Book Review: October Daye Series by Seanan McGuire

     October Daye makes me want to hit her. She has a hero complex-- which means she has a secret desire to die, and will always have the right intention to be noble and valorous, but might not have enough knowledge and will generally never follow her intuition. She blunders through investigations (of the paranormal variety) mostly by virtue of her deuced luck which keeps getting her into scrapes and which keeps putting her into the ER but never lets her die. She has a good heart, despite her idiotish (gawd, I love that word) ways, and therefore has a knack for making fast friends wherever she goes. That includes a kitsune, an Undine, a seawitch, rose goblins (aka magical hedgehogs), tomcats, selkie, and a Fetch. A Fetch, if you don't know, is a messenger from Lord Death, who looks exactly like you and is a sign that your death is imminent within the next few days.   

Except that October or Sir Toby or Lady Daye, whatever you wish to call her (she prefers 'Toby' however) just won't die. She gets attacked by bloodthirsty Redcaps, her car explodes (thankfully without her in it), she drowns, she gets attacked by iron bullets (iron is her kryptonite), she has her limbs rotted away into wood, she is poisoned, she is bespelled by a blind madman, she is turned into all manner of curious things, including a fish in an enchanted pond for fourteen years.

Oh, and I forgot the most interesting bit about her-- her bloodline, which just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser. She is the daughter of Amandine, one of the Firstborn Fae, who fell in love with a human and went slightly bonkers when he died. Or so Toby's been told, that she is a changeling or a half-breed between fae and human. And not just any fae, but a direct descendant of Oberon himself, the most powerful fae king/ demigod. [There are two fae courts, Daoine Sidhe (pronounced as dayoon shee) and Caite Sidhe, and Toby, through her mother belongs to the former.]

The Daoine Sidhe are users of blood magic, which in crude terms, means using blood-- theirs or others-- to do magic. Toby is a changeling as I mentioned before, so that means, she is not accepted (completely) either by the humans or by the fae, and lives on the fringes. And boy, does she live on the fringes with a vengeance!

She decides to become a Private Investigator. Which brings us back to why she keeps getting into scrapes which leave her ridiculously battered and bruised.

First, her supposedly friendly friend puts a binding curse on Toby through the telephone to find her murderer and the reasons behind said murder (Book #1 Rosemary and Rue). Then, Toby's liege, Lord Sylvester, sends her to the County of Tamed Lightning to find out why his niece has stopped calling him-- which causes Toby to get involved in some rather morbid kind of genetic laboratory experiments and a homicidal dryad (Book #2 A Local Habitation). Next, Toby gets assigned to look for missing children who have been kidnapped and brainwashed by Blind Michael (Book #3 An Artificial Night). In her next adventure, Toby goes looking for Oleander, who has been poisoning all of Toby’s friends and likes to play mind games with Toby (Book #4 Late Eclipses).

Seanan McGuire does a fine job of showing how courageous and heroic and stupid October really is-- and makes us love October for all of it too. Because, even though you would want to hit Toby on the head with an iron broomstick again and again, you will still love her for simply always trying. She has no pretensions about her abilities; she has never said that she will act as a hero because her skills are so very great-- with sword or magic. All she says is that she is a hero because she keeps on trying, even if it may mean her own death.

Apart from Toby's amazing characterization and messy personal life, one has to commend Seanan McGuire for her extremely imaginative plotlines. For example, consider the concept of the Fetch itself (scroll above to read), and the concept of night-haunts, the cannibals with whom Oberon entered into a bargain-- don't kill the living fae, and in return, we will give over their dead bodies to you. 

Add to this kind of imagination, a streak for witty dialogue-writing and wry humour, and we have Seanan McGuire's amazing October Daye series. Seanan McGuire's other pseudonym is Mira Grant, under which she wrote Feed, a book which has won several accolades recently.

One last thing. Make sure you read the quotations with each book starts, straight from Shakespearan lands:

There’s fennel for you, and columbines;
There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me. . . .
You must wear your rue with a difference.
—William Shakespeare, Hamlet


And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
—William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream


Away from light steals home my heavy son
And private in his chamber pens himself,
Shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out,
And makes himself an artificial night.
—William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet


These late eclipses in the sun and moon portend
No good to us: though the wisdom of nature can
Reason it thus and thus, yet nature finds itself
Scourged by the sequent effects: love cools,
Friendship falls off, brothers divide: in Cities, mutinies;
in countries, discord; in Palaces, treason;
and the bond cracked 'twixt son
and father...
—William Shakespeare, King Lear.


Anyone who thinks up book-titles on the basis of our favourite thee-thou-chanter deserves to be read. That obviously includes Seanan McGuire. Watch out for Book #5 One Salt Sea, which comes out in September this year.