So, a new year and a new Cannonball. A Rose-Red Chain, by Seanan McGuire, the ninth book in the October Daye series. Also, warning: this review will contain spoilers for the rest of the series, which I have not reviewed, on account of having read most of them before starting to review books for the purposes of Posterity, Comedy, and Fucking Cancer (But Not Like That Where Has Your Mind Gone You Filthy Animal).
October is newly engaged to the lovely Tybalt, my favourite man-who-is-also-a-cat (which really isn't a descriptor I ever thought I would write, good to know all those English Lit courses were in fact for nothing), and they have just started to plan their wedding when Toby - through shenanigans - is sent to be the ambassador to the northern Kingdom of Silences, which has just declared war on the Kingdom of Mists. She has to stop the war, and preferably also survive.
I'm a huge McGuire fan, she's an incredible writer who has the perfect amount of black humour, terrible puns, scorching hot sexytimes, and rapid-fire action for my tastes. This book feels like one of the weaker ones in the series though, which I think is probably a combination of the winding up of the series (sob), and the relative absence of the Luideag from the story, because she's my favourite. Sarcasm and a tragic back story does it for me every time.
That said, my standards for McGuire are really high at this point, and she handles Toby's power-creep really well - Toby angsts about her nature, confronts various moral dilemmas regarding the usage of her powers and resolves them in a pleasing fashion, and while the villains of the story are powerful enough to be a threat and a challenge to Toby, they're not subject to the same power-creep, which is really nice - they're a challenge because they're clever and careful and powerful, and Toby's victory is more to do with her allies and friends than it is her own special snowflake-ness. In that respect, McGuire is both fighting the tropes as well as satisfying them, which is a hard line to walk for any author, especially in paranormal-urban-romance-fantasy, which is really trope-tastic. (I have Thoughts about the nature of the genre, actually, but I'll save that for another time. I think it deserves its own post.)
My main complaint, really, is the speed of book. The pacing was weird in places, really slow in some parts and then so fast it was almost blink-and-you-miss-it in others, and the ending was much more abrupt than I expect from a Toby book, usually there's more deconstruction and winding-down of the plot after the big bad is gone. I don't know if that's because McGuire is doing about twelve other things and got distracted by the siren song of another novel, or her editor was phoning it in that week, or if it was a deliberate choice and the next book will pick up immediately in the aftermath, but it left me a little wrong-footed.
Still, this is still a damn good book, and an excellent addition to the series. Don't start with it, obviously, start with the first one ffs, but this is one that fans of the series are going to want to read and won't be disappointed by.
4/5: when I read again, I'm going to add in my own Luideag commentary and it will be awesome. "Really, Toby? Really? JUST BURN IT. What, none of you can make fire? I dunno, kids these days, what was Dad thinking." Etc.
Crossposted to Cannonball Read here.