I should point out that in the last six months, Seanan McGuire’s books have become my literary street drug—out of my friends, there’s only one that I...moreI should point out that in the last six months, Seanan McGuire’s books have become my literary street drug—out of my friends, there’s only one that I haven’t thrown Discount Armageddon at (and only because she moved away before I could get the chance), the other three have gobbled up the first three Incryptid books (and one mainlined the entire Toby Daye series in two weeks) and I’ve managed to handsell a bunch of her books at work. The fact that she also writes so much short fiction helps a lot with the addiction.
While routewitches and road spirits got namechecked in the first three Incryptid books and Sparrow Hill Road had a few Healys running around, the two didn't seem to tonally fit. There’s some shared characteristics between them, but as I said in Sparrow Hill Road, Rose Marshall’s world of twilight and back highways is as far from Verity Price’s urban monster population. “The Ghosts of Bourbon Street” manages to throw the two together in a blended, and comes out with a perfect mixed cocktail of haunted houses and ghosts, and dealing with strange creatures who should not be of this world, but are living in it anyway. It does read like it’s supposed to be a bridge between the two series instead of being its own story that involves both books, but I still really enjoyed it. (Although I was severely disappointed that in regards to it being referenced in Half-Off Ragnarok, Verity and Dominic weren’t crashing a dead man’s party. Drinking with the dead is still awesome, and it could have run the Oingo Boingo jokes into the ground, but oh man that would have been awesome.) I loved the use of New Orleans and how the city’s structures are ghosts themselves. And I loved the idea of the ghost krewes—I kinda wanna see a Rose Marshall story about that. The plot of the story itself isn’t that much, it’s basically a Scooby-Doo episode as written by RL Stine, but it’s fun and the little touches of world-building that we get are worth it. It’s a fun tale to bridge the long months in between now and Pocket Apocalypse. (less)
**spoiler alert** As I mentioned in my review for “How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea,” the thing that I love about the Newsflesh novellas is that...more**spoiler alert** As I mentioned in my review for “How Green This Land, How Blue This Sea,” the thing that I love about the Newsflesh novellas is that their purpose isn’t to solely to satiate the fans who want more (even though I do) or fill in the gaps of backstory/world-building, but rather a continuation of the ATET’s motto: The truth demands to be told. And while “The Day the Dead Came to Show and Tell” is a lot more of filling in the holes for certain characters, this really does showcase the amount of detail Grant/McGuire puts into her series.
This is one the few true zombie outbreak stories in this universe, with the except of the events occurring post-Rising. It really does make sense that schools would be such a dangerous place, and that homeschooling would be more favorable especially with the chance that anyone could suddenly amplify at any moment. What really grabbed me here is that the setting is in an elementary school, which while there’s still danger, it does represent that last shred of innocence in this world where everything is sealed off. And this being Seanan McGuire, everything gets destroyed. Horribly. Your emotions feed her writing and I’m pretty sure she’s cackling whilst doing so.
The whole absolute worst part of this is that it’s very much like “The Last Stand of the California Browncoats” in where you’re told what happened up front, and that knowledge lingers in your head as you’re reading, but there’s still that tiny part that is hoping that all of the kids are going to make it out alive, or more so that are unaccounted for. (I should mention that I do get upset when real life children are carelessly slaughtered. This isn’t as upsetting because even though so many kids die, we only see very few onscreen deaths, and the weights of the kids means no zombie kindergarteners.) But you want Elaine to make it to the roof, and for the kids to get out. Even though I knew what was coming, I still was rooting for her until the very end.
And what I also really liked about the whole set-up was that when you stop to think about it, the reason why everything happens is that this is the first post-Rising generation—even though they’ve grown up with the Rules and what not to do, it’s still not a part of daily life and normal for them. The whole fact that recess still exists at this point, even when it’s carefully controlled, there’s still always that chance. And at the heart of it all is the fact that kids are going to be kids, and that they’re going to disobey. Whether they do so out of spite or ignorance doesn’t matter. Because, as Elaine herself observes, they haven’t learned how to be afraid yet.
This is also all framed by Alaric’s piece on the site, and his discovery of what really happened to Elaine Oldenburg disappeared. (Yay Alaric!) It’s another thing that you know going in fairly early on (because boo on the synopsis), but it’s a little like the Masons when we see them in “Countdown”—we know who Foxy is now but we don’t know what it was like before for her. And we don’t need to know the entire step-by-step process of how she feel in with the Cat or what happened in the time between this and when the ATET crew showed up, because we don’t really need that story.
