Monday, September 10, 2012

Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire

Ashes of Honor is the 6th of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye urban fantasy series, starring changeling PI and knight errant; Toby Daye.

A year has passed since the tragic events of One Salt Sea and Toby is trying to live a fairly normal life, or as normal a life as a half faery woman with a fetch and a Tuatha De Danaan fosterling as a squire can expect to live. She’s also still mourning the death of her lover and childhood friend Connor.

After having a confrontation with a group of goblin fruit peddling changeling kids go badly wrong Toby is collected from the police station by her friend and love interest, Cait Sidhe and King of the Cats; Tybalt. At home, and the reason that her fetch; May, couldn’t come in Tybalt’s stead is Etienne. To say that Toby is surprised to see the stiff necked Tuatha De Danaan at her house, not on business for his, and her liege lord Sylverster Torquill, is understating it somewhat. His reason for coming to her is even more surprising. Etienne has a changeling child, she’s always lived with her mortal mother, and she’s just gone missing.

As Toby has had success with similar cases in the past, she was the first person Etienne thought of. Despite his differences of opinion with her he does respect her ability and he can’t argue with her strike rate. Etienne’s daughter Chelsea has inherited her father’s ability of teleportation, and unless Toby can find her quickly and negate the power her life is not the only one in danger, her abilities threaten to rip the fabric of faery itself apart.

I can’t help it, I always seem to compare the Toby Daye’s to the Dresden Files and I got another comparison with this one. Etienne coming to Toby for help is right up there with the Warden Morgan doing the same thing to Harry Dresden in Turn Coat. Once Etienne has explained to Toby what has happened and why he wants to hire her, everyone other than Toby, Quentin and Tybalt faded into the background.

This one was really the story of how Toby and Tybalt would get together. Something that many fans of the books have been waiting for (not me, I’m not a Tybalt fan. I think it’s because I’m not a cat person, and Tybalt really is a cat in the form of a person) since Tybalt’s first appearance in Rosemary and Rue. There was plenty of Quentin to keep me entertained. I love Quentin, he’s such a total teenager, but he has so many good qualities; loyal, compassionate, brave, I think he always had them, but prolonged exposure to Toby has enhanced them.

Most of the cast that Seanan McGuire has built up over the previous five books popped in and out of the narrative, but it was driven by Toby and Tybalt as they strove to find a scared girl and stop her from plunging their worlds into chaos.

It moved fast and the action didn’t let up from the opening page until almost the very end. The Toby Daye books with their meticulously set up worlds of faery are excellently written with well done action sequences and snappy dialog that sparks and crackles between the characters, the relationships between the principals come across as realistic and believable, and the supporting cast is among the best in urban fantasy today.

I have a couple of quibbles. Toby’s caffeine addiction is overdone. It’s been established over the books that Toby requires regular infusions of coffee to function. I think readers understand that, I know I do, it doesn’t need to be reiterated every couple of pages as it was in Ashes of Honor. The other is that Toby is becoming a little too superheroish. She can recover quickly from wounds, more quickly than any normal person and possibly even other fae, but I lost count of the times that she was almost disembowelled in Ashes of Honor, yet was up and kicking butt in a page or so. That could have been toned down a touch.

Although I know there are further books coming (Chimes at Midnight is due out September 2013 and the author has a contract up to and including book 9) there is a sense of this one having a definite ending. There’s plenty still to explore. Duchess Treasa Riordan (the villainess in Ashes of Honor) could conceivably still present a threat, and as long as she’s alive Rayseline Torquill will be a thorn in Toby’s side as will the Queen of Mist. There are still the questions of who Quentin’s parents are and exactly how old Tybalt is, but Ashes of Honor does give readers a sense of closure to at least one chapter of Toby’s life.

One Salt Sea remains my favourite of the series, but Ashes of Honor is a worthy entry in what is probably the finest urban fantasy series currently being published, and has me counting down the days until the release of Chimes at Midnight.

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