Late Eclipses (October Daye, Book 4)
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I’ve been following Seanan McGuire since her first October Daye novel came out a few years back. The series offers a comprehensive world of Faerie and a flawed but likeable heroine, so I always look forward to new stories. Late Eclipses is a strong addition to the overarching plot and makes some major changes to the main character as well.
Toby is still recovering from her confrontation with Blind Michael and getting used to having a roommate—May, her Fetch, the one who’s supposed to signal Toby’s demise. But before long, events take a turn for the worse again, when Toby learns that Lily, the Lady of the Tea Gardens, is extremely ill. Since Undines don’t get sick, this is cause for great concern.
All evidence points to the involvement of Toby’s enemy, Oleander de Merelands, the woman who cursed her to her fourteen year exile in the form of a fish. But there are other forces moving against Toby as well. A summons from the Queen of the Mists complicates the situation, and not everybody believes that Oleander has returned. On the contrary, some are looking at Toby as the cause of all that’s going on.
This book would not have been possible without the events of An Artificial Night, the previous novel, and the confrontation with the Firstborn, Blind Michael. His defeat sets in motion much of what transpires between Toby and the Queen of the Mists in this story. It also brings Toby to the realization of how much her friends mean to her, and how much she means to them. It’s a subtle change, but one that carries over into the current book and informs many of Toby’s choices.
It’s that same growing emphasis on friends as family that makes the events in Late Eclipses take on such a haunting quality. Oleander’s actions put a huge strain on those relationships, and it’s almost a sub-plot of its own to watch the repercussions of all that conflict. By the end of the novel, things are mostly back to normal, but it will be interesting to see how things play out in future novels.
One thing in particular that concerns me is the hints that there might be a love triangle in the works for Toby. Her former lover Connor remains in the picture, although mostly on the sidelines until the latter parts of the story. The author has dropped hints throughout the novels that the two still have feelings for each other. However, the other man is a character who has been present much more—and consequently is better developed—and that is Tybalt, the king of the Cait Sidhe. In my opinion, Connor is just not as interesting, nor would it be in the best interests of Toby’s character growth to return her to someone so firmly tied to her former life. I can only hope that McGuire doesn’t take the novel in that direction.
The mystery of Lily’s illness is well handled, and as the plot thickens, it becomes increasingly hard to figure out what’s real and what’s not. There are some extenuating circumstances that make Toby’s point of view suspect for a while, so readers should take that into consideration. An attentive reader will likely figure out what’s going on before the explanation, but it doesn’t detract much from the story if you do.
Lastly, I have to express my appreciation for the fact that the novel is set in Northern California. Not many novels use this area as a backdrop, and I personally find it exciting to read a story that happens in places so familiar to me.
Late Eclipses is the strongest October Daye book to date. Combining character growth, an engrossing mystery, and engaging storytelling, it will have you eagerly turning pages to find out what happens next. McGuire is one of the best writers in the urban fantasy genre and her novels are not to be missed.
This review appeared on Owlcat Mountain on May 3, 2011.