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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Out of Magical Ashes... Rise Heroes


Oh, how time flies... except, of course, when it doesn’t... and you’re stuck drumming your fingers impatiently, wishing time would get the proverbial lead out, put the pedal to the metal, and resume that whizzing-by thing it does so incredibly well, most of the time.

The bad times never work like that, though, do they?

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Nearly a year after half-human/half-fae Sir October Daye (a knight in the twilight shadows of the fae world and a gritty private detective in both) once again saved the immortal world from certain doom and destruction (this time, from what would’ve been a no-holds-barred civil war of epic proportions), she’s still reeling from the fallout... specifically, trying to cope with the simultaneous, heartbreaking losses of an old friend and of her part-fae/mostly-human daughter.

Sometimes--make that, often--Toby’s life really sucks, and--happily for us, if not for her--it dishes out more of the same in Seanan McGuire’s latest tantalizing Toby tale, Ashes of Honor

If you know Toby (and hopefully you do, since you’re reading this--but if not, then for Oberon’s sake, please read the previous books in the series, which you can find a bit more about here, scrolling down and reading the earliest post to the most recent...), you’ve no doubt already guessed how she’s been dealing with that whole world of grief in which she’s buried herself: by charging headfirst into whatever trouble (danger) she can find, giving no thought to her own safety, of course. Toby may not have a death wish, exactly... but the way she’s been acting is much too close to it for her friends’ comfort.

So, although everyone is a little shocked when Etienne (a fellow knight in the service of their liege, Sylvester) asks for Toby’s help with a personal problem--finding the changeling teenage daughter he never even knew he had (until the girl’s mother called him out of the blue and told him “their daughter” had just disappeared)--no one is remotely surprised when Toby agrees to take on the job. (Granted, since she’s become something of an expert on finding lost children, she is the obvious choice.)

Before she has the chance to go racing off alone, sword in hand, in typical fashion, however, her friends weigh in. 

“You can’t save everyone and leave yourself lost, October. It isn’t fair. Not to you and not to the people who care about you,” says Tybalt, the Cait Sidhe King of Cats (who counts himself among Toby’s small group of friends). Her squire-in-training, Quentin and her personal Fetch, May (now a roommate and like-a-sister, instead of a creepy specter just waiting to cart her off to the afterlife) express similar concerns. 

Figuring it’s probably easier to acquiesce than to argue--and also considering the fact that Chelsea, Etienne’s daughter, inherited his ability to teleport (one thing Toby definitely can’t do)--she agrees to some help.

Good thing, too, because once they start following Chelsea’s trail, it’s clear she isn’t just teleporting herself to the usual sorts of places an angst-y teen might go... but that she’s somehow managing to open doors into long-ago, sealed-off, distant realms... other worlds, that were never meant to be visited again. (Just so we’re clear, when something in the land of fairies is deemed off-limits, forever-and-ever, well, you should pretty much assume it’s a Really Bad Thing.)

Naturally, finding one scared-witless teenager--a mere girl in possession of ridiculous powers, who’s on the road to singlehandedly causing the imminent collapse of all of fairydom(!)--isn’t their only problem. (Seriously, that would be much too easy.) It seems that something wicked is also afoot in the Court of Cats, while Tybalt’s off helping Toby. (Think, “when the cat’s away, the mice will play”... but change the last part to “some of the other cats will band together and plot bloody overthrows of their leader”, and you’re in the ballpark.)

Will Toby and crew manage to stay a couple steps ahead of a lot of angry kitty claws and sharp, pointy kitty teeth long enough to find a little girl who can magically hop from one place to another, before she manages to bring about an apocalypse... or will this be the case that changes everything?

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My usual modus operandi, whenever my greedy little paws wrap themselves around a hot-off-the-press October Daye, is to take a deep breath, plunge in, and keep going until I’ve reached the end (or as near to it as a busy life allows). This time, however, I took a different tack--pacing myself, reading just a couple of chapters at a time, then letting things sink in (or, given Toby’s unholy love of coffee, perhaps “percolate” would be a better word). Was it easy, making it last? Erm, no; I was dying to know what was going to happen. Am I glad I took the extra time, though? Yep, so glad, because I got to enjoy all the anticipation, for a change. (The Heinz people and Carly Simon were both definitely onto something, there.)

What continues drawing me to this series, like a moth to the flame, is Toby. One of the best female characters to come along in Urban Fantasy, ever, she remains perfectly imperfect... damaged goods, with a boatload of guilt, sadness, and regret perpetually battling amongst themselves in her brain and in her gut. Toby never really “gets over” things, but continues to feel each one of her hurts deeply. (After living quite a few years on this earth, that sort of things feels right to me... and the fact that Toby is nearly immortal just makes the thought of every hurt, every bad feeling she relives again and again, that much more poignant.) 

Of course, the fabulously-realized worlds McGuire has built--and keeps tinkering with and refining along the way--plus all those other undeniably-cool characters, heaps of fascinating lore, the often sparklingly-witty and always-insightful dialogue, and always, always, a whole lot of heart... have a little something to do with my undying love for this series, too. 

Whether you’ll want to read it slowly or blast through it, put Ashes of Honor (or the whole October Daye series, if you’re a newbie to the series) on your "Read Now" list. Your only regret will be reaching the final page. :)


GlamKitty Catnip Mousie Rating: 5 out of 5 Exuberant (and worthy of the Cait Sidhe) Mousies