Five Reasons You Should Read Seanan McGuire’s October Daye Books

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The latest book in Seanan McGuire’s long-running October Daye urban fantasy series, Once Broken Faith, came out a little over a month ago. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a McGuire fangirl. I love her writing, and I recommend this series every chance I get.

But now we’re 10 books in…and frankly, it can be a little intimidating to start a long-running series. I’ve seen many series lose steam and direction after a few books are out.

That’s not the case here.

I thought I’d break it down, point by point–the five reasons you should pick up the October Daye books if you haven’t already:

1) The long-term payoff. One of the big problem with long-running series is that they often lose focus as they go on. Not true with the October Daye books. You can tell that McGuire has a firm hand on her world and characters. Information will be revealed in one book that may not pay off until several books later. Even 10 books in, we are still waiting for answers to a lot of important questions. A lot of the tension in the story builds from the fact that other people know things that Toby herself does not. McGuire uses this tension skillfully, and it’s very much to the story’s benefit.

2) Fantastic worldbuilding. One of the things I’ve always admired about McGuire’s writing is her amazing ability to build worlds. Whether it’s the ghostly Midwest of yesteryear in Sparrow Hill Road or the mythological creature-rich world of her InCryptid series or a boarding school for kids who have been sucked into parallel universes in Every Heart a Doorway, McGuire has an incredible ability to create a world out of the fantastic that feels real in its vividness and complexity. In this series, fae live among humans, hiding in plain sight. There are rules, social norms, dress codes, territories, and conflicts, and they are all drawn out so vividly that you feel like you’re there.

3) Slow-burn romance. These books definitely sticks more to the urban fantasy side of the urban fantasy/paranormal romance spectrum, but that doesn’t mean Toby is completely romance-free. But it takes a long time to get there, and it may not be with the person you initially expect. But by the time you do get some payoff from the romance, you really feel like they’ve earned it. In addition, it’s not—shall we say—graphically depicted, so those who prefer less explicitness in their fiction are in the clear.

4) Real consequences. Some writers seem to believe that “fantasy” is essentially a “get out of jail free” card. Killed off a beloved character? Just bring them back to life! Burned down a major city during your epic battle? That’s okay, you can just use the magic restoration potion to fix everything. But in the October Daye universe, things stick. Bad things happen, and there are sometimes long-term consequences. McGuire is also—be warned—willing and able to kill beloved characters…permanently. But the bad things in Toby’s world make the good things seem all that much more special.

5) Great side characters. Sometimes in urban fantasy, the side characters don’t feel as complex or developed as the protagonist. Not so here. Everyone from the King of Cats to the ancient sea witch to Toby’s teenage squire to Toby’s death omen (long story, don’t ask) have rich, compelling inner lives. As a bonus, McGuire has written several short stories and novellas set in Toby’s world featuring many of these characters as protagonists. (Many of these stories are free on McGuire’s website.)

And as a bonus…

6) LGBT representation. McGuire is a very outspoken advocate for inclusion in fiction, and she practices what she preaches. Bisexuality is the norm in fae culture, particularly among pureblooded fae, so you get to see many of the characters engage in same-sex relationships. One of the secondary characters is also transgender, but we don’t find out until well after the character has been introduced, and it’s dropped into the story so casually you might forget about it. But the coolest part about the inclusion is that it’s not a big deal within the story. Nobody makes an issue of it, and it’s not the defining characteristic for any of these characters. They are not included in the story as the “token” queer characters; they each play roles in the story that have nothing to do with their sexuality or gender identification.

So there you go. If you haven’t done so already, pick up Rosemary and Rue. It’s a great book, and the books get stronger as you go along. And if you have, let me know what you think!

 

DemonWithin CoverOn another note…

My Goodreads giveaway is still running through November 11. I’m giving away 15 signed, personalized copies of my urban fantasy novel, The Demon Within, about a young woman who finds out that she’s half demon–just in time for the entire angelic population of Manhattan to start hunting her down. If you’re interested, you can enter here.

 

Tuesday Book Rec: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

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I’ve been focusing a lot on promotional stuff as of late, but I wanted to take today to return to my Tuesday Book Recommendations.

I get these “author crushes.” Basically, it’s when I look at another author with a combination of envy and awe. And yes, I know—we all have our own voices and styles, etc. Still, it doesn’t stop me from looking at the work of other authors and thinking, “I wish I could do that!”

Seanan McGuire is one of those authors for me. Every book I’ve read of hers, whether it’s her fae fantasy October Daye series or her zombie political thriller Newsflesh trilogy (written under her Mira Grant pseudonym), every book I’ve read of hers has been entertaining and engaging, with great characters and story. But what really gets me about McGuire’s work is her worldbuilding. Every sci-fi/fantasy universe that she creates is so complex, well-realized, and they’re each so different than one another.

