Seanan McGuire may be my new favorite writer from last year. I have been anticipating A Local Habitation ever since I put down the first book in the series, Rosemary and Rue (which I reviewed here: ). When I won a copy of the book at Book Love Affair (awesome blog), I was ecstatic. I read this book RIGHT after I received it.
The Premise: October (Toby) Daye is a Daoine Sidhe changeling. Her mother is well known for her ability to "ride the blood" and garner memories from it. Toby has a diluted ability which she uses in her PI practice, and in her investigations as a Knight under the Sylvester Torquill, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills. At the start of this book, she's asked to check in on the county of Tamed Lightening by Sylvester. His niece, the current ruler has stopped calling him for five weeks and he wants to know that she is OK. Sylvester sends Toby along with a foster at his court, Quentin, so that Quentin can learn something. It looks to be a simple mission, but once they get there, Toby and Quentin find it's anything but. People are dying one by one under mysterious circumstances.
My Thoughts: I am so easily sucked in by the writing of this book. I've seen comparisons to Patricia Briggs, Ann Aguirre, and Ilona Andrews and I would agree that if you like those authors you will probably like Seanan McGuire too. It has only been two books but I'm already on giddy auto-buy mode. I didn't think Rosemary and Rue was perfect, but the world building was amazing, and I've been anticipating what would happen next for Toby. There are a lot of hints about unfinished business in her life in the first book which have me hooked to this series already.
Like a lot of urban fantasies, the books are narrated in first person by Toby. Her character is interesting in that she has some power - the ability to read blood and to do small magics that most fae can do, but she's a lot weaker than the purebloods and there's a high price for even simple tasks, often in the form of a killer headache from overexertion. So Toby straddles the line between human weakness and fae power, and this along with small reminders that she isn't considered to be in the same league as purebloods are, makes her a sympathetic character.
Although Toby isn't one to really dwell on her differences, she is aware of them, and we are aware as readers by how banged up Toby gets in her investigations, that she's not without weakness. I like how her bit of humanity along with her Daoine Sidhe blood makes her more able to deal with death than the regular fae, who don't die of old age. She spent some time in the Summerlands so she knows a lot about fae culture and thinking, and we don't have a heroine who needs things explained to her. She explains things to us as the story moves along, and she's only ignorant about things most fae don't know about or who the murderer is. Otherwise she is a heroine who is respected for her experience, which is something I can appreciate.
In A Local Habitation, there's a new cast of characters from the county of Tamed Lightening and we're introduced to some new kinds of fae. As in the first book, I enjoyed learning through Toby about these new fae and what their abilities are, particularly the Bannick and the Dryad. We're also treated to reappearances from the first book from Sylvester and Quentin, and from Tybalt and Connor. The reappearance of Quentin and Toby's taking him under her wing reminds me of how I thought she had a soft spot for young people in Rosemary and Rue. And there is of course Sylvester, the Duke of Torquill who Toby never thinks is anything but the perfect ruler. I wonder if he will stay untarnished for the rest of this series. In my mind Toby is a bit of an unreliable narrator, and she doesn't see things that the reader may notice. Anyway, I'm speculating out loud about where things may go, which is what this series makes you do (and I love that).
There's not really any romance in this book. There were hints of possible interest in Rosemary and Rue from both Tybalt and Conner (Toby is more aware of Connor than Tybalt because of their past history) which continue in this book, as well as from a new character. I am really fond of Tybalt, and although there is a promising early scene in A Local Habitation, there's very little interaction between them which made the situation hard to read into. On the other hand I thought Toby was getting herself into messy waters with Connor in this book, which you could have seen happening a mile away after Rosemary and Rue. The guy is married to an unhinged woman who hates Toby. You can't expect anything good to come out of that.
In Rosemary and Rue, I thought the second part wasn't as strong as the first, but in A Local Habitation I didn't have this problem, so I liked this book more. If I were to look for problems, I'd say the mystery may be the weakest part. There's a small pool of suspects and throughout the story, the pool dwindles as more characters become victims. There are some hints which point at someone who Toby kept discounting, so I had my suspect who turned out to be the murderer. On the other hand, I didn't guess the whole thing, especially why the murders were taking place, and I don't think most people would guess the Why, although they may have the Who.
Overall: I liked this one better than the first book. I love the heroine and the pacing of the story seems just right, although I wish there was a tad more romance (I hope there is in future releases). I highly recommend this series if you like Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs or Ann Aguirre. The author writes complete installments but threads each book with hints as to the ongoing drama of Toby's life,and anticipating what could happen next is delicious. This is actually a series that I hope won't end at three books.
The third book An Artificial Night comes out this September (I'm glad there isn't a long wait).
Book Love Affair - "Seanan McGuire takes the best parts of mystery, the best parts of urban fantasy, mixes them up, and mixes everything up."
The Book Pushers - positive review, 4 out of 5 stars
Lurv a la Mode - 4.5 out of 5
bookblather - Her enthusiastic review represents how I feel about this series. And I think Quentin is a favorite character of hers..
Originally posted on janicu.vox.com