Monday 22 September 2014

#CBR6 Book 103: "The Winter Long" by Seanan McGuire

Page count: 358 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

This is book eight in the October Daye series, and as such, NOT a great place to start reading the books. If you want to start at the beginning, Rosemary and Rue is the book you're looking for. It is also, by this point, completely impossible for me to review the book without some spoilers for earlier books in the series. You may therefore want to skip this review until you've caught up, if you're worried about that sort of thing.

You'd think things would finally be looking up for October "Toby" Daye, changeling knight, rescuer of lost children. There is finally a Queen of the Mists that actually likes her, she's discovered the true identity of her squire and her relationship is just getting stronger. Then the man she's feared and hated ever since he abducted her liege lord's wife and daughter and transformed her into a fish for over a decade, ruining the life she once had, turns up on her doorstep and claims he needs her help. She also discovers that Simon Torquill is a much more significant person in her life than she ever imagined, and that he believes he was saving her life by merely making her a carp in the Japanese Tea Gardens. His mysterious employer actually wanted him to kill Toby.

Toby wants nothing to do with Simon Torquill and is terrified that his return means that her liege, Sylvester, or his family are in danger. As it turns out, unless she manages to identify who Simon's sinister employer is, all those she loves might perish. Her enemy is someone from her past, but much more dangerous and ruthless than Toby ever imagined.

In the acknowledgements at the beginning of the book, Seanan McGuire confesses that this is the book the entire series has been building towards. This is the first book in the series she had fully plotted, and all that's gone before has been leading to this point. It therefore has much of the same feel as Changes by Jim Butcher or Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews. So many characters and plot lines that I thought were finished long ago suddenly take on new significance. I actually managed to figure out who the villain was just a tiny while before it was revealed, but only because I racked my brain by going through all possible suspects.

I've always liked the covers for the October Daye books, and hadn't realised just how appropriate the cover for this book is until after I finished actually reading it. Fans of the series will know that Toby's clothes rarely survive for long without being soaked completely in her own or someone else's blood, and if you look closely, her t-shirt isn't actually naturally red. A gruesome and very accurate detail, in a genre where the covers are often cringe-worthy in their badness.

With every new book, Toby discovers more about herself and who she is. Her mother has never exactly been a steady presence in her life, but here Toby realises that there are more family secrets buried than she ever could have imagined. When members of her actual family can't be relied on, it's a great comfort to her to have her chosen family around her, in Quentin, May, Tybalt, Raj and the Luidaeg. It's obvious that while the series as a whole has been leading to this book, this is by no means the end, and it's going to be very interesting to see where Seanan McGuire takes her characters in the coming books.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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