Review: Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire

Review: Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuireAshes of Honor by Seanan McGuire
Series: October Daye #6
Published by DAW on September 4, 2012
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 353
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
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four-half-stars

It's been almost a year since October "Toby" Daye averted a war, gave up a county, and suffered personal losses that have left her wishing for a good day's sleep. She's tried to focus on her responsibilities—training Quentin, upholding her position as Sylvester's knight, and paying the bills—but she can't help feeling like her world is crumbling around her, and her increasingly reckless behavior is beginning to worry even her staunchest supporters.

To make matters worse, Toby's just been asked to find another missing child...only this time it's the changeling daughter of her fellow knight, Etienne, who didn't even know he was a father until the girl went missing. Her name is Chelsea. She's a teleporter, like her father. She's also the kind of changeling the old stories warn about, the kind with all the strength and none of the control. She's opening doors that were never meant to be opened, releasing dangers that were sealed away centuries before—and there's a good chance she could destroy Faerie if she isn't stopped.

Now Toby must find Chelsea before time runs out, racing against an unknown deadline and through unknown worlds as she and her allies try to avert disaster. But danger is also stirring in the Court of Cats, and Tybalt may need Toby's help with the biggest challenge he's ever faced.

Toby thought the last year was bad. She has no idea.

I began this enterprise of catching up on the October Daye series when I requested book ten of a series I’ve never read. Call me a greedy blogger if you want (though that would be a bit misguided considering the amount of money I’ve spent on this series in the process—I doubt Seanan would be complaining tbh), but I’ve wanted to read McGuire’s work ever since I read Feed, and this seemed like a good opportunity to jump it up my queue. At first, I thought this was a really stupid decision, because ten books is a LOT, but I have no regrets. This series is amazing, and I’m glad even if it totally derailed my schedule. Worth it.

The Scary Place

At this point, I’d like to sidebar this review for a bit and talk about The Scary Place™. The Scary Place™ is a phenomenon of shippers who become obsessed beyond the point of “reason” with a particular ship and with its world more broadly. Love does not truck with reason after all. The Scary Place only happens with longer form fictions (i.e. book series, film franchises that span several films, or TV shows). Much as I ship a couple in a film or standalone novel, there’s not enough waiting to start fraying the threads of my sanity. The Scary Place™ is what happens when a perfect slow burn starts burning up your insides. It always sneaks up on you.

Some signs that you are in The Scary Place™:

  • You find yourself unreasonably mad at obstacles to your ship setting sail, even if it’s the characters themselves and a totally crucial plot arc.
  • If there are love rivals, you want to destroy them with your bare hands, where normally you’d be totally okay with the heroine (lbr it’s generally a girl in the middle) hooking up with whoever she pleases so long as endgame is the right guy.
  • If friends have read the same thing and also gone to The Scary Place™, you have LONG discussions about the ship, the world, the characters, and basically start writing yourself fan fiction.
  • If your friends haven’t read/watched it, you begin cajoling them into it, using bribery or shiny lures (like there is a fakeout makeout in October Daye, guys—the ship is REAL) to make them join you. The Scary Place™ is very sad when not shared.
  • You find yourself relating basically every conversation back to the media that has you in The Scary Place™.
  • While reading/watching your ship or even just thinking about them, you get actual pains in your other heart place. You may have trouble breathing. You may spontaneously cry. Physical symptoms happen.
  • Tl;dr: you spend way more time than usual thinking about how perfect that ship is and everyone around you who is not a shipper will be seriously concerned. Sometimes even the shippers will be concerned.

Some The Scary Place™-inducing fiction:

There are more obviously, but these are some recent ones for me. As I said, October Daye snuck up on me. I mean, the first book was a bit of a struggle, and, to quote Jane Austen “I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.” Part of The Scary Place™ is a bit of self-denial that comes in the package, trying to convince you that you’re totally fine. Well, I was fine or so I thought, but then I suddenly found myself determined to locate all of the October Daye novellas, which I knew about but had been uninterested in, tracking down some on Seanan’s website freely available, others at my library, one reprinted in an online journal, and then finally supporting Seanan’s patreon because there were three Toby Daye short stories only available there and for some reason I suddenly needed them to live. So yeah, hello The Scary Place™.

October Daye Novellas

Cementing my place in this Place, I adored the short stories. Generally, I low level detest the between the book novella trend because those fairly cheap stories really add up and, if they were plot relevant, they would be in the actual novels. McGuire’s stories are mostly free, though there’s one about Quentin that’s an actual traditional ebook novella that I will be purchasing for two bucks when I get there. They’re also as high quality as the books themselves. She made me care about a character only tangentially related to the series and long dead. Like what even. Oh, also, one of the short stories shows that Tybalt is bisexual, which is totally unsurprising but which I hadn’t known and oh yes so glorious bless you Seanan.

