Review: A Local Habitation, by Seanan McGuire

February 28, 2010 Books, Reviews 5

Buy It Now: on Amazon.com

Description: Toby Daye — a half-human, half-fae changeling — has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world had other ideas…

Now her liege, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills, has asked Toby to go to the Country of Tamed Lightening to make sure all is well with his niece, Countess January O’Leary. It seems like a simple enough assignment — until Toby discovers that someone has begun murdering people close to January, and that if the killer isn’t stopped, January may be the next victim.

This review is based on a free review copy received from the publisher/author.

The Bibliomaniac’s Review:

I consider myself fairly lucky recently, in that I’ve had a long run of good books—some relatively so, and some by any standards that anyone alive could set—to enjoy of late.  Being a pessimist (or realist, some might say) at heart, I keep waiting to get a truly awful book that’ll break that good run and make me hold my nose and make gagging noises and call up all my friends to make fun of it and write nasty comments on the author’s blog and finally recycle the pages to line my cats’ litter boxes with.

But it looks like I’m going to have to keep waiting, because I couldn’t find a thing about A Local Habitation to dislike or kvetch about.

I first met Toby Daye in the pages of Rosemary and Rue, the first book in the ongoing saga that bears the protagonist’s name.  My review of that book can be found here at The Discriminating Fangirl, a few entries back, for those who are so inclined.

A Local Habitation picks up six months after the end of Rosemary and Rue, with Toby actually getting to kick back and enjoy herself for a change.  The book opens with Toby escorting a couple of her friends to the train station.  This seemingly-simple task is complicated by the fact that Toby and her friends are all blind drunk after a night of club-hopping.  After she sees her friends off, Toby contemplates getting a cab to take her home and decides to walk, instead.  Not very far along the way there, she runs into Tybalt, the King of Cats and leader of the local Cait Sidhe.

I want to pause here for a moment and say: Yum.

(I admit it: I’m an unabashed Tybalt fan, and I’m not the only one.  I was very, very pleased to learn that there was more of him in this book to enjoy.)

Tybalt helps Toby to get home, a fact he’ll never let her live down (of course), and the next morning, Toby gets a visit from Sylvester Torquill, Duke of San Francisco and Toby’s liege lord, asking her to carry out a small service for him that leads into the main plot of the novel.

I’m not going to outline the novel here and give it all away.  What I will say is that there are very few novels I look forward to with as much glee as I do each new Toby Daye novel—no small feat, when the series is less than a year old and comprises just two books so far.  (I expect the same will become true of the Newsflesh trilogy—McGuire’s zombie apocalypse trilogy written under the pen name Mira Grant—when it hits the shelves.)  The only other authors whose new works I await with such expectation are Stephen King and Neil Gaiman, which puts McGuire—IMO—in damned fine company.

I could gush for several pages about McGuire’s writing skills—and did, in the Rosemary and Rue review—but today, I’ll content myself with a single observation that leaves me particularly gleeful.  McGuire has a deft hand at characterization, especially as regards differentiating dialogue between characters.  There’s many a writer whose heroine or hero speaks pretty much the same as their villain of the deepest dye, and there are fewer authorial flaws guaranteed to make me throw the book against the nearest wall in outrage.  That Toby speaks with a style different from Tybalt—and different from Duke Sylvester, or Quentin, her young associate, or April, the strangest druid this side of an oak forest—makes me want to send McGuire several boxes of Halloween-themed cupcakes via next-day FedEx in gratitude.

To be fair, I admit to being a sucker for all things Fae.  This doesn’t mean that any book set in Faerie or with Fae characters gets a free pass from me; on the contrary, it means I hold them to a much higher standard.  Not once does the writing here rely on stereotypes, clichés, or lazy plotting, putting her in the company of such writers as Melissa Marr, Holly Black, and yes, Neil Gaiman.  I predict that, before very much more time passes, McGuire will be known as well as any of them.

September—the month that An Artificial Night, the next book in the Toby Daye series, is released—looks like an awful long time away.

But it’ll be worth the wait.