Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire
A long-running series has to be something unusual to hold my attention. I read such a large variety of authors and styles that it’s easy for me to lose interest in something that doesn’t develop as time goes on. Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series has been one of the few that have consistently held my interest and had me hunting for each new volume on its release day. The newest book, Ashes of Honor, is one of the best so far.
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“It’s been almost a year since October “Toby” Daye averted a war, gave up a county, and suffered personal losses that have left her wishing for a good day’s sleep. She’s tried to focus on her responsibilities—training Quentin, upholding her position as Sylvester’s knight, and paying the bills—but she can’t help feeling like her world is crumbling around her, and her increasingly reckless behavior is beginning to worry even her staunchest supporters.
To make matters worse, Toby’s just been asked to find another missing child…only this time it’s the changeling daughter of her fellow knight, Etienne, who didn’t even know he was a father until the girl went missing. Her name is Chelsea. She’s a teleporter, like her father. She’s also the kind of changeling the old stories warn about, the ones with all the strength and none of the control. She’s opening doors that were never meant to be opened, releasing dangers that were sealed away centuries before—and there’s a good chance she could destroy Faerie if she isn’t stopped.
Now Toby must find Chelsea before time runs out, racing against an unknown deadline and through unknown worlds as she and her allies try to avert disaster. But danger is also stirring in the Court of Cats, and Tybalt may need Toby’s help with the biggest challenge he’s ever faced.”
This is an incredibly strong follow-up to One Salt Sea, in which traumatic things happen to Toby and tragedy robs her of one of her staunchest friends. In Ashes of Honor, we see a Toby who is broken and somewhat emotionally lost, which is quite different from how she’s been portrayed before. No matter what McGuire put her heroine through, Toby never seemed to be cracking under the strain, and here we see her pushed almost to that point.
It is this vulnerability that helps her to begin accepting her closeness with Tybalt, the King of Cats, and to start accepting that his closeness to her may be problematic for him. We’ve seen very little of the Court of Cats up until now, but some of its politics and pressures come to light here. Toby and Tybalt end up dealing with some crises in the Court along with the problem of the missing changeling.
It’s great to see the concept of the changeling come up again. The past few books have been very focused on the affairs of the immortals, following their power struggles and clashes with each other. A large chunk of that was wrapped up, though, and now there’s room for things beyond their issues. As a matter of fact, the book shows some of the consequences of a human having a changeling child and facing the unexpected things that happen as a result. There are even human police involved. That connection with our world—and the clash between our worlds—was missing in previous books and is welcome to see.
I find McGuire’s writing overall to be strong and evocative. It helps that I’m familiar with the areas which she writes about, but I think that any reader would be able to connect with the setting. The author excels at creating good characters and meshing them well with the setting. I can believe that fairies might live right under our noses after reading this series!
The one minor quibble I have is the inclusion of a character whose power is to bend luck. It makes for a scene or two that scream “deus ex machina”, even though it’s explained away by this power. I think I just personally don’t like seeing a character that exists to bend the plot to the creator’s needs, and that’s what it felt like here. Thankfully, McGuire uses this sparingly.
Ashes of Honor is probably my favorite of this series so far. It has everything you could want: strong characters, detailed settings, and an engrossing plot. I highly recommend this book—and this series—to anybody who loves fantasy and likes their stories to have one foot in the magical realm and one foot in our own world.