The Winter Long (October Daye #8) by Seanan McGuire
Reviewed by Emily C. Skaftun
Paperback ISBN 075-6408083 DAW, September 14, 358 pages
Also available as an e-book from DAW and an audiobook from Audible
If you haven’t been reading the October Daye series from the beginning, turn away now, little fish, this book is not for you. I do recommend you read them all: they vary in quality, but they are all quick reads, at the least, and though you may sometimes wish to wring Toby’s neck, overall I find the series compelling.
All this installment has as its back cover text is:
“Toby thought she understood her own past; she thought she knew the score.
She was wrong.
It’s time to learn the truth.”
This pretty much sets the stage for us to expect big reveals and the kind of surprises I don’t want to reveal too much of here.
Two people show up unexpectedly in this book. The first of these is Simon Torquill. Remember him? Sylvester’s evil twin, October’s number one nemesis, he of the fish-turning-into from book one. Simon shows up at Toby’s house, and she absent-mindedly lets him in, thinking he’s Sylvester. It’s only when his magic wells up—and when he tries once again to transfigure Toby—that she realizes her mistake. With May coaching her into even more new magical abilities, Toby’s able to win the battle, but she’s far from believing Simon’s claim that he is and has always been a friend. It doesn’t help that he’s under a geas, which literally prevents him from saying what’s on his mind.
The second unexpected person is someone we all thought was dead. I trust that leaves the field of potential candidates sufficiently wide open?
Toby has always held a strange position in Fey society: she’s a changeling, but manages to break all the rules and get away with it time and time again. She makes friends with all sorts of people who have no reason to love her and plenty of reasons to kill her. With each revelation we uncover a little bit more about her strangeness—and even more questions arise. Questions like, why does everyone Toby trusts keep major, life-changing secrets from her?
One legitimate reason is being placed under a geas. The central mystery of this book concerns finding out who is really behind things. If Simon and Oleander aren’t the big bads—and the fact that Simon is under a geas lends that idea credibility—then who is? Even Toby’s old pal the Luidaeg has been bound by this person, and when she accidentally violates the geas by letting a tiny bit of information slip, we find out that it’s someone powerful enough to mortally wound our favorite Firstborn.
Slowly, Toby is learning whom to trust. One of the joys of this series is watching her build up her own family, with Tybalt of course becoming an important part of her life. It took them long enough to recognize and admit to their love, that it’s really fun to watch them negotiate their sometimes-complicated relationship. Between him and Quentin, Raj and the Luidaeg, May and Jazz and even Danny the cab driver, Toby now has a lot of people she can ask for help. And she now does, at times!
The Winter Long begins with Toby in such a comfortable family life that it’s hard to remember that when we met her she had nothing. McGuire takes great pleasure, I think, in reminding us that in the blink of an eye she could have nothing again. If even the Sea Witch is vulnerable to this dark power, what chance does Toby have?
McGuire has noted that this book is the first one she’d plotted, the book toward which she’d been writing since book one. This definitely pays off, as so many threads are wrapped up that I had to go check the interwebs to make sure it wasn’t the end of the series. Rest assured, October Daye fans, there are more books planned and more mysteries to unravel.