fae have.  She also doesn’t fit into the human world.  But she fights for her right to be in the world she chooses to live in, and her value in the Fae world is due to how hard she tries and her brains, not her blood.  This plot development feels like it’s making it all about her blood.  Her power is due to whose daughter she is, not who she herself is.  That’s just not a message I’m as fond of.
*end spoilers*

Overall, this is an action-packed entry in the series that visits another mystery with enough different sub-plots and twists to keep it interesting.  Fans of the series will be surprised by the big overarching plot development toward the end of the book and will be eager to pick up the next one to see where this plot development goes.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
Rosemary and Rue, review
A Local Habitation, review
An Artificial Night, review

Reading Challenge Wrap-Up: Once Upon a Time IX

June 26, 2015 2 comments

Once Upon a Time IXHello my lovely readers! Once Upon a Time IX, the reading challenge I signed up for running between March 21st and June 21st focusing on reading books that fit into the categories of fantasy, folklore, fairy tales, or mythology is now over (it has been for 5 days, actually….), so it’s time to post my wrap-up!

I signed up for the level called “The Journey” reading at least one book in any of the categories named above, but I had a personal goal aiming for three books.  I wound up reading a whopping NINE BOOKS.  Particularly given that I used to think I didn’t like fantasy, I’m kind of blown away.

My completed reads for the challenge, in the order I read them:

  1. A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire, 4 stars, review
  2. An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire, 4 stars, review
  3. The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson, 4 stars, review
  4. Maplecroft by Cherie Priest, 4 stars, review
  5. Fables: Legends in Exile, Vol. 1 by Bill Willingham, 3 stars, review
  6. Cycle of the Werewolf by Stephen King, 3 stars, not yet reviewed, review
  7. Love in the Time of Global Warming by Lia Francesca Block, 3 stars, not yet reviewed
  8. Everlasting: Da Eb’Bulastin by Rasheedah Prioleau, 4 stars, not yet reviewed
  9. Fated by S. G. Browne, 3 stars, not yet reviewed

Unfortunately, as you can tell, I fell a bit behind actually reviewing the books during the challenge.  Ah well. This just means you can expect to see more fantasy reviews coming up now through July!

Have you enjoyed the influx of fantasy on my blog? Did you participate in the challenge too?

Book Review: An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire (Series, #3)

Book Review: An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire (Series, #3)Summary:
When two of Toby’s good friends’ children go missing from their own bedroom and another won’t wake up from being asleep, they call Toby in immediately to look for them.  Soon the King of Cats reports that some of his kingdom’s children are missing too, and Quentin’s human girlfriend disappears as well.  It quickly becomes clear that it’s time for the 100 year cycle of Blind Michael’s Hunt.  Blind Michael, the Luidaeg’s brother, is incredibly powerful, and only three roads lead to his realm.  Toby can only take each road once.  That means she has only three chances to save the children and stop the Hunt.

Review:
I picked this book up immediately after finishing the second in the series and, oh man, it did not disappoint.  This book presents an old school Brothers Grimm style blood-curdling, toes-curling fairy tale, peppered with characters we’ve already come to know and love.

Blind Michael is scary. What he does to the children is really scary.  He turns the fae children into “Riders” monstrous twists on real fae features.  He turns the human children into their horses for them to ride.  Everything about Blind Michael and his twisted land scared the crap out of me, and I don’t scare easily.  It was exactly the sort of scare I used to seek out as a child from the original Grimm Fairy Tales (the ones that are not cleaned up).  This book goes a lot darker than the first two, which were already dark, and it went there in such a different way from the first two plots.  The first two plots were entirely about murder, here we have someone stealing children from their beds.  It’s a completely different type of scare and different sort of mystery for Toby to have to figure out.

The plot tells more than just this one mystery, though, it also brings out some information that is key to the overarching plot of the series.  I really enjoyed how smoothly this was worked together, and I also must say I didn’t predict at all where it was going.

