The Winter Long (October Daye Book 8) Review

“Unfortunately I don’t have the luxury of experiencing things that sound reasonable when you try to explain them to other people.”

Toby weathered a storm a long time coming and the result is a rare moment of peace. But just a moment. Toby’s demons are coming back to haunt her. Even the one she never knew she had…

This is the eighth book in the October Daye series, paying off several long running plot lines going all the way back to the beginning. Start reading there (Rosemary and Rue).

“Please don’t mistake villainy for evil.”

It seems weird to say after the major confrontation and developments of  Chimes at Midnight, but THIS is is the story that the series has been leading to since the very beginning. I gushed in the previous review about how masterfully McGuire had built and layered the story across the series, and if possible it pays off even more here. There are a number of shocking yet logical twists that are done to perfection for maximum impact. I’ve been waiting a long time for a lot of the issues that are addressed in this book to come up, and it all comes together wonderfully.

Nothing further to say really, especially since I want to avoid all the potential for spoiling this suspenseful, excellently executed tale.

Highly recommended.

Chimes at Midnight (October Daye Book 7) Review

“When you decide to up the ante on getting in deep shit, you don’t mess around, do you? You’re just like, hey, what’s the worst that could happen? That’s the worst that could happen? Great. Let’s do that.”

As a changeling knight with a unique perspective and even more unique abilities, October Daye’s priorities have always been a bit different from many of the ruling purebloods of Faerie. But when a favorite treat of the purebloods’ that’s an addictive, deadly drug to changelings starts resulting in an increasing number of dead bodies October becomes even more confrontational…

Unfortunately for Toby, the Queen of the Mists has had enough.

This is the seventh book in the October Daye series, and several long running plotlines come together here. Start reading with Rosemary and Rue (book 1).

There’s a lot going on in this one, and again I marvel at how wonderfully McGuire has laid in the foundations of her epic in previous books. The meaning and significance of past hints become illuminated in stages in each new book, and there’s a number of significant developments in this one.

“I can’t believe I just said those words, in that order, like they meant something.”

Toby is in WAY over her head this time and the actions she takes, willing and unwilling, will have long lasting effects. There are a number of big reveals as well, with a definite feeling of escalation beyond what has come before.

I adore the way people’s strengths and weakness go hand and hand and sometimes morph in McGuire’s books. This series has many wonderful examples of it, as does her engrossing Indexing stories. Toby and her allies are extremely powerful, but not infallible and within specific, and often dire, constraints.

October Daye has become perhaps my favorite urban fantasy series of al time, and Chimes at Midnight is another tense and gripping installment with big twists and far reaching implications.

Ashes of Honor (October Daye Book 6) Review

“Nothing is ever simple or easy when Faerie meets the mortal world. There are just times when I find myself wishing it didn’t have to be quite so hard.”

October Daye may have avoided a war, but the heavy personal costs continue to haunt her as time inexorably passes in the Summerlands. But she isn’t the only one with secrets and regrets, and she may be the only one who can help her friends find an overpowered missing changeling who’s existence could be a threat to the foundations of Faerie itself.

This is the sixth book in the October Daye series, and it addresses the aftermath of major events from the prior book, One Salt Sea. Best to start with Rosemary and Rue (book 1).

“We were winging it again. That’s my favorite way to deal with crazy.”

“Winging it” is the exact opposite of McGuire’s carefully layered stories, and Ashes of Honor is incredibly well balanced. It seamlessly progresses long running story threads underneath a tense and dire current story that itself deals with major implications from One Salt Sea while introducing new concepts and complications. The adventure presented here is intriguing and captivating in its own right, and both new and old supporting cast members really shine in the spotlight.

“I’ve stood by and watched you throw yourself against the walls of the world, because I hoped the impact might shake sense back into you.”

As I alluded to above the development of story threads across these books as a series really is fantastic. There’s growth and change in both characters and environment, with real effects of the fallout of past books. McGuire knows when to let her characters breathe a bit, and when the emotions and problems they’re dealing with are too urgent to avoid or ignore. The handling of the progression of time throughout the series is masterfully done, and even the most dramatic of changes are deftly built to and executed.

As usual I’m going to avoid specifics and spoilers (and believe me avoiding talking about some of my favorite characters and their actions/antics grows more difficult book by book), but I really enjoyed this installment of October’s adventures. It both calls back to several subplots from prior books and, as with the rest before it, lays a lot of groundwork for some major things to come.

Knight (Sibyl’s War Book 2) Review

Knight is the second installment in the Sibyl’s War series, and this review will contain some spoilers for the first book, Pawn. The story is a direct continuation of events in Pawn, and I highly recommend reading that first.

 

As one of the special humans who can communicate with the starship Fyrantha, Nicole found herself of even more mysteries and trouble than the others kidnapped to work as the ship’s repair crew. Now parts of the ship itself have chosen Nicole as its new Protector, a role that will be particularly difficult since she needs to keep the competing factions from realizing the true potential of her fellow humans if she wishes to save her planet.

