Sunday, 31 October 2021

#CBR13 Book 52: "When Sorrows Come" by Seanan McGuire

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars

CBR13 Bingo: Flora (there are a number of trees in the background and Toby appears to be holding a rose in her left hand. She also has a belt of roses on her dress)

Spoiler warning! This is book 15 (!) in the ongoing October Daye series. So very much not the place to start. There will be spoilers for previous books in the series in this review, although I shall try to avoid any big ones for the contents of this current book. Rosemary and Rue is the place to begin. 

It is finally time. October "Toby" Daye is going to marry her long-time fiancee, Tybalt, King of Cats and because she specifically asked everyone involved not to bother her with any details about the wedding, except when and where to show up, she is rather taken aback when she's told that she and all her friends will be travelling to Toronto, to the seat of the High King in less than 24 hours, for her nuptials to take place at the end of seven days. She is also very surprised to discover that Quentin, her loyal squire and pretty much adopted son at this point, has gone and changed not just his face by magic, but his entire self and faerie species, to be able to stand by her side at her wedding, without anyone at his home realising who he really is. Quentin's deal with the Luideag can only be reversed after he sees her duly married to Tybalt. They both have to stay alive and the event has to take place before the magic can be undone. The Sea Witch isn't going to let Toby find any further excuses to get out of her own wedding.

Of course, this is a major event involving Sir Toby Daye, hero of several realms, now known as a king-breaker in more than one capacity. Of course, the seven days before the wedding aren't going to pass quietly with Toby just having to attend dress fittings or try to figure out the various details involving strange etiquette that the ceremony will contain. Oh no, when Toby shows up somewhere, there are suddenly surprise insurrection attempts, people having been replaced by deadly doppelgangers, assassination attempts and so many bodies starting to pile up. Toby is forced to try to figure out who is trying to murder High King Sollys, the father of her beloved squire, not to mention try to steal his throne and kingdom. She also needs to make sure no one realises that Oberon, the King of all Faerie is one of the guests at the wedding (the Luideag insisted on bringing him along in disguise) or that the Crown Prince currently looks like a stranger. 

Toby herself is almost impossible to kill (she's not even sure she CAN die, at this point), but it would be nice to make it to her wedding day without anyone else in the wedding party being killed in the hunt for the traitors. It would also ruin the ceremony if the hosts, the High King and Queen (who also happen to be Quentin's parents) are dead and their rule usurped by some power-hungry rival. So Toby proceeds to do what she does best, investigate while trying to provoke as many people as possible, hoping to find the guilty parties before it's too late, and her own wedding is ruined. 

I'm not going to lie, the title of this book and the fact that McGuire has been finding reasons for this binding union between Toby and Tybalt to be postponed for so many books by now had me actually peeking at the last pages, just to make sure Tybalt actually survived long enough to make it to the altar. I was terrified that one of the "sorrows" of the title was going to be Toby becoming a widow before she was even a wife, and I was not ready to see Tybalt getting fridged. So SPOILER, I guess - Tybalt lives and he and Toby end this book as man and wife, which did not seem a given at the beginning of the story.

I also don't think Toby got disembowelled a single time in this book, which makes for a welcome change. She mostly manages to keep all of her blood inside her body. Aided by Tybalt, May, Raj, the disguised Quentin and a bunch of her other close friends and hangers-on, Toby is able to figure out who is replacing valued members of the High King's court with doppelgangers and trying to assassinate him before it's time for her to walk down the aisle (except faerie wedding ceremonies are a lot more complicated than the bride just walking down a straight stretch of ground). 

Because I had peeked at the ending, I was able to enjoy the book entirely, since I didn't need to worry that Tybalt, Raj or Quentin suddenly kick the bucket. There's a lot of different court officials for Toby to negotiate with to be allowed to do her job properly and my impression of the High Court of Toronto is that Quentin can't have had all that much fun growing up. There are some very touching scenes both between him and Toby and Tybalt and Toby in the book. Toby also has a very cathartic talk with her stepdad, Simon, now legally considered her father in all the ways that matter in faerie. 

There is also a novella at the end of the book, which really just acts as an extended epilogue, where we get to see what Toby and Tybalt's actual wedding feast is like. I'm guessing it was added as an optional extra to keep the page count of the novel within acceptable limits, but it's still a very fun read and it makes sense to just keep reading once you get to the end of the book proper. 

Since this is book 15, and storylines that were set up several books ago are finished off, this is not a book for beginners. If you're already a fan of the Toby Daye books, however, you should enjoy this installment as well. 

Judging a book by its cover: Upon first glance, I thought the cover was badly designed and inappropriate, for reasons I don't want to go into without spoiling some lovely details of the plot. Upon closer inspection, I can see that some of my objections are due to unfortunate colour choices when it comes to shading and the like for Toby's dress, and I may in fact have been completely wrong. It's a suitably dramatic cover, as always. I really like the cover art on these books. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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