Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“Things are starting to look up for October “Toby” Daye. She’s training her squire, doing her job, and has finally allowed herself to grow closer to the local King of Cats. It seems like her life may finally be settling down…at least until dead changelings start appearing in the alleys of San Francisco, killed by an overdose of goblin fruit.
Toby’s efforts to take the problem to the Queen of the Mists are met with harsh reprisals, leaving her under sentence of exile from her home and everyone she loves. Now Toby must find a way to reverse the Queens decree, get the goblin fruit off the streets—and, oh, yes, save her own life, since more than a few of her problems have once again followed her home. And then there’s the question of the Queen herself, who seems increasingly unlikely to have a valid claim to the throne….
To find the answers, October and her friends will have to travel from the legendary Library of Stars into the hidden depths of the Kingdom of the Mists—and they’ll have to do it fast, because time is running out. In faerie, some fates are worse than death.
October Daye is about to find out what they are.”
You know, this series just keeps getting better and better. Every time I think that McGuire can’t top her previous novel, she ups the ante for her characters and keeps the action and surprises coming. In this case, the most villainous Queen of the Mists is suspected of being a pretender to the throne and Toby and her allies must prove her claim is invalid. Given how nasty the Queen is, readers should take great glee in the thought of her dethroning, and it’s fun to watch the machinations that the main characters go through to find the proof that they need.
The author also has a habit of popping up with new characters that I can’t help but like. This novel introduces readers to Madden, a Cu Sidhe (fae hound) who works in a bookstore. (And can I just snicker a bit at the fact that Borderlands Books in the Bay Area makes an appearance in this story?) Madden is happy-go-lucky, and always seems to be wagging his tail even when he’s in human form. He’s a charming addition to the cast, and he’s another of those fictional people that I’d love to meet in person. If nothing else, I’m sure we could have fun with a patch of open grass and a stick.
Plot-wise, McGuire again manages to cram the novel with action without making it seem overwhelming. Threads of story from previous books weave through this one and add a sense of continuity. These range from mentions of little things like Spike the rose goblin to bigger things like the hope chest that Toby gave over to the Queen. Characters reference past events in conversation, like the origin of the Selkies from One Salt Sea and Toby’s foray into the realm of Blind Michael. It never feels forced, like the author was trying to shoehorn these tidbits into the narrative, and they’re great reminders of what has happened before.
These characters have become familiar old friends, and the Fae-inhabited Bay Area has become an old haunt that I’m happy to return to over and over again. Chimes at Midnight is just what you expect from Seanan McGuire: plenty of plot to sink your teeth into, characters you can love (or love to hate), and a world that makes you want to enter it in spite of—or because of—its terrible beauty. This remains one of the best urban fantasy series out there.