Review: A Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire

A Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire

A Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire (October Daye #9)

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: DAW on September 1, 2015

Audio: Mary Robinette Kowal for Audible Studios

Source: Purchased

Rating StarRating StarRating StarRating Star

Things are looking up.

For the first time in what feels like years, October “Toby” Daye has been able to pause long enough to take a breath and look at her life—and she likes what she sees.

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I don’t know how she does it, but Seanan McGuire continues to surprise, delight, and shock me with this series – even as far in as book nine! In the interest of avoiding spoilers, this review is going to be a bit vague when it comes to the actual plot of A RED-ROSE CHAIN and the previous books in the series, focusing instead on why I was so damn impressed by it.

Using tiny nuggets from the earliest books in the series, Seanan McGuire expands Toby’s world and adds new creatures, new kingdoms, and new powers to the mix that work perfectly within her original schema. Recent character development among the main and secondary characters can also be traced back to their experiences in the earliest books, which blows my mind. The amount of planning that must have gone into this series is truly staggering.

This series has spent considerable time grappling with the idea of “unbelonging,” the feeling that because of your differences, people look down upon or even hate you and all that you stand for. Given that Toby’s the central character of the series, it’s not surprising that her changeling status has primarily been the focus of this feeling of unbelonging; however, I was really excited to see another character step out of the shadows and into the spotlight so we could explore their struggle to conform to the strictures of Faerie – and the human world. Once again, McGuire shows her commitment to representing queer characters in a sub-genre that is on the whole woefully lacking in sexual diversity, and I couldn’t be more pleased to see it.

Fae Court politics also comes into play in A RED-ROSE CHAIN when Toby is sent on a diplomatic mission to a neighbouring kingdom to prevent a war. I really enjoyed seeing the gang navigate their way through the rigid social hierarchy and formal etiquette – with more than a few stumbles, of course – since Toby has typically operated outside the bounds of the Courts up until this point. The Kingdom of Silences is very different from Toby’s home in the Mists, ruled over by a king whose desire to achieve a kind of Fae racial purity strikes a chord with many of the more traditional, rules-bound Fae. Every fantasy series, regardless of sub-genre, needs a villain whose thing is racial purity – it’s basically the law. But once again, McGuire puts her own unique spin on things and made King Rhys one of the creepiest villains I’ve read about in ages.

Seanan McGuire’s ability to weave in and out of various styles continues to impress me. Having recently read several of her books from different universes each with completely different tone, I feel confident saying that McGuire can write anything…. and she can write it well. Over the course of the last two years, she has slowly, quietly become one of my absolute favourite authors and I automatically buy her new releases. Whether you’re looking for light-hearted or dark urban fantasy, mournful ghost stories or social commentary disguised as lyrical portal fantasy, Seanan McGuire has you covered.

I highly recommend the October Daye series to virtually everyone who enjoys urban fantasy. A RED-ROSE CHAIN proves that Toby and her friends have staying power, and their stories aren’t in any danger of becoming stale.

What long-running series continues to impress you? Do you plan to read the October Daye books? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Lynn Williams

    I love this series and can’t wait to get uptodate – I didn’t read your review because obviously being only up to No.4 (I think!) it might have spoilers for past books so I’m being careful – I just noticed a Daye book over on Netgalley – have you seen that one?
    Lynn 😀

    • This series is amazing! I seriously love Seanan McGuire. I’ll read anything by her at this point, haha. OMG, no! I haven’t seen it yet. Looks like I need to scamper off to Netgalley and request that one! Thanks for the heads up, Lynn. 🙂

  • I really wish I had continued with this series after the first book – I mean, I still have plans to, but I just don’t know when. It seems that a lot of UF series start off so-so to decent, and then as the story arc builds upon what’s already established, they start to get AMAZING around books 3-5. I’ve heard this is the case with October Daye and others, so I really just have to get off my butt and catch up to the point where I can hit my stride 🙂

    • Yep, you’re totally right: most UF series start good and ramp up over time. Personally I think that this series gets there a bit faster than others, as it really hits its stride around book 3.

      Good luck with the catch up! The audiobooks are really well done so that’s a good option to fly through the series.

  • I looooooooooove this series

    • Me too! I can’t wait for book 10 – which isn’t something I say very often, haha.

  • This series is on my TBR list, and I have the first book in both paperback and Kindle. But I’m curious: which of her series falls in the light-hearted urban fantasy category? Because I get the impression this series is dark urban fantasy.

    • Thanks, Lark! That’s the problem with reviewing UF series: they’re so long-running that it can be tricky to say anything without spoilers. I really hope you enjoy Rosemary and Rue, I thought it was a very strong series debut.

      Oh yeah, the Toby Daye books are definitely dark urban fantasy. But McGuire’s InCryptid books, about a family of monster zoologists, are way more light-hearted!

  • Wow, #9?? This is a series I keep hearing about but I feel as if being a review blogger I’ll never be able to go back and catch up. But so glad you’re still enjoying it!

    • I know, haha! It’s crazy to think that I only started reading this series two years ago! Getting in on the ground floor of a long-running series is pretty much the only way to keep up these days.

  • I’m starting to see great long fantasys being raved about, awesome review will add to mt TBR list!!

    • Thanks, Tori! There are some really great long-running series out there, but I think the Toby Daye series is one of the best. I hope you enjoy it! 🙂

  • Holy cow! I didn’t realize that this series was already in book 9. I’ve been meaning to give it a shot for a while. Looks like I have quite a bit of catching up to do. Glad to see that you enjoyed it. When a series starts getting near the double digit range I start to get nervous. It seems like that’s where some series kind of start beating a dead horse. Glad to see this one doesn’t seem to be doing that.

    • UF series become unwieldy so quickly, what with most of them releasing a book every 8 months or so. Talk about a long backlist, haha.

      I completely agree, I start to get antsy when there’s no end in sight and the characters/plot/world building starts to feel stale (this happened to me with Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series). But thankfully McGuire’s got the touch and she’s kept this series fresh and interesting!

  • Since reading Every Heart a Doorway I have had McGuire’s name dancing around my head. I knew that she was already a well-established writer after I read EHAD but had never heard of any of her series, so I’m really excited after reading your review!! There aren’t too many long series on my shelves (somehow?), but this series seems like it’d be a great place to start! So glad I read this review!!!

    • Seanan McGuire is probably one of the most prolific SFF writers around at the moment, and the crazy thing is that all of her work is good – if not exceptional – quality. I don’t know how she does it! The Toby Daye series is one of my personal favourites because I never get tired of the world or the characters, even after 10 books. It’s very different in style from EHAD, but I think you’ll enjoy it Katelynn!