Series Review – October Daye Books 1-7

In honour of its nomination for best series, I dug out my old reviews of the individual October Daye Books.1  Hopefully this will herald a new era of me collecting my previous reviews onto one site.2

Note that these are old reviews I had on goodreads: obviously the format is different, and they were largely written half a decade ago.3

Rosemary and Rue

October Daye is a PI, a changeling and a knight. When a case goes wrong and she gets taken out of the game, she decides to make a break from it, but something happens to pull her back in. So far so urban fantasy 101. In addition, this book suffers the growing pains of a new writer, including exposition dumps, a fractured back story that is referenced enough to make you think you’ve missed a book, and occasionally rough writing.

So why recommend this book? The easy answer would be hindsight: Seanan McGuire has received a record five hugo nominations, and produced a block-buster second series. But the better answer is failure.

While the style here is not noir, the protagonist is built like the best noir detective – she is defined by a personal failure, she is constantly two steps behind, and where she succeeds it is through persistence and not knowing when to quit rather than hyper competency or strength. Everyone around her is prettier, stronger, more dangerous, and has a better idea of what’s going on.

In addition the world shows promise, it appears to be governed by a consistent set of rules, though interestingly only one character seems to have a grip on what they are. The supporting cast varies in strength, but a couple of characters stand out, and the rest feel well fleshed out.

Recommended for urban fantasy fans who don’t want something a little bit different in their leads. Think early Dresden, if he was even less competent and powerful, and the world was a little more brightly coloured.

A Local Habitation

October Daye Book 2 – Don’t start here, if you are interested in this book, read book one first.

October gets sent to silicon valley to chase up her liege’s niece, but when she gets there, she gets caught in a difficult mystery. I previously praised McGuire for introducing a main character who was somewhat less than hyper-competent, and while I still like October, in this book she skirts the edge from out of her depth but tenacious, to just not very good at her job. Add in a somewhat weak plot motivator, with a particularly unfortunate solution, and this represents something of a sophomore slump.

On to the good: while a bit slow, October is still a compelling lead, Quentin gets fleshed out as an interesting companion, the broadening of the world improves it (new fae, shallowings, more on the night haunts), and Tybalt and the Luidaeg continue to be the best of the supporting cast. Connor still seems like a misfire however. The writing also seems a little bit cleaner; the exposition dumps seemed less numerous (though there are now call backs to the previous book that are equally egregious), and the book is a breezy read.

All in all a weaker book than the first, but not weak enough to squander the good will of the first book.

Spoiler comments

The neuromancer meets fae thing was poorly done. It might have been a solid idea, but it did not seem to integrate well with the world, and the way it appeared in the world (static uploads to a computer) seemed like a poor solution to the problem it was purporting to fix. It was made more problematic by the fact that the Dryad in the computer did feel of a cloth with the rest of the world, and worked well with the rest of the story (which is probably why it was the only part of the digital stuff that was kept).

 

An Artificial Night

Book 3 October Daye – Probably best to start with book 1, but an OK place to start.

When a friend’s child is taken, October is forced to turn to the Luidaeg to confront an ancient monster of the fae.

If the last book was a bit of a slump, this is a better realization of Rosemary and Rue’s potential. The fronting of faerie, with its arbitrary rules, strange and broken places, and beings of immense but strangely limited powers elevates this book over the preceding books in the series. October still comes across as perpetually a step behind, but here it feels like an organic consequence of her strange upbringing and the esoteric nature of her world rather than the incompetence it began to feel like in the previous novel.

The biggest pull however is the character development. Quentin becomes a three dimensional character, gaining some agency from his own personal loss, and Luna is spotlighted from the Shadowed Hills crowd. More important is the increasing role of the Luidaeg, not as a Deus ex Machina, but a force within the world who is as valuable for her knowledge of the rules, as her power. Add to this an arc that takes October from underwhelming PI to hero, and the book feels like it has a substantial amount of forward progress.

The only major criticism is the irritation of the primary rhyme, and an ending that feels a little too pat.*

Recommended for fans of fairy abductions, or for fans of the previous books.

 

Spoiler comments

It seems unlikely that October could take Blind Michael, even when he was blind. The silver and Iron thing is a nice touch, but to reconcile this with October’s limitations in a fight is to believe that the Luidaeg was using her more than she knew.

 

Late Eclipses

October Daye book 4 – Either start with the first book or the third book (Rosemary and Rue or an Artificial Night).

Octobers friends are being poisoned, and she believes it is due to the person responsible for putting her in a Koi pond. At the same time, the Queen demands an audience…

The October Daye books have always tried to walk a tight line, trying to put the protagonist in the noir space of being competent and dangerous while always being a step behind. The first book somewhat nailed this tone, while the next two books erred in either making her seem incompetent, or perhaps too competent. This book tries to split the difference, putting the character in a situation where she performs poorly, but does so for understandable reasons, unfortunately this is a choice that drags the book down somewhat (better than book 2, but not as good as the previous book).

