REVIEW: Chimes At Midnight

Seanan McGuire
Chimes at midnight
(October Daye #7)
Urban fantasy
September 3, 2013

Blurb via Amazon:

Things are starting to look up for October “Toby” Daye. She’s training her squire, doing her job, and has finally allowed herself to grow closer to the local King of Cats. It seems like her life may finally be settling down…at least until dead changelings start appearing in the alleys of San Francisco, killed by an overdose of goblin fruit.

Toby’s efforts to take the problem to the Queen of the Mists are met with harsh reprisals, leaving her under sentence of exile from her home and everyone she loves. Now Toby must find a way to reverse the Queens decree, get the goblin fruit off the streets–and, oh, yes, save her own life, since more than a few of her problems have once again followed her home. And then there’s the question of the Queen herself, who seems increasingly unlikely to have a valid claim to the throne….

To find the answers, October and her friends will have to travel from the legendary Library of Stars into the hidden depths of the Kingdom of the Mists–and they’ll have to do it fast, because time is running out. In faerie, some fates are worse than death.

October Daye is about to find out what they are.

It’s a little hard to believe that this is only book 7 in this series! It started to feel a while back like we were happily riding along with Toby across the unforgiving San Francisco traffic (oblivious as it may be thanks to charms meant to hide her progress), and for some time, too. What I’m saying is, this has been a really nice, long ride with one of the best heroines in urban fantasy fiction to date. Admittedly, this was probably one of my least favorite of the series due to some minor issues, but thankfully the book picks up nicely in the latter third. I was left with quite the happy reader glow.

Toby possess a wide variety of skills, but the one that really launches this particular installment is her ability to get under her queen’s skin. The Queen of the Mists pulls no punches when Toby gets way too close to home, and Toby is banished from the Mists with three days to pack up and ship out. The Queen herself has always been somewhat of a mystery, claiming to be of the royal lineage that rightfully claims the throne, yet no one really knows anything solid about her. When Toby confronts her about the increasing problem of goblin fruit (a fae drug that affects changelings and humans most harmfully) in her kingdom, the Queen make a rather obvious effort not to hide her own involvement in the trade. Having banished Sir Toby Daye, the Queen now sends her soldiers after Faerie’s only Hero in hopes of finally doing her in, whether by actually doing her in or discrediting Toby – probably both.

This had all the makings of the usual exciting, gripping Toby storyline. We get to see pretty much all the important and fun cast of characters that have made the books so awesome – the Luidag (sea witch), Danny the cab driving troll, Quentin (Toby’s young squire), May (Toby’s fetch look-alike), and, well, all of them! And never least – Tybalt, Toby’s now-lover and king of the Cats. Lots and lots of great Tybalt/Toby scene-age, albeit quick scenes due to all the fast-paced trying-not-to-die stuff going on. Amaingly enough, you will be able to keep up with and remember who’s who, and we even get to meet even MORE new characters thanks to Toby’s search for the true Queen of the Mists. Oh yes, Toby’s leading a revolution this time. No surprise, coming from our resident ass-kicking changeling, right?

The problem I had with the book this time (and there are rarely problems for me with this series) is that the book feels largely centered around Toby staving off the effects of, unfortunately, being hit in the face literally with some goblin fruit. While, sure, this is definitely a major part of the book’s overall plot that needs to be solved, much of the book is watching Toby do the same things repeatedly: finding ways to prevent the effects of the goblin fruit, using those methods and all the while racing all over San Francisco (and often back and forth to the same places) to try to convince the real Queen of the Mists to take the throne. It felt like almost two thirds of the book was a bit too repetitive. The action that usually keeps me engaged didn’t really come in till the last third of the book. Before that, it felt like a lot of foreboding tones and often enough that I more than “got it”. Thankfully, interspersed in those is some pretty good dialogue, so there’s always that – and that’s no small thing!

Toby has, probably, more lives than any cat, magical or otherwise. This allowed me to practically get up and cheer for the latter third of the book, in which Toby finally gets a poor leg up. McGuire, as per usual, pulls no punches in bringing one of my favorite heroines low, and, admittedly, for all the parts I felt were repetitive, it was that much more fist-pumping crazy good when she cleans house. No, not the cobwebs-must-go kind of cleaning (apparently they have the hob fae for this?), but the Gonna Kick Your Ass from here to the forgotten realms kind of cleaning. The fact that she’s never having to do this alone (and can even admit to and ask for help, something she didn’t used to be able to do), makes it all the more fun.

We get to find out tons of interesting things about several characters in this one, though I must admit a disappointment at not seeing one particular, elusive fae firstborn – hopefully soon! We find out some great insights into Quentin and his family, who is as boyishly endearing as ever (I’d love to see some more on him in a series offshoot one day), not to mention all the mystery surrounding the thoroughly bitchy current Queen of the Mists. I absolutely love Toby’s powers with blood magic when they make an appearance and…and! Loved it. I absolutely love Toby herself – she’s always always doing unpredictable things to get out of sticky situations and she’s a constant surprise to the rest of Faerie, often with bonus humorous side effects.

McGuire has written another (mostly) tight, well-written adventure that keeps us wondering if Toby will make it through this time or not, all while developing plots and tying up others in ways only Toby can, in a world that is top-notch. The next one, literally cannot come soon enough.

Rating: Four and a Half Scoops

Series order:

  • Rosemary and Rue
  • A Local Habitation
  • An Artificial Night
  • Late Eclipses
  • One Salt Sea
  • Ashes of Honor
  • Chimes at Midnight
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