A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire
Synopsis from GoodReads:
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.
So I left a pretty negative review for book 1, despite liking it. And, unfortunately, I’m finding that some of my prior complaints remained here. Not all of them, thankfully, but a few. Namely, the ‘Everybody Wants Her’ thing for Toby (once again I counted three people coming onto her in various ways) and the bad guy’s motivation (which was almost exactly the same as the motivation for the bad guy from book 1 IIRC).
But I still love what McGuire is doing with the fae. Once again she’s managed to capture everything I love about them. “Poster children for ADD” (that’s pretty much a direct quote from the book); check. Spoiled child mentality; check. Play games while the house is burning down; check. Awesome and terrible; check and check. McGuire gets the Fair Folk and I love how she depicts them, showing all the different things they can be with her varied cast.
And I got a much better feel for Toby in this book now that she’s no longer just reacting to things. I don’t love her, not yet, but I definitely like her as a character. I like that we’re shown her competence and the way she maneuvers through the world of the fae and the way she compensates for her weaknesses. I’m not sure how I feel about the way there is absolutely no mention of her human family in this book since that’s a major plot thread left dangling after the last book and considering how much she thought about them, but that’s a minor quibble compared to how happy I am that I feel like I finally got to see HER.
Another thing I liked was that the bad guy wasn’t as obvious this time. Knowing the fae, and knowing the way McGuire writes the fae, I knew that everyone was a suspect for the murders. I was ultimately a little surprised by the who and the why, but we’ve seen this motive before and it’s no more interesting this time than it was last. The summary of book 3 makes me think that at least we’ll get a new bad guy motive next time, but for this time it just made me think of book 1.
And oh thank goodness the stakes got dialed back. If you push too hard too fast in urban fantasy then all too often the only way to go is higher and bigger (just look at the TV show Supernatural and how quickly its seasons had to reach for bigger and badder evils). Thankfully McGuire was able to turn down the heat for this book, or so it felt to me. Especially considering the comparative weakness of Toby when weighed against the pure-blooded fae.
This review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my favorite character, the Luidaeg. I wish we could’ve seen a bit more of the evolution of the relationship between her and Toby instead of just being told about it, but that doesn’t stop me from loving what we saw of it – and her. I’m very hopeful that we’ll continue to see her in future installments because she’s just great and I love the way her and Toby interact. And the reasons that they do.
If you like the Fair Folk in their natural form (terrifying) and you don’t mind some cliches or obvious plot points, try giving the October Daye series a try. You might just like it.
3.5 out of 5 stars.