Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: DAW on March 1, 2011
Audio Rights: Brilliance Audio, narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal
October “Toby” Daye, changeling knight in the service of Duke Sylvester Torquill, finds the delicate balance of her life shattered when she learns that an old friend is in dire trouble.Lily, Lady of the Tea Gardens, has been struck down by a mysterious, seemingly impossible illness, leaving her fiefdom undefended. Struggling to find a way to save Lily and her subjects, Toby must confront her own past as an enemy she thought was gone forever raises her head once more: Oleander de Merelands, one of the two people responsible for her fourteen-year exile.
Time is growing short and the stakes are getting higher, for the Queen of the Mists has her own agenda. With everything on the line, Toby will have to take the ultimate risk to save herself and the people she loves most—because if she can’t find the missing pieces of the puzzle in time, Toby will be forced to make the one choice she never thought she’d have to face again…
Reading the next instalment in one of my favourite UF series always feels like coming home; LATE ECLIPSES, the fourth book in the October Daye series, was no exception.
Toby has made a lot of friends in her service as knight to the Duchy of Shadowed Hills, but sometimes it seems like she’s made even more enemies. Everyone and their mama are gunning for her, and this time they’re aiming to kill. And the unstable, possibly insane Fae mercenary Oleander de Merelands is chief among them. Fans of the series may remember Oleander as the woman whose actions led to Toby’s cursed existence as a fish – for 14 years. Water log aside, that little move cost Toby her fiancé and her daughter…because disappearing for more than a decade then reappearing with no credible explanation doesn’t usually end well. So when whispers of Oleander’s return to San Francisco reach Toby’s ears, she’s understandably put on the defensive. But with bodies piling up and Toby looking more and more guilty, the people closest to her begin to wonder: is Oleander behind it all, or has Toby’s changeling blood finally driven her mad?
As one might expect in a book with so many deaths and so much suspicion, there are some seriously heartbreaking losses for Toby in LATE ECLIPSES. Those losses will undoubtedly have far-reaching consequences for Toby and her friends. That’s one of my favourite things about this series, actually: there are no dangling or forgotten plot threads. Seanan McGuire always impresses me with her ability to plot this series, ensuring that events from the series’ debut continue to reverberate even in this fourth book.
Talking about long-term series plot arcs, we come to the scene-stealer of this series: Tybalt, Cait Sidhe and the King of Cats. At this point in the series the only person who remains unaware of Tybalt’s feelings for Toby is the lady in question. Honestly, I think she’s being willfully blind in hopes that if she doesn’t address it, her own confused feelings for him will fade away. To that I say: ha! Not bloody likely. But anything between her and the King of Cats has always been messy, messier by far than a relationship with Connor, the other man in her life. It’s obvious who’s endgame for Toby, but the course of true love never did run smooth and all that.
Those of you who like your romantic subplots light need not fear because LATE ECLIPSES is, more than anything, a book about Toby. Who she is, where she comes from…and subsequently her more unusual Fae talents. Some questions that have been niggling at the back of my mind throughout the whole series about why it is that she can do what she does are finally answered. Of course, this is Faerie we’re talking about, so those answers are actually more like questions. But they’re questions that bring us closer to Toby’s true nature than ever before, and that has me excited.
Another seriously exciting prospect? The strong hint that Toby will be getting a squire in the next book. I’m positively giddy to think that her partnership with the young pure-blooded Quentin might become a more formal arrangement. Although there’s always the chance that Quentin might end up squired (Squired? Is that the correct term?) to someone other than Toby, I don’t think it’s likely. Everyone knows what fast friends those two are.
As always, the audio narration by Mary Robinette Kowal was fantastic. How she’s able to create such distinct voices even for the most minor characters – and then recall them three books later when they become more important – is completely beyond me. I unreservedly recommend any audiobook she narrates because she’s the real deal. Combine that with Seanan McGuire’s writing and characters and you’ve got a winning formula.