ARC Review: Late Eclipses

Seanan McGuire
Late Eclipses (October Day #4)
ISBN-10: 0756406668
ISBN-13: 978-0756406660
Urban fantasy
March 1, 2011

*Slight spoilers for past books.

Blurb via Goodreads:

Two years ago, October “Toby” Daye believed she could leave the world of Faerie behind. She was wrong. Now she finds herself in the service of Duke Sylvester Torquill, sharing an apartment with her Fetch, and maintaining an odd truce with Tybalt, the local King of Cats. It’s a delicate balance—one that’s shattered when she learns that an old friend is in dire trouble. Lily, Lady of the Tea Gardens, has been struck down by a mysterious, seemingly impossible illness, leaving her fiefdom undefended.

Struggling to find a way to save Lily and her subjects, Toby must confront her own past as an enemy she thought was gone forever raises her head once more: Oleander de Merelands, one of the two people responsible for her fourteen-year exile. But if Oleander’s back, what’s her game? Where is she hiding? And what part does Toby’s mother, Amandine, have to play?

Time is growing short and the stakes are getting higher. For the Queen of the Mists has her own agenda, and there are more players in this game than Toby can guess. With everything on the line, she will have to take the ultimate risk to save herself and the people she loves most—because if she can’t find the missing pieces of the puzzle in time, Toby will be forced to make the one choice she thought she’d never have to face again…

My reviews for previous books: book one is here, book two is here, book three, here. Read an interview with the author here, and yet another interview here.

One thing you’ll probably never hear me say is, “The October Daye series just isn’t that complicated anymore.” Not gonna happen, lurvlets, not this time fo sho. I think I’m far enough into this series now that I’m fully invested. When I get to that point, I feel like it actually gets harder to review the books both individually and as a whole. It’s not that the series is going downhill, far from it. No, it’s really only getting better, and more than ever I just want to say, “Read this series. It’s damn fine.” And that, my friends, would be that.

But that’s not how I roll here at Lurv, no, ma’am. Somehow, hopefully, I’ll find a way to show you that this series is only getting better.

If readers have been following this series, we know that it all began with Toby overcoming the trauma of her fourteen-years-long exile as a fish in San Francisco’s Tea Gardens. It’s been an emotional battle to overcome the repercussions of being gone so long, as well as an uphill battle to prove to those she loves and serves that she’s even worthy of being back. There’s been more than a time or two when I’ve questioned whether Toby will ever get any credit, either, for all that she continually sacrifices for her liege lord, Duke Sylvester Torquill, and even friends like Tybalt, the literal King of Cats as well as other members of faery that have no problem using Toby to save their butts. I want to reach into the book and shake these brocade and silk-wearing pansies and make them realize what a wonderful person – er, fae – Toby is. But that’s just because I’ve become attached to her as a character. *huff*

Thankfully, without giving too much away, Toby does finally get some credit for all she’s done in the last few books, for all that she’s willingly sacrificed time and again. Even though I wonder why she continues to sacrifice for some of these folks, she saves the day yet again. As per usual, before she can get said credit, she has to pay a heavy price. The happenings from the previous book involving Blind Michael and his infamous Wild Hunt still dog her steps. The Queen will use every point against Toby that she can get to see that Toby pays for the death of a Firstborn fae. Friends of Toby’s are dropping, literally like poisoned flies, and as usual no one can look past their own problems long enough to do anything about it, other than Toby, that is. From the Tea Gardens to Shadowed Hills (Torquill’s fae territory) and the Court of Cats, Toby seems to be the only hero left in the entire world of faery.

Fortunately, Toby does have good friends, and they do come through for her when things get dicey in this installment. In fact, in spite of my frustration at how much Toby must continually sacrifice, Late Eclipses shows, for this reader, how strong Toby’s positive relationships have become. As usual, ever since Toby came back from her years as a fish, one situation after another has been escalating her life into a frenzy of conflict. When Oleander slinks back on the scene, and Toby begins to question if she’s going mad, as most changelings eventually do, Toby has to rely on friendships more than ever. I wrote in my last review for this series that things were happening at such an intense rate that something would have to give, and soon. This is the installment where things begin to break, and to crumble, and Toby gets caught in their rubble. It’s the book where families are further broken, and kingdoms are made. It’s where Toby comes to some realizations about her origins, and some enemies are vanquished. It’s, as usual, kick-ass entry!