There are basically two themes in the book, one I appreciated and the other I didn’t particularly agree with.  Let’s start with the one I didn’t agree with.

There’s a theme in the book that children on some level must deal with and be held responsible for the choices of their parents.  Toby tries to pretend otherwise, but that doesn’t work out so well for her.

Blood will tell. I tried to pretend it wouldn’t that we could change, but blood always tells. We carry the burdens of our parents.  (loc 312)

It basically reads as the idea that you can’t run away from your family or from your blood, your nature.  Personally, I don’t like that frame of thought.  You can leave your family of birth and not have to be held responsible for them.  You are not your parents. You are your own person. You are not responsible for what your parents do after you leave home.  So this theme didn’t sit well with me.  Other readers who agree with this theme will obviously enjoy it more.

The other theme was one I was quite happy to see so directly addressed in an urban fantasy and that is of suicidal ideation.  There are many different ways that suicidal ideation can manifest, but with Toby her symptoms are that she firmly believes her death is imminent and is planning for it, and she repeatedly throws herself into risk situations because she doesn’t care if she dies.  Suicidal ideation essentially means that a person is lacking self-preservation instincts and is ok with dying.  They won’t actually commit suicide but they will put themselves into dangerous situations because part of them does want to die.  So they might run across a street without looking, go walking alone at 2am in a dangerous neighborhood, etc… Toby’s depression from the first two books has grown so much that she is now at this point, and people have started calling her out on it.  Seeing her realize that she’s, in layman’s terms, got a death wish, is interesting and well-done.  What I appreciate most about it is how directly it is addressed.

Because, dear October, you’re the most passively suicidal person I’ve ever met, and that’s saying something. You’ll never open your wrists, but you’ll run head-first into hell. You’ll have good reasons.  You’ll have great reasons, even. And part of you will be praying that you won’t come out again. (loc 3876)

Overall, this entry in the series brings back the characters readers have come to love and puts them into a new mystery much more terrifying than the first two.  Two strong themes in the book include nature/nurture/ties to parents and dealing with suicidal ideation.  Fans of the series won’t be disappointed.  This is a roller coaster ride of emotions and peril.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
Rosemary and Rue, review
A Local Habitation, review

Counts For:
Once Upon a Time IX

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Book Review: A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire (Series, #2)

April 14, 2015 5 comments

Book Review: A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire (Series, #2)Summary:
Toby Daye, changeling, private detective, and knight to the knowe of the powerful Sylvester, feels like she has her feet back under her after returning to human form after 14 years as a fish and also solving the murder of a powerful fae.  When her liege requests she go investigate why he hasn’t heard from his niece in a while, she expects it to be a quick visit, although possibly a bit irritating since she has to bring along young Quentin, a teenaged full-blooded Daoine Sidhe fae.  Sylvester’s niece just so happens to own the only fae tech company, and she claims that she has indeed been calling her uncle.  But when an employee turns up dead and Toby finds out there have been two mysterious deaths previously, she realizes there’s more here than immediately meets the eye, particularly since she can’t read anything from the blood of the dead.

Review:
I enjoyed the first book in this urban fantasy series about a changeling investigator so much that I immediately checked out the second ebook from the Boston Public Library on my kindle.  (If you have an ereader, definitely check out if your local public library will let you do this.  It saves me so much money!)  This book brought me right back into the wonderfully built world of Toby and offered up a new murder mystery even more mysterious than the first.

Readers of the first book know that Toby’s special fae power is the ability to read a person’s memories from tasting their blood.  I found it startling and intriguing that McGuire immediately took this power away from Toby in the second book.  There’s nothing to read in the victims’ blood.  Why is that?  It’s a plot I may have expected in the fourth or fifth book, but not so soon.  From a writing perspective, it’s bold to take away your hero’s superpower in only the second book in the series.  And it works.  There’s ultimately a logical explanation for why the blood is telling Toby nothing (and no, it’s not Toby’s fault), so it never feels like a gimmick.  I think that is what I like most about this series.  The author utilizes techniques that could easily turn into a gimmick but she always keeps it from actually being a gimmick so it instead is utterly engaging and enthralling.