I really loved reading this, even though the gut punches were expected and I ended up yelling at my ereader frequently. (Again, I know what I’m getting into, it’s a Newsflesh story.) It’s a great addition to the universe, and I can’t wait to see what layer we’re getting next. (less)
I have a problem when I completely fall head over heels in love with a new author—my very first instinct is to run out to the closest bookstore and BU...moreI have a problem when I completely fall head over heels in love with a new author—my very first instinct is to run out to the closest bookstore and BUY ALL OF THE BOOKS. Even if I’m not planning on reading them all straight away or attempting to pace myself on one book at a time. It happened when I first discovered the Discworld books, and then with Robin McKinley, and last year it happened with Seanan McGuire. I read Rosemary & Rue last year on vacation, and the second I got home, I snapped up the rest of the series (despite the fact that I was planning to put them in the rotation and considering how long that took me).
(In comparison, my best friend, whom I had been saying for ages “Omg you HAVE to read Seanan, you’d love her,” read the first two InCryptid books in three days, then proceeded to go to her local Barnes & Noble and bought out their ENTIRE Toby Daye stock. And read ALL SEVEN BOOKS IN A WEEK AND A HALF. To be fair, she doesn’t get to go to BN as often as I do.)
A series like Toby Daye, where we’re nearly eight books in, I tend to be more forgiving of filler books especially when they’re so early on. And also because I’ve read a lot of McGuire’s books before this one and I know that she likes to have long-term plotlines. So, while this and what I’ve read of An Artificial Night so far do feel like fluff and padding, I’m not going to side-eye it as much. Plus, this is still a ton of fun to read! Just because it’s filler doesn’t automatically mean it’s bad. There are times when I want to have the literary equivalent of a Kobe beef burger, but I’ll settle for a good literary cheeseburger if it’s done well and the way I like it.
I really like that A Local Habitation opens with Toby being settled in somewhat with her quasi-return to fae society while she’s struggling with her lost sixteen years. Well, actually it opens with Toby stumbling home after a night of drinking, but the point still stands—things have gotten back to her brand of normal, and she’s going to make it the best way she can in this world. The fact that the major plot of this book is also a by-the-numbers murder mystery helps with that as well; it gives a more normal look into what Toby has to do in her daily job (even if it will get her killed). Plus like I said before, having a breather book before Shit Gets Real helps more with not establishing the world, but also means that McGuire doesn’t blow her wad three books in. (Well, not completely.)
For starters here, I love that the main plot deals with a faerie-run computer tech company that helps the faerie world integrate with the modern world and technology and its cover is that they make fantasy RPGs. I’ve come across more often than not in modern settings with immortal races, the immortals are typically frozen in time and are generally ignorant of modern technology. (Even Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely series had shades of this.) Sometimes there’s a handwave of “Oh, magic and technology don’t work well together!” but on the surface, I do love what ALH is trying to do. We’ve got a Dryad integrated into a computer server (which is a lot of body horror when I stopped and thought about it). And then when we first meet the general ALH staff, Toby and Quentin stumble into an argument over whether or not Lord of the Rings Elvish counts as a real language. (Can we have faerie Tolkien geeks that cast wards in Quenya? Can I have that? We’ve already got Toby using “Speak ‘friend’ and enter” in one of her ward casts, I just want full on nerds in this verse.) (view spoiler)[But I also liked that even though what Jan and her team are trying accomplish isn’t good for Faerie in the long-run—having Faerie uploaded to the server is just the other side of the coin of what the purebloods want—it’s never treated as “Technology is terrible and we shouldn’t be using it at all.” And doesn’t really demonize the fae who are working on the project. Yes, they’re complicit in creating the devices and it’s for the Greater Good that ultimately has a bad end, but it doesn’t mean that they were wrong and evil for thinking that it could work. (hide spoiler)]
And although this book doesn’t really give too much away for the later books, I did really like that McGuire cut to the chase on certain aspects on the world-building. We could have saved the reveal of the night-haunts and why they were created for a later book, but given the plot line, we needed to know right now. (view spoiler)[What I also loved is the fact that the night-haunts took on the form of Toby’s dead—like Dare and Devin—and it hits not only Toby hard but the reader as well. It’s a lingering remainder that there are consequences from the previous books and that they’re going to be there for a long time. Same with the Luideag paying off her debt to Toby—that could have dragged on for multiple books (with the same outcome), but I liked that it’s taken care of here.