Toby knows Oleander’s back when Toby’s friends start to become ill, their symptoms impossible to decipher until Toby digs deeper. After all the trauma that Toby’s been through, you might expect her to curl up and wither away at the mention of one of the people that put her in fish form, but Toby doesn’t shy away from her past or hide from it. Despite all she’s lost due to Oleander’s treachery, Toby isn’t going to let the evil woman hurt anyone else. And despite how ungrateful some of the people act that she’s saving, Toby pursues justice for those that Oleander is hurting.

As I mentioned, friendships and how strongly they’re made really came through to me this time. We see that Toby’s bond with her Fetch, May Daye, is a true one. As Toby’s living incarnation of Death, May symbolizes the fact that Toby’s days are most definitely numbered, and that she could die at any time. A Fetch only shows up looking exactly like the person who’s to die when Death means it. And May’s been living with Toby for some time now. There’s been more time than either have realized they’d have, and May’s sort of come to like living. She loves the life she’s begun and now she’s really scared of dieing, because all the signs say that soon Toby will die. And when she does, so will May. May has been able to differentiate herself enough from Toby, kind of like twins who no longer want to look exactly alike, and she’s dating and doing all the things normal-ish fae do when they’re not helping someone like Toby fend off yet another evil plot. There’s a very touching scene when both come to terms with the fact that, well, they’re time might well be up, with no more room to wiggle free from Death. When each feels vulnerable and very relate-ably mortal, and maybe a little human in their desire to live beyond the coming storm.

And then there’s the Court of Cats, with the enigmatic Tybalt as their ruler. The Cait Sidhe have featured pretty heavily into each book, with Tybalt’s role unveiling more and more as it relates to Toby. We finally find out why the man has been so slow to trust in Toby, though I should say that in terms of romance, you might be disappointed. I personally wasn’t surprised at the level of romance in this book, as in pretty slim, because that’s not what the series is about at all. Still, Tybalt, for all his enigmatic and clearly sexy ways, makes it difficult for me not to want more between him and Toby. For readers that appreciate reasonable and believable romantic development, though, you’ll probably like that when things get heated action0wise, and Toby’s caught in more than one rock-and-a-hard-place scenario, she and Tybalt don’t just pause everything merely to give readers a spine-tingling scene they don’t have time for. I mean, maybe I’m hinting that I would enjoy such a thing were it to happen, but the truth is that there is literally no time for romance in this series, not yet. There’s time for heated discussions, glances and great sexual tension, but as far as action goes – we’re still waiting. And I’m OK with that. Given how low his court has fallen in this book, it really wouldn’t have been the time for romantic developments anyway, though I was heartened by a few meaningful things he says to Toby.

Speaking of sexual tension, Toby has more than one vying for her. Another is Conner, a childhood friend, and speaking of complicated, he’s married. To a woman who hates Toby. I did say that the series wasn’t getting any less complicated. We find out lots of interesting info on his marriage to Raysel – who happens to be the mad daughter of Sylvester Torquill. Sylvester’s wife, Luna, and Raysel were kidnapped years ago, and when Toby tried to tack them down, that’s when Toby was turned into a fish. What Luna and Raysel survived at the hands of a crazed fae have never been totally revealed, but it clearly left Raysel mad and broken inside. A fact that Sylvester’s entire court has minced around since Raysel’s return. We find out whys he and Conner married, and Toby continues to deal with the attraction she shares with her childhood friend. A little frustratingly so since I prefer Tybalt, and also because Conner has been a little wimpy on more than one occasion where Toby’s kicked butt. I’ve got to say, though, that Conner really earned my respect this time, and he finally comes through for Toby in a way that certainly leaves him in the ring as a contender for the possible romantic future of the series, as well as a true friend.

There are plenty of other instances of how Toby’s friendships are growing stronger, but the three above made the biggest impressions on me. The only other one I felt gained just as much positive reinforcement was with Sylvester Torquill. As her liege, he has to ask her to perform dangerous tasks – hence her getting turned into a fish all those years ago. No, it wasn’t his fault, but she was trying to complete a task for him, to find his kidnapped daughter and wife. In book two, he asks her to go into dangerous territory once more by helping his niece and her kingdom of Tamed Lightening. There have been increasingly noticeable instances of tension between Toby and Sylvester, pained ones where he knows that he asks too much of her, yet must continue to do so. It’s like watching a father send his most treasured child into danger again and again. He knows that each time, she might not come back. He doesn’t want to sacrifice her merely to serve his political needs, but she’s so damn good at what she does that it’s impossible no to involve her. Because Toby’s willing to take things to the extreme if necessary, while so many more traditional fae can’t look beyond said traditions to see what’s going on.