While the reintroduction of Oleander seems like it should provide major forward momentum for some of the meta plot of this series, with the exception of fleshing out Rayseline, it is largely squandered until the end of the book.* It also suffers from a case of lock and key plotting, it feels a bit like one problem is introduced solely to solve another problem.

A solid book but still disappointing compared to the previous outing. Worth reading, but only as the sequel to Artificial night. The ending however points in a positive direction, suggesting better things ahead.

Spoiler section.

One drag on the series so far has been that a meta plot was introduced (Kidnapping, evil brother, Koi pond), but has been used only as a traumatic background for the characters. Here we finally get some meta plot (oleander and Rayseline), but it it feels self contained to the book, rather than part of some ongoing meta plot.

The end of the book however pulls some interesting threads together including why everyone knows October’s mother (she’s firstborn), why October seems to have slightly different abilities from the other Daoine Sidhe (she isn’t one), and also finds a way to organically boost October’s powers (gift from her mother). Add in a mad antagonist in the form of Rayseline, and you have the groundwork for an interesting follow up.

One Salt Sea

October Daye Book 5 – Start with book 1 (Rosemary and Rue) or book 3 (An artificial Night)

The Luidaeg calls upon October to avert a war between the undersea and land fae by recovering kidnapped children.

This book represents a major step forward for the series. The plotting is better, October appears competent at her job (PI), and the repercussions of the ending of the previous novel are carried through this book. It helps that it focuses on the Luidaeg, who is still the MVP of the October Daye books, scary and kind, mysterious, and, as we discover in this book, respected in the ocean rather than feared. Even better, it fleshes out Octobers relationship with her non-fairy family.

From a writing standpoint, there is a better balance between serious and humorous passages, and as always, the characters are well developed. Even the ticks of McGuire’s previous efforts, the repetitive checking off of previous events and minor exposition dumps, seem better integrated. If you’ve enjoyed the previous books, this is a treat (and why are you bothering reading reviews.

Recommended, particularly for urban fantasy fans and fairy fans.

 

Spoiler section

There are a number of things in the book that elevate it. The idea that the war would really be a massacre, the reveal about the Roanne and the Selkies, and the growing network of allies that October is accumulating (she practically has a crime lab now). I also like that her weird ability to survive is accounted for, it’s part of her particular brand of fae.

As for the ending, it was telegraphed pretty early, and pretty much clears the way for the next obvious suitor. More interesting is the choice of her daughter, it cuts a loose thread, while sticking a pretty big knife into the main character.

 

Ashes of Honor

October Daye, Book 6 – Start with Book 1 (Rosemary and Rue) or Book 3 (An Artificial Night)

October is called upon once again to rescue a child in trouble. By book six, you are either a fan or a completionist, so a review is almost unnecessary, but here goes. This book represents a step back from the series high of the last book. It’s not a catastrophic misstep, but it feels a bit recycled, missing child, extended background on a previous supporting character, more fae, and most notably, little forward movement. It still features all the good things in this series such as deep characters and an interesting and consistent universe, but this one feels like spinning wheels.

Recommended for anyone who has liked any of the previous books.

 

Chimes and Midnight

October Daye, Book 7 – Start with Book 1 (Rosemary and Rue) or Book 3 (An Artificial Night)

October Daye tries to stamp out supernatural drugs amongst the changelings, but meets resistance from the gentry. At this stage, if you are reading October Daye reviews, you have a pretty good idea what you are in for. Unfortunately, the author still feels the need to insert clunky exposition in to catch readers up to speed. Once past this however, this book represents a shift, pulling threads from previous books and spinning the series in a new direction. While not up to the best of the series, this actually leaves me hopeful towards future volumes.

Recomended for all October fans.

 

Spoilers ahoy.

The big thing here is not the deposing of the local queen, but the shifting of the series mythology towards the relationship between the Luidaeg and October. By reframing their relationship, it recasts the earlier books in the series (though I wonder if the early interaction between the two are really consistent with the new backstory). The idea that the Luidaeg needs October for something is a far more intriguing throughline then the kidnapping of the earlier books. This combined with the larger cast, and intriguing new ideas like the library have the potential to drastically open up the world.

Also the shoe finally dropped on everybodies favourite Canadian: about time.

  1. I like to show my work.
  2. Hopefully is doing a lot of work in this sentence.
  3. As part of the good reads reviews I put star ratings on the books, something I tend to avoid on my blog as I think it distracts from the review, but that I think is hugely valuable on an aggregator site like goodreads.  I also hope my writing has improved since then.

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