Sunday 6 October 2019

#CBR11 Book 71: "The Unkindest Tide" by Seanan McGuire

Page count: 368 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Spoiler warning! This is book 13 in a series, and really not the place to start. The first book is Rosemary and Rue, that's where you want to begin, if you're interested.

Official book description:
Hundreds of years ago, the Selkies made a deal with the sea witch: they would have the sea for as long as she allowed it, and when the time came, she would call in all their debts at once. Many people assumed that day would never come. Those people were wrong.

When the Luidaeg—October "Toby" Daye's oldest and most dangerous ally—tells her the time has come for the Selkies to fulfill their side of the bargain, and that Toby must be a part of the process, Toby can't refuse. Literally. The Selkies aren't the only ones in debt to the Luidaeg, and Toby has to pay what she owes like anyone else. They will travel to the fabled Duchy of Ships and call a convocation of the Selkies, telling them to come and meet the Luidaeg's price...or face the consequences.

Of course, nothing is that simple. When Dianda Lorden's brother appears to arrest Dianda for treason against the Undersea, when a Selkie woman is stripped of her skin and then murdered, when everything is falling apart, that's when Toby will have to answer the real question of the hour.

Is she going to sink? Or is she going to swim?

The Luidaeg, or Sea Witch, may be feared across Faerie, but to October "Toby" Daye, she is her crabby aunt, and very much considered an important part of Toby's ever growing family. It's  also an undeniable fact that Toby would have died more than once without the aid of the Luidaeg, not to mention mourning her dead daughter. Toby owes the Luidaeg several tremendous debts and couldn't refuse if she wanted to when the sea witch shows up on her doorstep and announces that it's time for the Selkies to come to an end, and the Roane (a nearly extinct faerie species) to be born again, through the aid of Toby's unique magic. Since Toby's half-human, half-changeling daughter is now a Selkie herself, Toby is concerned about what is to happen, but has no choice but to accompany the Luidaeg to the Duchy of Ships.

Not that she will travel alone, that would never do for a legendary hero and faerie knight. Her fiance Tybalt, King of Cats, refuses to leave her side, and she can't really go anywhere without her loyal squire, Quentin. It turns out that others have an interest in this momentous event, so there are representatives from the Kingdom of the Mists as well.

Even if this wasn't a fraught and dangerous magical event on its own, it's not like Toby can go anywhere without getting into trouble. While at the Duchy of Ships (where they meet a new and unexpected Firstborn - the Luidaeg isn't Toby's only living aunt!), Toby not only has to ensure that the coup to seize the throne of the Undersea fails, in addition to solving a murder. As luck would have it, the two cases turn out to be connected, but before all the guilty parties have been brought to justice, Toby faces terrible danger and loses frightful amounts of blood. I'm assuming Seanan McGuire has some sort of spreadsheet where she logs how many different ways she's brought her heroine nearly to death's door now. When your protagonist is nearly invincible, you can take such liberties, but it's still just as gruelling as a reader to anticipate how Toby's going to find most of her insides on the outside at some point in the book (and then get all better).

The books in this series sometimes have very high stakes and move the arc forward considerably, while others are more "episode of the week", in a way. This one, book 13 in the series, is one of the ones where nothing too monumental seems to happen and it's not like the entire status quo shifts once more. It was still a very comforting read (the dangers to Toby notwithstanding). Seanan McGuire clearly has a lot more in store for Toby and the others populating the series, she's contracted for at least four more novels, and I for one, couldn't be happier about it.

Judging a book by its cover: Unlike most of Ilona Andrews' books, Seanan McGuire really tends to have great covers. I really like pretty much all of the covers in the October Daye series, and this is no exception. Toby looking out over the waters from the side of a ship, looking pensive, yet dangerous. I like the warm tones and light surrounding her.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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