The only thing that I didn’t really like was the reveal that Gordan was the killer. Mainly because even though her personality was brash and nasty, I did want to like her character. I don’t fault her reasons for being angry at the purebloods or at Toby for “turning her back” on changelings, but it felt too obvious given her characterization. I wanted Gordan to have more depth to her than what we got. I’m also split on Alex as well. I caught on early that something was up with him with his whole “I’ll tell you if you guess what race I am” and Toby noting the smell of his magic during their first kiss. The twist with Terrie, I didn’t see coming, and I did like that. However, Alex dancing around the subject with Toby is still not okay even if he did genuinely like her. (hide spoiler)]
As I said, Toby felt a lot more settled in this book, and there really wasn’t much of change between this and Rosemary & Rue. I did really love her big sister/mentor relationship with Quentin. And by the way MORE QUENTIN IN ALL OF THE BOOKS—I loved him trying to balance being the courtier who’s trying to uphold the family honor and being a sullen teenager trying to impress girls. Also, as of this book, I totally ship Toby/Tybalt. (The point I had to put the book down from laughing so hard was Tybalt’s outrage of “You thought the best way to contact me was to go around the park saying “Here kitty, kitty?!” He’s so offended I love it.) There wasn’t as much of Sylvester and Luna in this volume, despite this being centered around Sylvester’s niece. And I did really enjoy Jan—I do think she had genuinely good intentions for doing what she did, and that she obviously cares about her staff. I also really liked April, the Dryad/computer server (view spoiler)[despite the fact that I called early on that she was partially responsible for the murders. (hide spoiler)] I’m really curious to see what kind of role she’ll play in future volumes. I also liked that we got more of Connor in this book, and this did a much better job at establishing his former relationship with Toby than in the first book.
I just really loved going back to Toby’s world after a year, and having a breather book in which to do so was a better than jumping in with PLOT POINTS EVERYWHERE. And not to say that there’s nothing important going on in here. I think that this did a better job of illustrating some of the things that Toby’s missed out on her sixteen years as a fish, plus we got more world-building and political workings. (The politics largely ended up being in the background, but I did like that Jan being Countess of an independent county wasn’t brushed aside.) Considering that I’m essentially binge-reading the rest of the series for the next month or so (yeah, I’m not going to get to The Winter Long in two weeks), it’s a good way for me to settle in for the long haul. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Of all the characters who inhibit the universe of the Parasol Protectorate, there is probably none so intriguing and shrouded as Alessandro Tarabotti....moreOf all the characters who inhibit the universe of the Parasol Protectorate, there is probably none so intriguing and shrouded as Alessandro Tarabotti. (Possible exception of Lord Akeldama, or at least his past is shrouded and it shall be kept that way.) While there was a more humanizing element to Alexia’s father that we learn in Heartless, Alessandro still remains as distant a character as he is a parent. (I’m very much hoping that the upcoming Custard Protocol series will concern itself somewhat with Alessandro’s past oh please oh please oh please why do I have to wait until MARCH?)
While “The Curious Case…” doesn’t delve deeply into Alessandro’s backstory, it does serve as a nice insight into the work he did before defecting from the Templars, as well as set up some of the universe history that we saw in Timeless. We do see where Alexia gets a lot of her traits from—lack of a soul notwithstanding—but I did like Alessandro as his own character. There is also a younger Floote, but whenever there are Tarabottis to be waited on, there is always Floote. (I did love the scene of Floote “engaging in fisticuffs” while holding a preserved cat in a jar.) The story plot is a little too thin, but serves its purpose of being a single incident in an enigmatic character’s backstory. (view spoiler)[And then there is Leticia. I should note that I don’t actively hate her but…but…there goes my theory, down in flames. (I WANTED MRS. LOONTWILL TO BE DIMITY WHY IS IT NOT HER?!) (hide spoiler)]
Overall, I really liked this story, but I will say that for the moment, I wouldn’t consider it be essential reading to the Parasol Protectorate universe (unless this is going to play into the Custard Protocol at some point. I’m not ruling it out). ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)