Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: March 2 2010
MMP: 400 pages
Stand alone or series: Book 2 in the October Daye series
Toby Daye-a half-human, half-fae changeling-has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world had other ideas…
Now her liege, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills, has asked Toby to go to the Country of Tamed Lightening to make sure all is well with his niece, Countess January O’Leary. It seems like a simple enough assignment-until Toby discovers that someone has begun murdering people close to January, and that if the killer isn’t stopped, January may be the next victim.
Why did we read this book: We both read and lovedthe first in the series
How did we get this book: We both received ARCs from the author
Ana: Rosemary and Rue was one of my favourite books from 2009 and one of the best debuts I ever read. I absolutely loved it and I have been waiting anxiously to read A Local Habitation ever since. And what can I say? It surpasses my expectations and it is an even better book than the first one because it maintains the top quality of the writing, of the world-building and the character-driven narrative at the same time that it resolves some of the minor issues I had with the previous book (but more on that later).
Thea: I truly enjoyed Seanan McGuire’s first book in this series, Rosemary & Rue – and as someone that is largely burnt out on Urban Fantasy, this is sayin’ a LOT. So, I was more than eager to read A Local Habitation, and when Seanan Mcguire offered us an ARC, we jumped at the opportunity! And I’m happy to say that A Local Habitation is just as winsome and compulsively readable as Rosemary & Rue. I completely agree with Ana on this one; A Local Habitation takes the intriguing world and characters from the first novel, and builds upon it, creating an altogether awesome reading experience.
On The Plot:
Ana: It’s been a few months since the events of Rosemary and Rue and Toby is still adapting to life as human. She is working as a PI in San Francisco distanced from the Faerie world. But as a Knight of Shadowed Hills, when her Liege, the Duke Sylvester tasks her to investigate the possible disappearance of his niece January, she can’t say no. Toby then travels to the county of Tamed Lightening, in the company of Quentin a foster of the court. There she finds out that January might be alive and well but some of her friends have been murdered in mysterious circumstances. Toby launches a murder investigation which turns out to be more dangerous than she originally thought.
Open parenthesis. Let me start by saying that the book opens with a GREAT scene between Toby and her friend/not-friend Tybalt, a scene full of snark and awesome dialogue that had be giggling like a lunatic. This means that from the get go, I am already predisposed to enjoy the book because the Tybalt and Toby relationship is one of my favoritest things about the series. Close parenthesis.
In terms of plotting, I thought A Local Habitation to be perfectly well-balanced in terms of drama, suspense, character development always with the background of court intrigue and politics.
Even though I totally called both major plot points, one about a character and who the main culprit was, (damn me and my Agatha Christie addition), I was still very much sucked in, because I never guessed the motivation and once all was said and done, it fit perfectly with the overall story: Seanan McGuire seems to be deftly expanding and exploring her world by shaping it to new realities as well as revealing them to the reader. I was enchanted – no other work for it, with the new things I discovered about the different types of beings in this world.
One of the issues both Thea and I with the first book was how Toby, even though she was PI, she ended up reacting more than acting in her investigative process. This time around, I thought her to be much more in-practice and I totally bought her role as a PI, although in certain sequences I was immensely frustrated at how she simply did not ask the right questions or was more decisive. Nevertheless, definite progress was made.
Thea: What Ana said. I think that in terms of story, A Local Habitation balances action, mystery and character very well. Paced at a nice cruising speed, it’s a book that can be read fairly quickly. Even more, it’s actually a book that someone new to the series could probably pick up and not be lost in the reading – which is both a good and a bad thing. On the positive side, Ms. McGuire summarizes things nicely in this book, allowing new readers to jump in without feeling lost. On the negative end of the spectrum, however, I was disappointed with the lack of continuity between this book and the first novel – as Ana says, the storyline of Toby and her former husband and daughter are almost completely ignored in this book, as are all of the soul-searching questions and heartache Toby dealt with in Rosemary & Rue. I like that the plot is moving onward and upward, but I do wish there was more examination of these prior issues and problems from the first book in this second novel. (However, looking on the bright side again, this means there’s more material to cover in the next book in the series!)
From a pure plotting standpoint, as a mystery novel, A Local Habitation is a good yarn, if a little bit predictable. You know who the villain is from the get-go, and as Ana remarks (man, we are on the same wavelength today!) it’s frustrating to see a character as sharp as Toby having such DUH! moments, not connecting the dots or asking the painfully obvious questions. That said, this is a plot device that many authors do like to use (Richelle Mead is notorious for this in her Succubus and Vampire Academy books), and boils down to a matter of taste. I like a little less transparency, but what the hell do I know!
These complaints aside, I do have to say that Seanan McGuire has a knack for writing a damn good story. The popular wave of Urban Fantasy is dominated by vampires and shapeshifters, but Ms. McGuire’s fey creatures are memorable and distinct. Plus, can I just say how much I love that she has a pronunciation guide at the front of the book for all the tricky Gaelic fey names and classifications (of the countless times I have seen different variations of “Sidhe” in novels, I only now know how to pronounce it).
