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Monday, August 26, 2013

“Chimes At Midnight” by Seanan McGuire (Reviewed by Casey Blair)

Order “Chimes At MidnightHERE

I was looking forward to Seanan McGuire's Chimes at Midnight, but I didn't think I was overwhelmingly excited. But once the ARC arrived in the mail, I smiled. It wasn't next on my list to read by any stretch, but I figured I could just flip through the first few pages to see how everyone was doing—and also because Tybalt is one of my favorite characters ever, and he always makes great entrances at the beginning of Toby books—and then I'd go about my evening.

By this point in life, you'd think I'd know better than that, but every once in a while I slip up. Which is to say, if I am so compelled to pick up a book just to visit with some familiar characters, it's all over. Two hours later I glanced at the clock and realized I was halfway through and was clearly not stopping. Two hours after that I was in a mad scramble to get things done but quite cheerful about the whole thing.

I burned through this book in the best way. So much love.

Chimes at Midnight is not a book that can be read out of context if you want it to make sense. Some series you can come late to, but while Seanan McGuire refreshes your memory, this volume doesn't stand alone. The first book in the October Daye series is Rosemary and Rue (and no, the Shakespearean references in titles are not your imagination).

The October Daye series is urban fantasy; the monstrous element of choice is the fae, and McGuire knows her stuff. She's great at writing amorality (or immorality, depending), how the world works, unique notions of what binds people, how it coexists (or doesn't) with humanity. Other UF series have done this as well, and that's not what makes it special.

Toby, the protagonist, is a changeling, child of a fae and a human, and she is nowhere near the top of the food chain, but events in the series have brought her further from the very bottom. She’s more comfortable working the street than going to a ball, which is another trope we’ve all read before.

The trope that doesn’t fit is that her magic isn’t actually all that helpful to her. It's starting to be, but she has no idea what to do with it and it causes her trouble as often as it helps. People don’t ask her to solve problems because of her power, but because of what she does: namely, she gets things done, and she never gives up, no matter how outclassed she is (and she is always thrown into situations that would be hopeless for absolutely anyone).

Toby is not the smartest character in the world, but she’s street-smart, and even when she has no idea what’s going on, or what she can do, she just keeps going. The problems in the series are not solved by force of magic or cleverness, but by the determination to do what’s right, no matter the personal cost, except that it always matters. The narrative emphasis is always on the characters’ choices, their weight and their consequences, and I love that. It isn’t only magic that has consequences; choices do, too.

Chimes at Midnight sees Toby taking a stand, sort of on a new trajectory in her character's journey.

Toby has now assembled all of her people, she has a group, she has a place, and she very purposefully sets out on a quest with the acknowledgment that she is a hero to take down an antagonist. In other the other books the main goal has been to help someone or find something; in Chimes at Midnight the primary goal is really to defeat the evil villain—which then allows people to help themselves.

Some more minor things: The Borderlands shout-outs were hysterical. I was thoroughly creeped out by some of the approaches to addiction in this book. Holy crap I did not see that coming re: Quentin's heritage.

I really don't want to say too much about this particular book, because I want you to read the first six volumes in the October Daye series, with every single book worth your time.

NOTE: Chimes At Midnight is 368 pages long and is the seventh volume in the October Daye urban fantasy series. September 3, 2013 marks the North American Mass Market Paperback publication of Chimes At Midnight via DAW. Cover artwork provided by Chris McGrath.

5 comments:

John O'Connor said...

It's a shame that none of this series is available on Kindle as it looks like something I would enjoy reading. I haven't bought a physical copy of a book for 2 years or so now. Maybe the publishing houses will start to understand what they are missing soon.

Anonymous said...

It is available on kindle. I have 3 of this series on kindle and Chimes At Midnight is available for pre-order on kindle now.

Anonymous said...

It is available on Kindle. Rosemary and Rue is $7.59. Chimes At Midnight is available for pre-order. I have most of the series on Kindle and love it, can't wait for this one.

Darkstar said...

Well, actually, all of Seanans Toby Daye-Books are available as Kindle-Versions.

I LOVE the series and can't wait for next Monday to get my copy of it (the Kindle version, by the way).

Cheers from Germany

Christian

Anonymous said...

Kindle versions are very region specific, and the Toby Daye books aren't available on Kindle in the UK.

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