ARC REVIEW: Ashes of Honor

Seanan McGuire
Ashes of honor (October Daye #6)
ISBN-10: 0756407494
ISBN-13: 978- 0756407490
Urban fantasy
September 4, 2012

Blurb via Goodreads:

It’s been almost a year since October “Toby” Daye averted a war, gave up a county, and suffered personal losses that have left her wishing for a good day’s sleep. She’s tried to focus on her responsibilities—training Quentin, upholding her position as Sylvester’s knight, and paying the bills—but she can’t help feeling like her world is crumbling around her, and her increasingly reckless behavior is beginning to worry even her staunchest supporters.

To make matters worse, Toby’s just been asked to find another missing child…only this time it’s the changeling daughter of her fellow knight, Etienne, who didn’t even know he was a father until the girl went missing. Her name is Chelsea. She’s a teleporter, like her father. She’s also the kind of changeling the old stories warn about, the ones with all the strength and none of the control. She’s opening doors that were never meant to be opened, releasing dangers that were sealed away centuries before—and there’s a good chance she could destroy Faerie if she isn’t stopped.

Now Toby must find Chelsea before time runs out, racing against an unknown deadline and through unknown worlds as she and her allies try to avert disaster. But danger is also stirring in the Court of Cats, and Tybalt may need Toby’s help with the biggest challenge he’s ever faced.

Toby thought the last year was bad. She has no idea.

I was having a convo with some great readers about this series on twitter recently and I told them that I’ve loved it from the start. I so have. For me personally, each book has only made the series as a whole stronger, more engaging and as close to perfect as I can hope for a wonderful read to be. Does that mean each book has been perfect? Maybe not, but it shows that the author has grown, a lot, and that there’s been a noticeable dedication to improving on the character depth, plot thickening and general good times and adventurous doings. And if a series isn’t doing that, well, pack your bag, series.

The thing that struck me first about the book is the general storyline, and by that I mean very general. The idea of finding lost or kidnapped children has been a running theme in the series and I wondered if it would begin to feel repetitive this time. The series literally begins as a result of such a duty on Toby’s part and pretty much every book since has focused on the perils and horrors that fae children (and sometimes human) in particular face in the series’ world. On the one hand, this makes no sense – the fae are a dying set of races. Their knowes and lands are shrinking. One would think they’d stop purposely endangering their up-and-coming generations, but then, those that do are usually bat-shit crazypants.

This time Toby has to find Etienne’s (right-hand fae dude to Duke Sylvester Torquill) changeling daughter, which is a shock to Toby that Etienne would have such a child in the first place. All character inconsistencies in mind aside, though, Toby is once again quickly on the job because this particular changeling could literally destroy Faery (or is it faerie, I don’t have my book in front of me garrrr) with her powers. Usually changelings, if they have any power, come with muted talents as opposed to full-blown ones, such as Toby, who was born with her mother’s talents only with less oomph (more could be said but it would spoil past books; suffice to say her powers are different by this point in the series). But Chelsea is different, way different and because of it, it’s got to be more than coincidence that she’s disappeared. Add to that the disappearance of the heir to the Court of Cats when Chelsea appears there in a literal blaze of fire, and Toby has her hands full.

So yes, we have another storyline dealing with the disappearance of and mortal peril of fae children, but once again the author manages to pull it off and pull it off differently and just as spectacularly as before. Chelsea is like this conduit of raw power that is perfect for harnessing as well as making her the perfect example for why changeling children are forbidden by the fae. In a way this is a good installment for learning why changeling children are so and why they have to be “dealt with”. It brings home the painful past Toby has endured with her own changeling daughter. Despite the unfairness of it all, Toby never waivers in doing what is right. The question is, though, will that right end in sorrow or happiness. And the way things usually seem to go in this fae world, sorrow is often in the lead…except when Toby’s involved.

