Publisher: DAW on March 2, 2010
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal
Audio: Brilliance Audio
October “Toby” Daye is a changeling, the daughter of Amandine of the fae and a mortal man. Like her mother, she is gifted in blood magic, able to read what has happened to a person through a mere taste of blood. Toby is the only changeling who has earned knighthood, and she re-earns that position every day, undertaking assignments for her liege, Sylvester, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills.
Now Sylvester has asked her to go to the County of Tamed Lightning—otherwise known as Fremont, CA—to make sure that all is well with his niece, Countess January O’Leary, whom he has not been able to contact. It seems like a simple enough assignment—but when dealing with the realm of Faerie nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Toby soon discovers that someone has begun murdering people close to January, whose domain is a buffer between Sylvester’s realm and a scheming rival duchy. If Toby can’t find the killer soon, she may well become the next victim.
When I need a break from all the heavy reading at school, knowing that an audiobook is waiting at home perks me right up. Although though I’ve only read about two instalments in the October Daye series so far, I already know that I’m in it for the long haul…even though A LOCAL HABITATION didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
Toby’s liege lord Duke Sylvester Torquil has tasked her with checking in on his niece, the Countess January O’Leary of Tamed Lightning. Should be no problem, except for the fact that Toby is a magnet for trouble. Tamed Lightning presents a unique set of troubling circumstances, since it’s independent from the feudal society of Faerie: it is an independent state, a small kingdom ruled by January and inhabited by a small number of Fae misfits and unwitting humans. When Toby arrives and finds that January’s people are being systematically and mysteriously murdered she jumps headfirst into the investigation.
Unfortunately the insular community is reluctant to give Toby any answers, and most of her time is spent trying to get someone to tell her the truth.
Honestly, A Local Habitation kind of felt like filler. There wasn’t enough time dedicated to the characters that had been introduced in Rosemary and Rue – there was an appalling shortage of Tybalt, for one thing – and I found it difficult to care overly much about the new people we met in Tamed Ligthtning since I rightly figured they wouldn’t be around long. I did like the development of Toby’s relationship with Quentin, the young page from Duke Torquil’s court, Shadowed Hills. He takes up the mantle of Toby’s assistant while she’s investigating the murders in Tamed Lightning, and we really get to see a different side of him. Those of you who may remember Quentin as the petulant and slightly racist teenager from the first book of the series will find that he’s undergone significant growth. By working with Toby he’s come to realize that the pure blood’s derision towards changelings is just that: racism that reflects nothing about actual changelings. Oh, he’s still a proud and stubborn 16 year-old, but Q has definitely smartened up.
So while I had some issues with this one, it wasn’t all bad – far from it, in fact! While I may not have been invested in the new characters introduced in A Local Habitation I did think that they were fascinating. McGuire expands her world building by introducing several new types of Fae, including a man whose human glamour conceals his wings. WINGS! So many authors are too afraid of that evil blonde Tinker Bell to go for the winged fairy, which I think is a shame. McGuire pairs this new fae species with a few others: we learn more about the Coblynau, Faery’s metal smiths, and we’re introduced to a couple people whose magical abilities are so appalling that they cause Toby to lose her shit when she discovers them.
At first I thought Tamed Lightning was only a tech company as a gag, but boy was I ever proved wrong. The BIG REVEAL, the reason behind all the deaths is inextricable from the work January and her team are doing. There were some twists that I called early on, but the ultimate reveal was one I didn’t see coming at all. I’ve got to hand it to her, Seanan McGuire pairs the magic and tradition of Faerie with the technological advancements of the 21st century beautifully; this combination results in a nuanced of conservatism as represented by Faerie society and social isolation as represented by humanity’s reliance on technology to keep us connected.
A fun and entertaining read, A Local Habitation suffers a bit from the second book slump but at its conclusion seems to be driving the series in the right direction. I’m hoping for a return to Toby’s home court (pun intended) in San Francisco in the next book and the return of some familiar faces.