Monday 14 September 2015

#CBR7 Book 91: "A Red-Rose Chain" by Seanan McGuire

Page count: 368 pages
Rating: 4 stars

This is book 9 in the October Daye series. Standard disclaimers about spoilers if you're not caught up. Book one, Rosemary and Rue, is the place to start if this series is entirely new to you. It's also the September 2015 pick for the Vaginal Fantasy book club.

Just as October "Toby" Daye, changeling knight and hero of multiple faerie kingdoms seems to be catching a break, having things go her way for a change, there are unexpected developments in the court of queen Arden Windermere and Toby is sent as an ambassador to the neighbouring kingdom of Silences (located in Portland), with only three days to prevent a war. King Rhys of the Silences was given his throne by the former Queen of the Mists, who was ousted when Toby discovered she was an impostor and located Arden Windermere to take her rightful place on the throne. It's safe to say that he's unlikely to be very receptive to Toby's entreaties of peace, especially since he is also rumoured to hate and revile changelings.

While the Toby of old might have thrown herself into danger by herself, now Toby has friends, allies and a fiancee who isn't about to let her leave his side if he can help it. Toby travels to the Silences with the King of Cats, her squire Quentin, her adopted sister May, her pet rose goblin and Walther, a former resident of the Silences. While they think they are prepared for anything, what they find when they arrive is worse than they had even imagined and it's clear that their three days are not going to simple or peaceful ones. Toby is facing an enemy from her past she was hoping never to see again, and is going to have to use all her wits and allies to get out of the Silences alive.

It wouldn't be a very exciting Toby Daye book if all Toby did was sit around, flirting with Tybalt and planning her future wedding, bantering with Quentin and May and generally just going about her daily chores. Her sudden promotion to diplomat startles her, but as the Silences' declaration of war was to shoot queen Windermere's seneschal with elf shot (meaning he will sleep for a hundred years), and the new queen is young and new to the throne, there really aren't that many people around her she can trust and Toby has already proven her worth with a number of heroic deeds. Besides, it quickly becomes clear that our favourite changeling knight isn't being sent to negotiate so much as cause a distraction and stall as much as possible, while the kingdom of the Mists can prepare for imminent attack.

It's always fun to see the world of a beloved series expanding and while the Silences is clearly a faerie kingdom where there is a whole lot of badness and wrong going on, it was also interesting to see how it was being run and had been run in the past. Walther, Toby's alchemist friend, turns out to have ties to the former royal family, who were put out of commission when King Rhys took power. He really doesn't want to return there, preferring to stay at Berkeley to teach chemistry and working towards his tenure, but he can't really refuse a direct request from his friend either.

While I found the first couple of books in this series a bit slow going (I liked them a lot better when re-reading the series a few years back), I have been pretty much hooked since I was a third into book three, and for the last four years (maybe five now), I've been counting the days from when I finish one book until the next is released. It's one of my favourite series, both because of the interesting mix of paranormal and real world ideas, combined with an excellent protagonist and a wonderful supporting cast. The previous book in the series was one of those game-changer books that finished off a lot of plot threads and revealed a whole load of things that had been hinted at for years. This book is relatively quiet in comparison, but still a very good read. As in most urban fantasy, there is a good range of diverse and complex female characters, but there McGuire is very good at representation with regards to different sexual preferences and identities, without it being made any kind of special issue of. In this, there was even a trans-gender character, which isn't something I think I've come across in paranormal fantasy before.

Since I have to wait another year for Toby Daye 10, I really should check out McGuire's InCryptid series, which I've also heard very good things about.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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