One Salt Sea (October Daye Book 5) Review

“When were you going to mention this to me?”

“Oh, half an hour after never.”

 

After the harrowing events of Late Eclipses, things are finally looking up, or at least comfortably stable, for Faerie’s resident changeling knight with a seeming habit of getting into trouble. So of course fate steps in and October finds herself in the middle of a kidnapping plot that might send the kingdoms of the land and sea to war.

 

This is the fifth book in the October Daye series, and it addresses previously raised issues and builds off of long running plot lines. Best to start with Rosemary and Rue (book 1).

 

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“You’re a lot of things, but ‘just a changeling’ isn’t one of them.”

 

One Salt Sea continues the momentum from the previous two excellent books, and pulls back a bit into a larger view of Faerie as Toby tries to prevent an impending war. I love the way McGuire keeps slowly filling in more and more of the world’s mythology and building series long story lines while keeping each book a satisfying, complete adventure on its own. Consequences and a constantly changing status quo are hallmarks of McGuire’s sprawling narrative, and wartime is certainly no exception.

 

“I can’t be dreaming you. My dreams make more sense than this.”

 

To be honest my least favorite character takes center stage a bit in this one, but so does one of my favorites, as well as several strong new additions to the cast. There’s a significant amount of intrigue underneath the events of this book, and the fallout will be significant for October, and her allies and enemies alike. I did find this just a touch below the level of the other books, but it was still quite good and overall this is another solid, enjoyable installment that further expands October’s unique and engrossing world nicely.

 

 

Indexing Review

“Fairy tales want to have happy endings, and that’s fine – for fairy tales – but they do a lot of damage to the people around them in the process, the ones whose only crime was standing in the path of an onrushing story.”

 

 

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Indexing is a police procedural in a world where all the fairy tales ever told can happen again at any time with disastrous effects. Originally released as a serialized novel, I found it walks the line well between the individual “episodes” feeling like regular chapters of a novel (which wouldn’t be necessarily be the best approach for that distribution) and individual short stories (which would lose some of the overarching development and tension). The deft touch in execution makes this read equally well as a complete novel (as I am) as I imagine it did in serialized format.

 

“There are a couple of things you’ll need to know about fairy tales before we can get properly started. Call it agent orientation or information overload, whatever makes you feel more like you’ll be able to sleep tonight.”

 

I call it info dumping of the highest order, even though McGuire tries to be stylish and clever about it. The odd premise I’ve described above is extremely interesting but requires a HUGE amount of information and context to be immediately unloaded on the reader in the first section. As a result it takes some time to get acclimated, but things are quite intriguing once you do and much better paced after the initial part.

 

“My day began with half a dozen bluebirds beating themselves to death against my window, leaving little bloody commas on the glass to mark their passing.”

 

In addition to being curious about the concept, Indexing caught my eye because it’s written by the author of the October Daye series, which I adore. McGuire’s exquisite gift for dialogue and descriptions is on display here as well and along with strong characters and an engaging underlying plot makes this a thoroughly captivating read once it builds momentum. My favorite character here reminds me a little of an equally amusing one from October Daye, but the wonderful thing is the cast are all unique with both strengths and flaws directly tied to the narrative. Watching everything unfold among a tense and mysterious atmosphere was a treat.

Overall this is a read that requires some patience, but really rewards the effort.

 

 

The Empty Box and Zeroth Maria vol 1 Light Novel Review

“I look at the platform at the front of the classroom and see a new transfer student named Aya Otonashi whose name I’ve never learned.”

 

Kazuki Hoshino is an ordinary high school student with a seemingly boring existence haunted by a sense of deja vu. However there’s much more to it than that, and at the center of disturbing truths and powers beyond his understanding is a new student who declares she’s here to break him…

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Things get interesting right away with this one, as the short prologue offers just enough to intriguingly set the stage, and the structure of the main part of the book is immediately attention grabbing. From there a lot of interesting little details and mysteries accumulate, and the examination of the non-linear aspects of the story are particularly well done. There are numerous carefully built, excellent twists and a slowly escalating tense atmosphere.

Character development is necessarily a bit different and more subtle than in traditional stories, but is there if the reader pays close attention and I thought quite good. I can see some readers losing patience though. Also, some of the end resolution was a little lacking to me and I’m not entirely convinced about the direction of the series going forward. 

Overall though I found The Empty Box and Zeroth Maria a thoroughly engaging and satisfying read, and highly recommend it for any light novel fans who can handle its mystery/thriller aspects and don’t mind applying some patience and effort to their reading.

Late Eclipses (October Daye Book 4) Review

“That’s me,’ I agreed. ‘Toby Daye, assassin of fun.”

October’s luck is as rough as ever, with one of her friends in mortal danger, a ghost of the past haunting her mind, and those in power uninterested in being particularly helpful with any of the ensuing chaos.