The fae world is also clearly much larger than we originally saw in the first book.  The fae have a tech company so that they can rework modern technology to work in the fae knowes.  On top of that, we also meet many more races of fae, as well as ways for the races we already know to exist and appear.  For instance, Sylvester’s niece, January, has a daughter.  But her daughter is in fact a tree fairy.  Tree fairies are normally tied to a tree or a forest, so how is she in this tech building?  January tied her branch to the computer server after her forest was destroyed, and she was able to keep living after adapting into the server and treating the server as a forest.  Very cool idea, and it works beautifully in the story.

Even though I was basically able to predict whodunnit, I couldn’t figure out why or how, so the plot still satisfied me as I waited for Toby to figure all of that out.

One thing that kind of disappointed me in the book is that Toby meets a type of fae who can emit a magical scent that makes the person smelling it think they are massively attracted to him and thus sleep with him.  They then become obsessed with this type of fairy, and the fae feeds off of the obsession.  I was glad to see the book treat this as rape (basically drugging someone into sleeping with you) but I was also disappointed to see our heroine have to face off against an attempted rape.  As I said in my review of the previous book, I get really tired of urban fantasy heroines being threatened constantly by rape.  My hope is that this was a one-off type thing to introduce the concept of this type of fae rather than the new normal for the series.

Toby herself and the worldbuilding continue to be my two favorite aspects of the series.  The plots are good, but I’d read almost anything plot-wise to visit Toby and her world again.

The essence of Toby and why I love her is evident in this quote:

Long dresses weren’t designed for walking in the woods. My mother could’ve made the walk without stumbling; she fits into the world that well, even insane. That’s what it means to be a pureblood. I stumble and fall, and I always get up and keep going. That’s what it means to be a changeling. (page 371)

Picking a quote to show why I love the worldbuilding so much is a bit harder, but here’s a particular favorite that really punched a visual of what this world is like home for me.  In this passage, Toby is explaining that she and her mother are Daoine Sidhe and can see memories through blood:

My mother was so strong she could taste the death of plants. She could never stomach maple syrup; she said it tasted like trees screaming. (page 91)

As a born and raised Vermonter who grew up harvesting maple syrup, that line was a bit of a gut punch. An eloquent one.

Overall, readers of the first entry in the series will be pleased with this second outing.  Toby continues to be a strong character set in a fascinating world.  The mystery plot is another murder, but it is a series of murders and has a very different solving pattern and outcome than the first.  Recommended to fans of the first book to continue on to the second as soon as they can.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Library

Buy It

Previous Books in Series:
Rosemary and Rue, review

Counts For:
Once Upon a Time IX

Book Review: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire (Series, #1)

March 28, 2015 9 comments

Book Review: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire (Series, #1)Summary:
October (Toby) Daye is a changeling — she’s half fae and half human.  Half Daoine Sidhe to be exact.  She has just enough fae features to not fit into the human world, but her magic is just weak enough to keep her from fitting into fae either. Toby was splitting the difference quite well, serving her fae liege as a private detective and living a semi-normal human life with her human husband.  But when a bad fae turns her into a fish on a mission for her liege, and it takes fourteen years to be turned back, everything changes.  Toby loses her family and her desires to have any ties to the fae world, but the fae world won’t let her be for long.  A high-ranking fae who was also her friend turns up dead, killed by iron, and a curse means that Toby must investigate.