Toby’s reckless behavior is alluded to in the book description and this is kind of a standard character trait many urban fantasy heroines are saddled with. I’ve seen it in other series, the Hollows series by Kim Harrison being the most recent, whereby the heroine has no choice but the act a little reckless because – hello – they are the main driving force in the books. If they do not act, no one else does. Toby’s situation is no different really. But because she’s been recklessly hurtling into all these dangerous situations to save others, those she loves and cares about are sometimes in the crossfire and they’re getting fed up with Toby. Apparently, Toby doesn’t let others help her enough, and her friends, May (her Fetch double/twin who heralded Toby’s imminent demise a few books back), Quentin (her full-blood fae squire) and Tybalt (the kind of Cats himself) are tired of it. Toby gets somewhat of an ultimatum this time and personally I don’t feel it’s fair. Yes, they are endangered sometimes, but that’s not what their issue is; it’s that Toby doesn’t let them help her enough. I’m not sure how that can be the case, though, because in every book she has help from her closest friends in some shape or form. Hell, she’s rescued by them more than once herself. But again, this seems to be a relatively common trait to give an urban fantasy heroine, though I don’t really agree with it in Toby’s case. It’s also hard to talk about any of this without giving out spoilers – suffice to say I know a particular extenuating circumstance is supposed to account for Toby’s “recklessness” but again I don’t feel it was really the driving force behind her actions. I feel her ability and drive to save people pushes her harder. If she doesn’t do these things, no story for you.

Still, there’s a lot of emotional wringing going on – as per usual it seems – and Toby reaffirms the friendships that help to make the series a pleasurable one to read. A lone heroine devoid of friendships can be rather depressing after all. And she calls in just about every friend she’s ever had this time. Fans of the series will probably be very happy to know that Tybalt figures in very heavily, too. Very. Heavily. I am a huge fan of him and have been a little disappointed in the Lack of Tybalt in past books, but this time he is a huge asset to Toby’s desperate search for Chelsea. Is wish I had my book in front of me to pull a Tybalt quote or two. They have one convo after another of witty, romantic and pure, Tybalt conversation. If you’re a Tybalt fan you know what I mean. Together they make a fantastic team and for the first time in the series they are a rock solid one. I wish I could tell you more, but you really need to read it for yourself. Your fluttery heart will thank you.

Besides Tybalt, pretty much all the other characters Toby has come to love and appreciate figure into the story in some way or another. I love that every time we visit the Luidaeg (the sea witch, a very interesting and important series fae character), for example, we learn something new and different about her. Due to Tybalt’s increased involvement we learn a few more things about the court of cats – not to mention an important subplot involving him and his court in this book. The world that these characters inhabit evolves a little more with each book and this is the sign of a healthy, maturing urban fantasy series. We get to visit new realms of Faerie that we’ve never read about before – and heck, that even the fae themselves haven’t seen but only ever heard of. The fact that much knowledge of many fae ways, events and history has been lost through time lends well to the way Toby discovers all these “new” things in each book. This fae world is gritty, unapologetic and pretty raw for a fae-based series, where I’ve usually found such books to be too wispy and the details too ethereal to really grasp solidly. I love how my curiosity is peaked in each book and rewarded as well. This is very important, that readers are not just enticed to keep reading with promises of information but actually receive some in each book. This series is great about that.

This is a series that grows immensely with each book, both worldbuilding and character depth. I just about couldn’t ask for anything more. I keep the tissues close by and put aside plenty of time to devote to what’s become one of my most favorite series to date, but darn it if each book doesn’t feel like it takes no time at all to read. They’re just so gripping and I can’t look away! If you’re new to the series, definitely start with book one. This installment releases September 4, 2012.

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
  • Ashes of Honor
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  1. What a great review. I never want summer to end, but come on Sept 4!!!!! Cannot wait to read this book. My only complaint is that now we only get one book per year. It’s loooooong wait.

    • Have you tried her new urban fantasy series yet? I really liked Discount Armageddon, would highly rec it to help fill the Toby void!

  2. I love this series! I totally agree with you that every one of them have just gotten better. My book has been pre-ordered and I can’t wait to read it. Especially now that I know Tybalt and Toby have some good page time. So excited! :)

    • Hope you enjoy this one, Misti! I feel like Tybalt fans are pretty much guaranteed a good time. :D

  3. Pingback: Early 5bat! Review: Ashes of Honor (October Daye #6) by Seanan McGuire | All Things Urban Fantasy - Where Para is Normal

  4. Pingback: Review of Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire | Fantasy Cafe | Reviews of Fantasy and Science Fiction Books

  5. I just finished! and words fail me…This was a phenomenal read and I pretty much agree with everything you touched on in your review! My little Tybalt heart is so very happy for Toby ;) Even though I’m a late convert to Toby’s books, this series has become one of my absolute favorites. Thank you for your amazing and pimptastic reviews from the very first book :-)

    • Yay, so glad you enjoyed it, too, Negine! And no probs on the reviews, it’s been a lot of fun to put down here how they make me feel. :)

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