And on one last note, I gotta say I agree with Ana re:Tybalt. He’s fun, and I do so love the interactions between he and Toby (awww, Tybalt and Toby!).
On the Characters:
Ana: If the plot works and is what really propels the novel, the characters are what give its flair. Starting with the protagonist Toby. As a Daoine Sidhe changeling (half Faerie, half human – not really any of those things or maybe two much of both?) she has the ability to garner memories from people’s blood. That in itself is a major source of conflict because she is not as powerful as her mother (one of the best Blood Riders) and has to live up to her fame. We also mentioned before that one of the best things about Toby is how underpowered she is but that will never stop her from doing what she absolutely has to do. In Rosemary and Rue she was constantly in danger and at the brink of death. It is not very different here, but this time around, she is very much conscious of her limitations and she carries around a baseball bat and a knife for example. It is good and refreshing to see a heroine who learns from her mistakes.
Although she is prone to making new ones: like for example in her relationship with Connor. The guy is married to someone who is 1) powerful and 2) hates Toby’s guts. What exactly does Toby think she is doing by getting so close? I didn’t like Connor in the first book and he is slightly more palatable here (ok,much more palatable) and they clearly have a sweet story but still. Danger, Will Robinson much?
The author does not visit her relationship with her former fiancée and daughter as I had hoped (in fact I don’t remember Toby thinking about the kid once), I understood that it would have been out of place to do so given the circumstances. Some threads from the previous book are explored further though like Toby relationship with the Luidaeg and her guilt over Dare’s death. Those are intrinsic part of the character now, expertly handled by the author. Her relationship with the Luidaeg breaches themes such as loneliness and being out of place and her guilt towards Dare goes back to the basis of Toby’s personality: how very loyal she can be to the people she cares about or has vowed to protect. Which brings me to Quentin: I love the kid. His arc from one book to another was great and his relationship with Toby and the way it develops was awesome. I was constantly worrying about him just like Toby was.
Finally, Tybalt: I love you. That scene at the beginning of the novel when you carry Toby in your arms? I nearly swooned. I knew before and I am 100% sure now that you love her even as you snark and complain and bitch. Because I see through you Tybalt, you are just like a cat pretending that you don’t care when you SO do – and we all know that snark is a sign of love in the hands of a great writer. Do you know when you thought Alex had attacked Toby and you nearly killed him WITH YOUR OWN HANDS (er, claws), I nearly swooned again. Really, please forget about any animosity and the fact that you are a King of Cats (*swoons one more time*) and just DO SOMETHING ALREADY. I am sure that deep down, Toby reciprocates. Like, deep down. Ta muchly. Yours 4evah, Ana.
Thea: Ana, you are such a romantic, it’s hilarious. From the instant I saw the book opened with Tybalt, I *knew* I’d have to bust out the virtual smelling salts to revive you from your constant state of swoondom. That said, I’m with you on the Tybalt love though – what an awesome, fun character. You know what the Toby-Tybalt dynamic reminds me of? Kate Daniels and Curran, the early days. (And, as any fans of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series know, this is a pretty sweet league to be in.) Hell, Tybalt’s also a cat-king! Coincidence? I think not…
While Tybalt is a great, attention-capturing (and, in Ana’s case, swoon-inducing) character, let’s not forget who really makes this series awesome: the lovely miss October Daye. I just want to reiterate how awesomeit is that Toby is a heroine that is severely under-powered. One of the Daoine Sidhe, Toby is a changeling – that is, half human – which means her mother’s formidable blood magic is pretty diluted in her, and she ranks at grub level on the power food chain. In a genre filled with fairy princess warriors with every conceivable magical gift, it’s refreshing to see how a heroine like Toby must rely on her intellect and instincts – rather than Supreme!Powers! – to survive. Add to that Toby’s grounded nature (neither a hardass bitch nor a simpering damsel in distress), and her believable narrative voice, and you’ve got one of the best new UF heroines to grace the page in a while. Yeah, she has her duh moments (as mentioned above), but overall? She’s a winsome character that learns from her past mistakes.
Final Thoughts, Observations and Rating:
Ana: If you can’t tell, I loved this book, I love this series. Seanan McGuire is now an autobuy and her main character Toby, is definitely one of my favourite UF heroines. This is officially one of my favourite reads of the year so far and I can’t wait for the third book An Artificial Night which comes out in September.
Thea: Another solid entry from the talented, imaginative Seanan McGuire. I cannot wait for Toby’s next adventure later this year!
Notable Quotes/ Parts: From the first chapter, Toby and Tybalt’s encounter:
Several pixies had congregated around a corner store’s front-porch bug zapper, using toothpicks as skewers for roasting a variety of insects. I stopped to watch them, taking the pause as an opportunity to get my balance back. One of them saw me looking and flitted over to hover in front of my nose, scowling.