 

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Pawn was a good start to Sibyl’s War that presented an extremely interesting world with decent characters whose actions and characterizations felt occasionally unnatural due to the necessities of the plot. Overall though I enjoyed it and was curious about where things would go from there. I wasn’t able to confirm this 100%, but I think this is a trilogy which would make Knight the middle portion of the ongoing story.

Knight has a slower, more deliberate pace than Pawn, with a LOT of establishing geography, etc. Zahn manages not to turn these sections into info dumps, but there’s still a lot of detail in constant streams woven throughout. I could see and certainly understand some pushback over this style and the resultant pacing, but I actually found it appropriate and enjoyed this book a touch more than the first.

I found characters’ actions more reasonable and internally consistent which allowed me to get even more caught up in the intrigue and Nicole’s efforts to outplay the various competing influences and figure out what was truly happening on the Fyrantha. The build for the next installment felt natural and the revelations in Knight set things up for another direct sequel while feeling like this story still had a suitable end point. I like the way things are building and will be impatiently waiting for the next book since I’m now caught up with what’s been published thus far.

Salvation of a Saint (Detective Galileo) Review

“Twist reality to fit your guesswork too much and you’ll break something, Detective.”

 

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This is apparently the fifth Detective Galileo book, although it’s labeled as the second in the US as only two of the first five have been translated. Since the other released book over here was the third and the stories are supposedly stand alone I started here due to this coming up for a book group read.

From a mystery point of view can be this can indeed be read without previous knowledge. Nothing in the mystery depends on nor spoils anything in previous books, so this stands alone from a plot point of view.

However it felt some recurring characters in the series weren’t properly introduced for new readers. For nearly half the book the titular character was nowhere to be seen, and the brief scene that finally brought him in gave little introduction (seemingly either expecting the readers to be familiar with him from prior books or not feeling any was necessary).

The detective that got the most “screentime,” and thus the defacto point if view character, acted a bit like an idiot as the book goes on. This made it hard to get into the dueling agendas and theories between him and his new junior detective, and for a majority of the book I was as annoyed as I was intrigued. I also felt certain things were foreshadowed too much and others not explained enough, although that’s admittedly an extremely difficult line to walk.

On the other hand, the mystery itself was interesting, when the characters got out of their own ways things progressed well, and there was clearly a lot of thought and creativity underlying the story. Also, part of my frustration was due to wanting to know more about the characters and for them to be presented better, indicating they are a reasonably interesting and potentially engaging bunch.

So I have major mixed feelings about this book, but despite some flaws and missed potential this is a solid “howdunnit” at its core, and just engrossing enough for me to give it a cautious recommendation. I would be open to giving the series another try.

Pawn (Sibyl’s War Book 1) Review

Nicole does everything and anything she can, in excess, to try to ignore the mumbling voices whispering in the back of her head. When she’s dragged into trouble by a fellow gang member trying to kidnap a doctor to treat his wounds, the three find themselves the subject of an entirely different kind of kidnapping… and Nicole will be tasked with listening to the very voices she’s been trying to deny.  

 

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Pawn leaves its readers in the dark alongside its protagonist as Nicole slowly unravels the shroud of mystery around her new, unexpected life. There’s some really interesting ideas at the heart of this opener to Zahn’s latest trilogy. The world building has some great hooks and a couple of the characters are compelling enough to grab the reader’s attention. The writing style is of course smooth and engaging.

Admittedly though, plot necessities often drive character changes and choices rather than vise-versa. Several consequences of various characters’ actions are the result of their stubborn unwillingness to explain anything to each other, beyond what seems in character and reasonable. Some story elements also seem a little overly complicated and possibly unnecessary, although some of it could be setup for the next two installments. The approach could have been tweaked a bit for a more even, satisfying journey in my opinion.

That said, overall this was still a really enjoyable and intriguing read. I got caught up in Nicole’s situation, and I am quite invested in finding out where it all goes in the end.

 

 

The Snow Queen’s Shadow (Princess Book 4) Review

“Be careful.”

“Why start now?”

 

This is the fourth and final book in the Princess series, and it addresses several major, long running plot threads. Best to start with The Stepsister Scheme (book 1).

** I will keep this review as spoiler free as possible, both for this book and for the series as a whole. **

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I read the first three books of this series years ago, but while interested didn’t get a chance read this last one when it first came out and it kind of slipped through the list until now. I recently reread the rest to make sure all the little details were fresh in my mind going in.

The Snow Queen’s Shadow is on par with Red Hood’s Revenge as the best in the series, providing the end of character journeys that have been building since the very beginning. There was a blend of things I’ve been expecting/waiting for and interesting additional layers, including a clever way to work another aspect of one of the main protagonist’s fairy tale in that I imagine there will be a lot of mixed feelings about.

A lot of groundwork for the events here was laid in previous books, but I suspect many readers didn’t pick up on the clues since it’s not necessarily a direction people wanted things to go. But it fits, and is an appropriate culmination of all that’s come before.

All in all a well done finale for a great series.