Off The Shelf
A Local Habitation
by Seanan McGuire
Review by Rob Wynne
October "Toby" Daye is not your
eye. The changeling
daughter of a
pureblood Faerie mother and a human father, she lives uneasily between
worlds that lie superimposed upon one another in modern day San
two worlds she wishes would each just go away and leave her alone. In A Local
Habitation, the second
book in the ongoing series, she discovers once again that no matter how
she ignores it, Faerie is going to keep coming around, rattling her
and tapping at her windows until she pays attention to it. In Toby's world, the
supernatural is not
separated from us by crisp walls of shadow; rather, it sloshes over the
of reality and collects in giant pools all around us, making it
to get splashed no matter how hard you try.
In Seanan McGuire's debut novel, Rosemary
which introduced us to our reluctant heroine, the plot works at dual
propelling Toby down blind alleys in order to help establish the
the universe and establish the byzantine relationships they have with
and each other. This
McGuire is free to plunge her protagonist headfirst onto a
roller-coaster of a
mystery that starts steeply downhill and doesn't stop picking up speed
reaches its explosive and astonishing conclusion.
Duke Sylvester, the regent of
Shadowed Hills, sends her on
what appears to be a relatively straightforward diplomatic mission to
why his niece January, the ruler of the small and bitterly contested
Tamed Lightning, has stopped responding to his messages. What she discovers when
she arrives there is
ALH Computing, a supernatural software shop run by an eclectic
faerie geeks: programmers,
administrators, and business managers, who are attempting to integrate
and technology in a variety of new and interesting ways. Unfortunately
for Toby, before she can make
contact with the Countess and report back that all is well, someone
dead, and she quickly discovers that he isn't the first and won't be
Throughout the surprising twists and
turns of this
novel, McGuire pulls off what is, to my
mind, one of the most difficult tricks in fiction:
she writes a "fair" mystery in a supernatural
setting. As Toby
murders at ALH, all the clues necessary to solve the puzzle are put in
and a sharp reader might even make some of the connections required
action unfolds at a brisk, sometimes
breakneck pace, which creates a wonderful sense of tension and dread
as, one by
one, suspects are eliminated, and no one remaining seems safe.
In the center of it all, complaining
bitterly the entire
time, is Toby Daye, a remarkably flawed, complex antihero who inspires
alternately cheer her on and want to slap her silly.
In a genre populated by unflappable protagonists who never
in the face of danger, Toby is willing to admit, to herself if not
others, when she's in way over her head.
Sometimes, she lets herself break down and cry. She cheats, ducks,
sleight-of-hands death on numerous occasions, but she stubbornly
she sees as the right path, and she doesn't overlook the terrible cost
pays for her victories.
A Local Habitation
is a delightful continuation of
the October Daye series, and in many ways improves on its exceptional
luck, we'll be seeing
a lot more of Toby, and Seanan McGuire, in the future.
A Local Habiation by Seanan McGuire was released by DAW books on March 2, 2010.
Read an excerpt from the novel.
Review © 2009 by Rob Wynne
Rob Wynne is a systems
administrator, writer, and musician who lives in Alpharetta,
Georgia. He has been the webmaven for Aphelion since 1997.
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