There’ve been many times when I felt that Sylvester didn’t deserve Toby’s loyalty. Given Toby’s status as a changeling, which isn’t saying much in the fae pecking order, we see that she does have reason to be grateful to Sylvester. But after her years as a fish, maybe things can’t always be based on that gratefulness, that help that Sylvester gave her in taking her into his service. But it’s for that very reason that Toby never gives up on her friends and family at Shadowed Hills, Sylvester’s own fae knowe. Things happen in this book that had me admiring Sylvester as opposed to feeling rather derisive of him. Yes, it hinges on how he sees my favored shining image of Toby, but that’s as it should be. Because she’s given up huge chunks of her life for him. And I felt that, finally, maybe, he appreciates her as much as she deserves to be appreciated. Like the father that she always needed but never had. It’s enough to choke a person up to tears.

The only niggle I had about this one book in the series is there were times when I wasn’t quite clear on what was happening. The main time this happened had to do with Toby discovering something about herself, and it related to her mother, Amandine, who we’ve only had hints of till this book. I won’t say too much, since, one, I’m unclear on it all, and two, I definitely don’t want to spoil things. But I have to honestly say that I’m not even sure we find out what exactly it is Toby realizes about herself, or if that’s still to comes. So I think some of the language may have been confusing at that point – or maybe I was just too dimwitted to get it at the time, even though I reread certain passages more than once to try to get it. I’m holding out for more on it in the next book. One thing I fear is that, if I’m guessing right about Toby’s revelations, it could cause her to be seen as somewhat Mary Sue-ish, but I think what saves her from being so is the fact that, if she was a Mary Sue, she wouldn’t have to fight so hard to gain what respect she does.

Speaking of the next book, book five is titled One Salt Sea, and it releases in September 2011. I cannot wait. This series is an exceptional example of unique urban fantasy, with characters that grow more and more in depth with each installment. The plots for each book are twisted and complicated, enough so that interest is piqued and toe tip pressure never lessens since we’re constantly on them. The series isn’t complacent, as it ups the excitement and action and development overall with each book. And that, fellow readers, is how I like it.

Rating: Five Scoops

Visit the author’s site here.

Series order:

  • Rosemary and Rue
  • A Local Habitation
  • An Artificial Night
  • Late Eclipses
  • One Salt Sea (September 2011)
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  1. Pingback: Review of Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire | Fantasy Cafe | Reviews of Fantasy and Science Fiction Books

  2. Really looking forward to this book. Thanks for the insights. Obiviously a big crisis is coming for the fae and nothing will be the same and our humble heroine is the heart of this.. the next books wilal be a blast.

    • Merrian, I’m just excited that there will be (I believe) two more books at least, if not more! I need to check the author’s site again to see what’s in the works. I had a brief convo with her, and it looks like there will be a novella also in an anthology too, so I’ll update above with that info.

  3. Pingback: Author Seanan McGuire Talks Surviving Faerie (+Giveaway) | Lurv a la Mode

  4. Pingback: Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire | Janicu’s Book Blog

  5. Thanks again for sending this to me! Like I said, just finished this morning, and I kept myself from reading the review til now.

    Great writeup, as always, but it kind of irks me that you had to justify the lack of romance in the book. Not because you did it, but because it is necessary in the first place.

    This is urban fantasy, not paranormal romance (thank god), but I’ve had so many people (males, usually 9_9) unwilling to even give these a second chance just because they’re written by a woman–even the ones that are huge fans of the Dresden Files which is -nearly the same thing-.

    It pisses me off!

  6. Pingback: Review: Late Eclipses (October Daye #4) by Seanan McGuire « Lesley's Reading Heaven

  7. Pingback: Review: Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire | Bunbury in the Stacks Review: Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire | One has the right to Bunbury anywhere one chooses. Every serious Bunburyist knows that. ~ Oscar Wilde

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