This is the fourth book in the October Daye series, and it addresses major, long running plot threads. Best to start with Rosemary and Rue (book 1).

 

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I like urban fantasy best when it’s heavily peppered with mysteries and mind games, and Late Eclipses has both in spades.

I mentioned in my review of An Artificial Night that the series was getting to the point where some of the major plot threads needed to be addressed, and Late Eclipses does so in fine fashion. Several reveals and key developments com at the perfect time, with an incredible number of connect but diverse plot threads carefully interwoven into a wonderfully strong narrative. I’ll avoid spoilers, but there are major implications for numerous characters complimented by a real sense of mystery and tension maintained throughout. October’s been facing different sources of real danger in these last couple books, and the harrowing atmosphere created is palpable.

 

An Artificial Night was easily my favorite in the series to that point, and this surpasses it. Wonderful stuff from Seanan McGuire.

All the Paths of Shadow Review

“That’s the sound of history being made, lads. Something I hoped never to hear.”

A king’s orders don’t have to be reasonable, and mage Meralda Ovis is fuming at her latest ridiculous assignment of moving an ancient tower’s shadow for an upcoming speech. But she may have even more to worry about as sinister magic seems to hang over a historic meeting of delegates from throughout the Five Realms and beyond.

 

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I’d previously read Frank Tuttle’s short story Saving the Sammi, and enjoyed the small glimpse into the world of Mage Ovis and her amusing assistant Mug, an “enchanted dandyleaf plant who sees the world through 29 bright eyes” (Best. Sidekick. Ever.). I found this longer adventure even more fascinating.

The world surrounding Meralda exists somewhere between steampunk and fantasy, and the combination works wonderfully. Tuttle provides an internally consistent “scientific” framework of magic at the center of his story that provides and interesting and logical foundation. From there he builds an engaging narrative off of good characterizations among a complimentary diverse cast and a reasonably paced, intriguing plot that’s well balanced among predictability and surprises. Tuttle has a great gift for making his creations understandable and relatable, as well as for properly conveying tension and other important emotional context.

If I have any criticism to offer it’s that All the Paths of Shadow would have benefitted from less contemporary shorthand for describing “unknown” cultures. Hinting at the inspiring culture’s influence via descriptions and connotations rather than flat out using real world terms would have done a lot to eliminate the awkward loss of immersion that often accompanied them.

All and all though this was a creative, enjoyable novel and I’d love to see more from Meralda and her unique reality.

An Artificial Night (October Daye Book 3) Review

“Heroes, Toby, heroes. You’re all idiots…”

 

Children, both human and fae, are disappearing, and October Daye is about to find out not all boogeymen are myths.

 

This is the third book in the October Daye series. There is probably enough context to follow without having read the previous books, but significant depth and nuance would be lost. Best to start with Rosemary and Rue (book 1).

 

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An Artifical Night is fantastic. It revs up quick and hardly ever slows, keeping a constant sense of dread forefront. The skill with which the theme of children’s tales and the nebulous rules of farie are interwoven is masterful. McGuire drops new concepts on reader’s head constantly and abruptly, but she keeps it manageable somehow and does such wonderful things with them all is forgiven. Toby continues to be an excellent protagonist, being smart and largely self aware yet still susceptible to emotional responses and bad decisions.

In addition to compelling characters, interesting world, and strong plot, it’s the writing that shines and draws the reader in. The style is excellent, particularly in distinct, natural sounded dialogue and speech patterns rising from characters’ personalities and individual situations. I enjoyed the continued focus on a couple of my favorite supporting cast members, plus a PHENOMENAL new addition, and how they all interact with Toby.

The last third of the story loses just a touch of what made the first two-thirds so compelling somewhere, but it’s a minor criticism. There are getting to be a few too many building questions and ongoing story threads though, and while they’re all interesting at least a couple need to start being addressed next book.

Easily my favorite book in the series thus far. Highly recommended.

Grave Witch (Alex Craft Book 1) Review

Grave witch Alex Craft can speak to the dead, but that doesn’t mean she likes what they have to say.

 

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The most interesting thing about Grave Witch is its underlying world, with an imaginative system of magic giving rise to interesting powers. Equally important (and perhaps more intriguing) are the limitations on those powers, and it’s Alex’s struggle balancing her strengths and weaknesses that provide the book’s highlights.

The plot is solid, with enough mystery, intrigue, and action to keep things moving at a nice clip and engage the reader.  Some developments did feel a little forced, while others grew naturally out of the narrative. This seemed a touch more “paranormal romance” than “urban fantasy” to me, and honestly the romance elements were the weakest parts of the book. Although a particular love interest of Alex’s was far and away the novel’s most compelling character.

Overall this was a fine introduction to the adventures of Alex Craft. Nothing particularly spectacular but nothing bad either, and there’s potential. I’m in no rush to continue but not opposed to it if/when the opportunity arises.