Chimes At Midnight, by Seanan McGuire

Series: October Daye, #7

Publisher: DAW

Published: September 2013

Where I got it: Purchased new

Cover synopsis:

Things are starting to look up for October “Toby” Daye. She’s training her squire, doing her job, and has finally allowed herself to grow closer to the local King of Cats. It seems like her life may finally be settling down… At least until dead changelings start appearing in the alleys of San Francisco, killed by an overdose of goblin fruit. 

Toby’s efforts to take the problem to the Queen of the Mists are met with harsh reprisals, leaving her under sentence of exile from her home and everyone she loves. Now Toby must find a way to reverse the Queen’s decree, get the goblin fruit off the streets – and, oh, yes, save her own life, since more than a few of her problems have once again followed her home. And then there’s the question of the Queen herself, who seems increasingly unlikely to have a valid claim to the throne… 

To find the answers, October and her friends will have to travel from the legendary Library of Stars into the hidden depths of the Kingdom of the Mists – and they’ll have to do it fast, because time is running out. In Faerie, some fates are worse than death.

October Daye is about to find out what they are.

The seventh book in Seanan McGuire’s urban fantasy series, as she states in the foreword, “marks the start of the second stage of Toby’s journey”. Until this point, there’s been a definite sense, for me, of a build-up to bigger and better things – in a couple of senses.

Much like Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, for me this series began on a bit of a slow burn, and got ‘hotter’ as it went on. That’s not to say that I don’t think the earliest books are bad – they’re certainly not, or I wouldn’t still be reading them – but there’s a clear progression here, from ‘good’ to ‘holy crap’. Chimes At Midnight is at the ‘holy crap’ end of the quality scale – and I weep at the thought of waiting a year for book eight. 

First let’s discuss the plot a little. Holy rebellion-fest, Batman. 

While the insurrection against the Queen of the Mists is not, in itself, an original kind of plot, it gives McGuire the perfect opportunity to do what she can rival Jim Butcher for doing so well – screw with her characters, and mercilessly so. So much is thrown at Toby in her quest this time around that, before the end, I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not everybody was going to make it out alive this time. Including, most certainly, Toby herself.

My nails. They were bitten.

But then, that’s why I love this stuff. Well, that and the characters themselves, for without those engaging personalities there would be little point to any of it for me. Luckily, Toby and company have only gotten more interesting, more sympathetic and, as a team, much more cohesive. There’s a closer look at the relationship between Toby and Tybalt after they finally crossed certain lines in the last book, as well as a further testing of Toby’s dedication to her duties – which include protecting a few of the aforementioned companions. Not that they’re only in it to be protected, which would be dull. Oh, no. For example:

May, the Fetch-turned-ally-turned-housemate, gets one scene in particular that had me going from my habitual comfortable reading sprawl to damn near bolt upright – and in the interest of No Spoilers I won’t say why she made me react this way. Suffice to say that I think you’ll know it when you read it, if you haven’t already. It casts her in a somewhat surprising light in terms of moral choices, and while I’m still not entirely certain if I like the scene, it certainly got me thinking about her. She is certainly not just about the comic relief, and it’s a saving grace that I’ll enjoy chewing over – not to mention seeing more of.

Likewise Toby’s squire, Quentin. We learn a good deal more about him in this book, and while hindsight’s saying “oh, of course”, at the time it was much more a case of “wait, WHAT?”. Again, I relished all of this emotional involvement and edge-of-my-seatness. Everyone’s doing the growing up now, and it’s good to see Quentin not being left out of that. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him!

And there’s Tybalt. Happily, there is still Tybalt. He doesn’t seem to have changed much, but that’s okay. He can go on being his fine self, if you ask me. *Takes a moment*

…Ahem. Yes. Anyway!

So there is a great deal of escalation here, in terms of personal stakes and drama both. What pleased me most of all, though, was how much more tightly everything was pulled together, and how much more smoothly the narrative flows. Whether it’s rapid-firing from one nail-biting confrontation or challenge to the next or torturing us (in the good way!) with dramatic wrenches in the works, this story is the best one yet told in the series. I was left with the question, “What’s next…?” on my lips – and believe me, while I’m eager to have it answered, I’m almost, almost, dreading finding out…

Well done, Seanan. Now keep this coming.

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