“S’okay,” I informed it, with drunken solemnity. “I can see you.” It continued to hang there, expression turning even angrier. “No, really, it’s okay. I’m Dao…Dao…I’m a changeling.” Whoever was responsible for naming the fae races should really have put more thought into making them pronounceable when drunk.
It jabbed the toothpick in my direction. I blinked, perplexed.
“No, it’s okay. I don’t want any of your moth.”
“He’s offering to stab you, not feed you. I suppose the difference is trivial, but still, one assumes you’d want to avoid finding that out first-hand.” The voice behind me was smooth as cream and aristocratically amused. The pixie backpedaled in mid-air, nearly dropping his toothpick as he went racing back to the flock. They were gone in seconds, leaving nothing but faint trails of shimmering dust in the air.
“Hey!” I turned, crossing my arms and glaring. “I was talking to him!”
Tybalt eyed me with amusement, which just made me glare harder. “No, you were inciting him to stab you with a toothpick. Again, the difference is small, but I think it matters.”
My glare faded into bewilderment. “Why was he gonna stab me? I was just saying hi. And he came over here first. I wasn’t saying anything before he came over.”
“Finally, a sensible question.” Tybalt reached out to brush my hair back behind one ear, tapping it with the side of his thumb. “Round ears, blue eyes, smell of magic buried under the smell of alcohol…it’s the perfect disguise. Well done. Although it doesn’t suit you.” My confusion didn’t fade. Tybalt sighed. “You look human, October. He was protecting his flock.”
“I said I was a changeling!”
“And he, quite sensibly, didn’t believe you.”
“Oh!” I blinked, reddening. “Oops.” Then I frowned. “What do you mean, it doesn’t suit me? I like this skirt!”
Tybalt pulled his hand away, stepping back to study me. I returned the favor, looking him up and down.
As the local King of Cats and the most powerful Cait Sidhe in San Francisco, Tybalt rarely bothers to go anywhere that requires him to wear a human disguise. As far as I can tell, it’s not that he feels it’s beneath him; it’s just that he doesn’t care enough about the human side of the city to bother interacting with them. This was one of the few times I’d seen him passing for human, and he wore it well. Tall, lean, and angular, he held himself with a predatory air that would translate into feline grace when he moved. His dark brown hair was short, curly, and banded with streaks of black that mimicked the stripes on a tabby’s coat. The human illusion he wore concealed his sharpened incisors, pointed ears, and cat-slit pupils, but left his simple masculinity a little more noticeable than I liked. I tore my eyes away.
Saying that Tybalt and I have a complex relationship would be understating things just a tad. I endure his taunting because it’s easier than having my intestines removed by an angry Cait Sidhe. On top of all that, I owe him for services rendered following the murder of Evening Winterrose. Sadly, my being in debt to him encourages him to prod at me even more frequently. It’s getting to be a habit.
“The skirt passes muster,” said Tybalt, finishing his survey. “I might have called it a ‘belt’ rather than a ‘skirt,’ but I suppose you have the right to name your own clothing. While we’re on the subject of apparel, tell me, were you intending to walk all the way home in those shoes?”
“Maybe,” I hedged. The straps were starting to chafe my ankles, making walking even less comfortable than it had been to begin with, but he didn’t need to know that.
“You’re drunk, October.”
“And you’re wearing really tight pants.” I paused. That hadn’t come out right. “I mean, those are really nice pants. I mean…”
Tybalt snorted. I glanced up to see him looking decidedly amused, shaking his head slowly from side to side. “Indeed. I don’t suppose you’d consider taking a taxi?”
“There aren’t any,” I said, feeling as if I’d won a battle with that stunning point of logic.
“Did you consider phoning for one? I understand they can be summoned.”
“Didn’t have a phone.”
“I see,” said Tybalt. “Well, as there are no taxis, and you have splendid reasons not to summon a taxi, and you are, in fact, drunk enough to be making comments about the tightness of my trousers, I believe it would be a good idea for me to escort you home.”
“I don’t need you to.”
“That’s nice,” said Tybalt, shrugging out of his jacket and draping it around my shoulders. “You look cold.”
“I’m not cold.” That was a lie—it was a nice night, but even the nicest night gets chilly after midnight in San Francisco. I pulled the jacket tight, trying to preserve the illusion of dignity. The leather smelled of Tybalt’s magic, all pennyroyal and musk. “I can get home just fine.”
“Of course you can,” Tybalt agreed, planting a hand on the small of my back and urging me to begin walking. “You are, after all, a perfectly reasonable, competent woman. It’s just that at the moment, you’re so drunk you can’t remember whether or not you’re wearing your own face, and I would really rather not scrape you off the sidewalk.”
His hand was a firm, insistent pressure. I began to walk, steadier now that I had something to lean against. “Nah, no sidewalk-scraping. You’d find me in an alley somewhere.”
You can read the full chapter online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: Book 3 in the October Daye series, titled An Artificial Night, comes out later this year on September 7th. Check out the pretty cover:
Ana: 8 Excellent, leaning towards a 9
Thea: 7 – Really Good, and leaning towards an 8
Reading next: Mind Games by Carolyn Crane