Review:
Interestingly enough, one of the later books in this series was recommended to me by an automatic readalike generator (whose name I know forget) as a readalike for Fudoki (review) a book set in historic Japan about a cat turned into a woman warrior.  I was intrigued by the series, although I wasn’t certain of the connection to Fudoki, and so I put the first book on my wishlist.  My future mother-in-law was kind enough to gift it to me during the height of my cabin fever during Boston’s historic winter this year.  This book hits all the right tones for urban fantasy: a strong yet wounded heroine, a complex mystical world operating parallel to and sometimes overlapping with our own, a single book mystery for the heroine to figure out, and an overarching mystery that leaves the reader wanting to come back for more.

The book takes a little bit to get set up.  There’s a flashback to before Toby was a fish then the book pops quickly forward to the (near) present when Toby escapes being a fish.  It at first struck me as a bit of an odd beginning, but by the end of the book I was loving it.  The fact that Toby has a 14 year gap means that there are elements about her world she has to learn or relearn, meaning when key parts of information need to be told to the reader, it comes across as natural that Toby will need to learn about it or remember it.  She did have those 14 years away, after all.  It’s a plot-telling device, but it’s smart.  It also isn’t forgotten when it comes to Toby’s character.  The fact that she lost her family and all those years deeply impact her psyche, and that’s as it should be.  It helps automatically make her a more well-rounded character.

Halfings are common in urban fantasy, but the ones in this universe are particularly well-done, mostly because there’s just so many of them.  Toby isn’t an anomaly, halflings are a constant, persistent problem for the fae to have to deal with.  They don’t quite fit into fae, but they also can’t just banish them for the humans to deal with.  The humans don’t even know they exist, in fact, most humans who do mate with fae never even know that they did.  While some fae are open to and embrace the halflings, others are not.  Similarly, some halflings will give anything to just fit into fae or into the human world, while others are comfortable living partly in each.  The fact that there are so many halflings allows for a lot of diversity and keeps Toby from looking like a marked heroine.  She is just one of many, dealing as she can.  I appreciate the everywoman aspect this lends her.

Toby is also extremely likeable.  She’s down-to-earth and matter-of-fact about everything.  She has many quotes that sound like an average person talking but contain a kernel of wisdom.  She’s a humble smart woman who maybe doesn’t realize just how much savvy she does have.

That’s the true value in wards; not keeping things out, but telling you if something’s managed to get in. (loc 537)

It can’t all be dreams because a broken dream will kill you as surely as a nightmare will, and with a lot less mercy. At least the nightmares don’t smile while they take you down. (loc 2428)

The fae world is incredibly complex and yet makes a lot of sense.  There are many different types of fae, and they are smoothly introduced.  My personal favorite are the Caid Sidhe.  They are surely the reason this book was recommended due to my loving Fudoki.  The Caid Sidhe are fae who shapeshift into cats, and even in bipedal form have some cat-like features and abilities.  The king of the cats has a bit of a love/hate relationship with Toby that is fun to see.  But also, fae cats.  How is that not fun?  Realistically, though, I wouldn’t have loved seeing the Caid Sidhe so much if there hadn’t been such a variety of fae.  It’s a richly imagined world that is really fun to visit.

The mystery is good, with Toby investigating a murder.  There were plenty of plot-twists, although I did guess the responsible party far in advance of the ending, which was a bit of a bummer.  I also must say that I’m not really a fan of heroines getting wounded within an inch of their life only to be saved by magic repeatedly.  It removes some of the sense of danger for me.  I did appreciate that for once there was an urban fantasy heroine who was never threatened with rape.  That was a nice change of pace.  I’ll take forcibly changed into a fish over that any day.

Overall, this book sets up the incredibly complex fae world of the series, as well as establishes the heroine’s character and background quite well.  Readers will easily fall into the incredibly imaginative world that Toby partially lives in that runs parallel to and sometimes hand-in-hand with our own.  Some readers may find the mystery a bit predictable, but this is an excellent first entry in an urban fantasy series that will leave the reader eager to pick up the next and go back to this rich world as soon as possible.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Gift

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