I hadn’t heard of this intriguing series, until Himself stumbled across it and recommended it to me. Though since then, I have learnt that she was awarded the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2010 for Rosemary and Rue. Subsquently, she has also gone on to write the successful Newsflesh series under the name Mira Grant.
October “Toby” Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas… The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant and renew old alliances. As she steps back into fae society, dealing with a cast of characters not entirely good or evil, she realizes that more than her own life will be forfeited if she cannot find Evening’s killer.
Oh yes. McGuire has absolutely nailed this one – and it is a lot harder to achieve than she makes it look. A half-breed not entirely welcome in either the human or Fae world, who is driven onto the streets in her teens makes for a feisty, interesting heroine. And right at the beginning of the book there is an incident that had my jaw dropping – it is a major game-changer that changes the whole tenor of the story and Toby’s subsequent life. It is a brave move, because my instincts were that it should have come later in the story – at the end of the first book, for instance. But it certainly succeeded in bonding me to the character.
Urban fantasy, when well written with plenty of pace and a strong storyline, is one of my favourite sub-genres and this series has been added to that list. While abiding by many of the main conventions, McGuire has also managed to infuse these books with an overarching sense of other. We are never able to forget that Toby is not entirely human as the punchy first person narrative describes the smell and taste of magical signatures and she moves through the streets of San Francisco with wary stealth, alert for dangers that simply don’t exist for the humans crowding the sidewalks.
The magical rules are well defined and I enjoyed the fact that Toby’s abilities are weak and take their toll on her physically – it makes it far more interesting when your protagonist has to carefully weigh up the consequences of casting a spell. The murder mystery was also slickly handled – I certainly didn’t spot whodunit until the antagonist was revealed.
McGuire has also demonstrated that she isn’t afraid to kill off a major supporting character when the story demands it, which had me thoroughly paying attention during the fight scenes. The denouement worked well and the story had a satisfying ending, despite being the first in a long-running series – I’ll certainly be tracking down the next book.