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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Local Habitation: An October Daye Novel by Seanan McGuire

Title: A Local Habitation: An October Day Novel #2
Author: Seanan McGuire
Reviewed Format: mass market paperback
Release Date: March 2, 2010
Pages: 400

It’s been a few months since Tobes stepped back into the world of Faerie.  She’s no longer working for Safeway thanks to getting her P.I. license reinstated.  She works among mortals hunting down cheating spouses, which isn’t exactly rivaling the Faerie world’s idea of investigative assignments.  With barely enough time to get back to ‘normal,’ Toby Daye receives a phone call from Sylvester Torquill, Duke of Shadowed Hills and her liege.  When Sylvester says jump, Toby obligingly responds, “how far?”

The two have a good working relationship. Mostly that’s because they’ve developed a genuine friendship over the years; Sylvester doesn’t abuse Toby’s loyalty and Toby would do a lot for him, even if he didn’t ask, but sometimes Sylvester has to pull rank.  His niece, ruler of a neighboring Duchy, has stopped responding to his calls.  Tamed Lightening is in a precarious position. It’s nestled in between Shadowed Hills and Dreamer’s Glass--the Duchy of Riordan, a typically ruthless Fae eager to claim any extra land for herself.  It’s a political game of Operation: can Toby step in as an impartial outsider, find out what’s going on with January and bring that information back to her uncle without starting an inter-Duchy war?

In the second October Daye book, A Local Habitation, Toby confronts ALH (A Local Habitation) Computing--the computer company that fronts the mortal entrance to January’s Duchy.  It’s a hilarious meeting of necessity that reminds us all that Toby was covered in scales during 14 very technologically vital years. The social awkwardness of navigating an answering machine is nothing compared to the stares Toby gets for not having a cell phone. Not that I blame her.  For all the luck she doesn’t have with modern technology, she does enormously well solving mysteries in a world very much changed from the last time she left it.

Change is above and beyond the theme of the day.  Whether it’s growing up, moving on, refusing it, or yearning for it, “change is the only constant” (p. 367).  Faerie might resist its existence, mortals may rely and plan on it, but A Local Habitation brings the issue close to home.  The only reliable thing, aside from the inevitable loss of what’s become familiar, are what we believe in: friendship, family, ideals--the relationships we create and nurture out of the “airy nothing” (p. 1) of possibilities.  Toby reminds the reader, “Something endures, no matter what happens. Something lasts” (p. 347).  It’s that feeling of hope we take with us as we close the book on more deaths, more blood, more betrayals.

It’s also the feeling that fuels the other theme of heroes Toby finds so much a reminder of her own failures.  She rushes to January’s rescue because Sylvester can’t; Tybalt rescues her on more than one occasion throughout the book, thus firmly cementing my desire for the two to run off to a passionate getaway involving something less degrading than catnip and more romantic than candlelight; Dare considered Toby her hero before she died. McGuire gives us these Fairy Tale heroes for very modern and un-Fairy-Tale-like situations.  It’s not as ill a fit as it might seem at first. After all, “reality is what [we] make it” (p. 361) and heroes come to us from the most unlikely of places.  Whether we choose to recognize them as such is up to us.

There was so much to love about A Local Habitation; I think I said the same of its prequel, but it’s true. I’m not sure if I liked it better than Rosemary and Rue or if there are just different things in each to appreciate.  I was frustrated with Toby for not figuring out Alex’s secret earlier, surprised to find out who the real killer was (okay, I lie, I knew--sort of), and amazed at the new assortment of curious and quirky characters McGuire introduced.  Elliot, bless his soul, and his hesitation every time he asked, “May I clean you?” (p. 38) was adorable.  I never knew Faerie would have its own clean freaks, let alone magical ones. The dynamic between Toby and Tybalt was hilarious (their relationship is anything but saccharine).  Anything involving Tybalt, I’m all for.  I couldn’t stop laughing at the image of Marcia rattling a can of cat food muttering, “here kitty, kitty” (p. 117) to get his attention.  I think McGuire has captured the cat personality better than I ever thought possible.  Clearly she’s a cat person and I’m grateful for it.  It’s one more quick-witted aspect of her prose that works wonderfully with her sarcastic, wry observations and gritty, grisly descriptions.

A Local Habitation is another magical olfactory exercise with a Cyber-Dryad, a lovesick teenager, and yet another make-out session between Toby and someone she probably knows she shouldn’t be kissing anyway.  Twice is a coincidence; three times is a trend.  We’ll see what McGuire has in store for Tobes in An Artificial Night. I can only hope it involves more Tybalt and, perhaps, a lingering glimpse of Amandine.  Despite her protests to the contrary, I’m also hoping Toby wakes up and listens to her own advice: “No matter how far I run, Faerie catches up with me in the end.” (p. 370)

Yes it does, Toby. Yes it does.

How many Jawas recommend this book?


Anonymous said...

I am so glad to see that you're shaping up to be a Toby fan! I'm certainly in love with the series...

Janicu said...

A lovely review! I'm so glad you liked it. AND YESSSS about Tybalt.

The idea of heroes as a theme in the book is interesting. I didn't really notice that, but you're right.

Sort of related to that: I think Toby is a natural mentor too. She gets a lot of respect from the teens and she has a soft spot for them. Probably stemming from her own difficult teen years and wanting to help others the way Sylvester helped her? Hmm.

Erika said...

@TJ: I was a Toby fan from the first book! There are some things that bother me, like her finding someone to kiss in both books (it seems everyone wants a bit of Tobes) or how she keeps resisting Faerie. Although, if she didn't resist it, there probably wouldn't be as much interesting tension in the books so... :)

@Janicu: Thank you! I am 100% a Tybalt fan. It only took McGuire describing what a Cait Sidhe was in Rosemary and Rue for me to think, "I like!" Cats are the best. Tybalt, being a Cait SIdhe, is the best. Also, Spike is adorable in an awkward, what the hell do we do with a cat that has thorns, kind of way. :)

The heroes theme was the more obvious of the two - I wasn't as articulate in describing either as well as I'd liked, but I really didn't want this to come off as a bad essay. Toby kept making reference to heroes; I saw a connection between it and the other theme I found, so I included both! :)

Toby is a natural mentor, quite without realizing it. She's a resource that Sylvester noticed right away, otherwise he wouldn't have sent Quentin with Toby, right? I think he, and other younger folk around her do tend to look up to her. I agree with you: I think her soft spot for them comes from identifying with at that age, knowing it was the Fae (Sylvester) who helped her out of a bad situation.

I wanted to sit and pick the brain out of this book - there is a LOT to discuss... Did you hear? The next two books after An Artificial Night have already been acquired by Daw books! Here's the link. :)

Lily Child said...

I can not wait to read this series! I have too many books to read...

Erika said...

@Lily Child: Haha, I agree wholeheartedly! ;)

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, but now you're a confirmed fan who's read all the book available!

Honestly, I think I'm going to become a rabid Tybalt-supporter like everyone else. He's obviously, according to fan reaction, the best side character of the series... ;)

Erika said...

@TJ: Hahaha yes! It's so rare now to say we've read everything by an author. Some of them (Atwood, McEwan, Le Guin) are so prolific.

Oh, I hope you do. My attraction to him as a character comes from how well he emulates the cat personality (although sometimes, I could do without the growling). Could you link me to your review so I could finally read it? :)

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