Ashes of Honor

Ashes of Honor is the book where all of that patient, scary place shipping comes to fruition. Maybe that will soothe me? I’m not really sure since you usually don’t get to see the couple together until the last book in these taunting slow burns. I’m excited to find out. Yes, this is sort of a spoiler, but I think you had to see it coming if you’ve been following along with the series. I mean, she killed off the love rival at the end of the prior novel, so if you didn’t see this coming in this book and you’re mad at the spoiler, learn more about fiction or something because it was as inevitable as it was beautiful. I do still feel some of the emotion was cheated a bit by killing Connor off rather than some other resolution, but otherwise this book is fucking perfect.

Part of why The Scary Place™ officially hit me while I was reading this book is because my shippy feels hit max, though I’ve shipped them from book one and even more intensely since the fakeout makeout. However, Toby’s been locked down emotionally for the whole series, and this is the book where she’s really opening up. When you first meet Toby in book one, she’s returned to her own form after fourteen years as a fish (long story, and, no, it wasn’t her choice). Because of that curse, she lost her human husband and Changeling daughter; those relationships were irreparable after an unexplained fourteen year absence. October found a way to keep going with her heart split apart: she locked it down. But there’s a reason so many of her cases are her risking her life to save lost/stolen children. October has shit to work through, and she does it, one bloody book after another.

In One Salt Sea, she deals with Gillian, who finally takes her Changeling choice for good and decides to stay with her father and be human. Yes, this hurts October, as does the fact that Connor died to save Gillian, but losing Gillian with finality also provides closure she needed. And, though she’ll never be “over it,” October knows she’s done the best she can for Gillian, and she’s followed the laws of her people. In fact, she saved Gillian with her Dochas Sidhe powers, because otherwise Changelings who choose human are killed. So yeah.

When Ashes of Honor starts, Toby’s still grieving Connor’s loss, but she’s functional again. Unlike Meyer, McGuire skips the periods of time where October is doing nothing but staying in bed grieving, putting them between books. October’s emotions are starting to open up and so this is the book of dealing with things, and this is the book where she really lets you in. She’s finally honest with herself about a lot of things, most especially her feelings for Tybalt and his for her. However, it’s not just Tybalt she’s kept at arms length. Much as she loves them, she’s held May and Quentin and everyone else a bit apart too, and she’s really facing her semi-suicidal handling of her dangerous cases. In Ashes of Honor, she begins to show a healthy inclination to trust and rely on those around her for help. This being a McGuire novel, that doesn’t make anything less dangerous or physically painful but hey it’s good progress mental health-wise.

Obviously my central feels are tied to the perfection of Toby and Tybalt, Shakespearean nerds who complete each other, but the world is amazing and the cast just keeps getting more important to me. All of Toby’s cohorts matter to me more and more. With each book, someone I didn’t previously have an emotional tie to becomes precious to me. In this book, I suddenly find myself caring about Etienne, who had been just this gruff guard dude before that point. And Raj, who was adorable before, suddenly is giving me super massive feels. Seanan McGuire’s character building is masterful.

Okay I can’t stop without some flailing about Toby and Tybalt because OMFG. I want to just talk about a couple of small things that show how perfect they are for each other. Tybalt learned how to make coffee and to like it because it’s pretty close to being Toby’s lifeblood. That’s a silly little thing, but it just kills me. I mean, yeah, he puts his life and honor on the line for Toby in every single book, but this small, seemingly insignificant detail shows how much he cares about her in the day-to-day, that he really knows her. He’ll brew her coffee when it’s the only thing keeping her going but also on the rare days when they wake up together and he brings it to her in bed. *becomes quivering mass of feels*

The moment that kills me the most in Ashes of Honor is when Tybalt comments that he expects they’ll be looking for Chelsea (kidnapped Changeling with the power to destroy Faerie) rather than Raj. He says this knowing those are the right priorities in an objective sense, and he’ll continue to love Toby if she agrees. Toby, however, had already decided that Raj was her top priority if she could only save one of them, and she tells him so. Tybalt loves her more for this, because they have identical priorities, something that you’ll get really strongly if you read the Tybalt POV short stories. He will always put the people he cares about over the world as a whole and often over good sense, and so will she. THEY ARE PERFECT I DIE.

JOIN ME HERE, SHIPPERS. Do not leave me here alone. This series takes a bit of time, though it’s definitively excellent from about book three. And Tybalt is perfection from the very start because he’s a bantery flirt cat who can be protective without locking the people he loves down. (okay I need to stop before I melt down)

Favorite Quote:

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Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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