In Every Heart A Doorway, McGuire’s new novella, she describes multiple, unique worlds, each of them a love child of Lewis Carroll and Tim Burton. At the heart of the story is a question: what would happen when Alice and Dorothy Gale and the Pevensie children came home? They’ve had these big adventures in this fantastical worlds, and then they come home and are expected to act like nothing has changed. Their family and teachers and friends have certain beliefs about who they are and what they’re like—but they no longer fit.

The book takes place at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. The families of these children believe they’re attending a school to cure them of their otherworldly fantasies, to turn them back into the people they were before their disappearances. But really, this is a retreat for children who have gone to another world, long desperately to go back, and have to learn to live in the world knowing the doorway back “home” will probably never open for them again.

There a murder mystery, but that was the least interesting part of the book for me. The most interesting were the stories of the students and their respective worlds: Nancy and the Hall of the Dead, where stillness and silence reign; Jack and her Frankenstein-esque scientific pursuits; Jill and her vampire-master; Christopher and the bone princess with whom he fell in love.

But the story that touched me the most was Kade’s, a transgender boy. Kade was kicked out of his world, after years of being a hero there, when they realized that the girl they thought they had taken was really a boy. But Kade’s parents cannot accept that he is transgender, either, so he’s stuck at the school as Miss Eleanor’s ward, not really belonging anywhere.

There are deeper metaphors here, about growing up and finding a place where you belong and not fitting in with the world around you. It was sad and sweet and beautiful, and it touched me in ways I can’t quite articulate. Maybe because I was one of those kids who never quite fit in. I would have loved a school like this one.

I also loved McGuire’s treatment of gender and sexual identities in the story. Nancy, the protagonist, is asexual. Kade, the leading male character in the story, is transgender. This story is not about that, and for the most part those aspects of their characters are treated as no big deal by the other students. For Nancy and Kade, their sexual and gender identities are just one more way they don’t fit with the world around them.

To be honest, I almost didn’t pick this book up. I got sick of YA novels after reading a lot of them several years back, and I’ve mostly avoided them since. I did so because I’m a McGuire fan, and because the premise sounded interesting.

And I’m so glad I did. It touched me in ways I didn’t expect, more deeply than any other story has in a long time.

Seanan McGuire Quoted Me!!!

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About two and a half years ago, I wrote an advance review of Seanan McGuire’s Ashes of Honor for CC2Konline.com, a website dealing in all things pop culture.  McGuire is one of my favorite urban fantasy authors, and I had the privilege of being able to interview her as well.

All in all, it was a great experience, but also one I hadn’t thought about in a long time…until today.  I decided to re-read The Winter Long, the 8th book in McGuire’s October Daye series, and I saw this:

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It’s a little hard to see, but that’s my Kindle, opened up to the promotional quotes section of The Winter Long.  And that last quote…I wrote that!  Even if I hadn’t seen CC2K, I’d recognize my wholly unnecessary use of em-dashes anywhere!

Since it’s a little hard to read, it says:

I love this series.  I love that Toby is a strong, independent—yet still vulnerable—heroine.  I love that this is a world where people die, where consequences matter.  I love the complex world-building and mythology.  I love the almost film noir tone of the series.  I love that each book leaves me wanting more.

If you dig urban fantasy, this is one of the best out there.  If you’re looking to try the genre for the first time, this series could be the place to start.

And even now, that pretty much sums up my feelings about the October Daye series in a nutshell.  Seanan McGuire is one of the best urban fantasy writers out there.  I have never picked up a book of hers and been disappointed.

I don’t know whether McGuire herself chose the quote, or someone from the DAW promotional team.  Either way, I am completely flattered (even if I am six months late in noticing).

If you’re interested in the series, do yourself a favor and start with Rosemary and Rue, the first book.  The plot and worldbuilding are too complex to jump in the middle, and you’ll find that McGuire, as a writer, plays the long game: the books pay off more the longer you stick with them.  It’s worth it, too, because they just keep getting better and better.

Best of 2014: Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

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I know, I know, I’m horribly late on finishing my best books of 2014 list. But I promised you 10, and I’m giving you 10—better late than never, right? Can’t even blame vacation this time; I’ve just been busy getting sick (ugh) and working on rewrites for The Demon Within (yay!) since I got back. But I’m sitting down, putting my nose to the grindstone, and finishing the list. But the nice thing about books is that they never go out of date, and you don’t have to worry about them leaving the movie theaters or anything like that. So even if I’m a little late, these books aren’t.

So my next pick for the top 10 books of 2014 is Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire.

The book description:

Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea.

It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running. They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her.

You can’t kill what’s already dead.

Not until now.

Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series is one of my current favorites in urban fantasy. It keeps getting better and better, and it’s definitely worth a read if you haven’t done so already. I chose to focus on this book, though, because a) if you haven’t read the October Daye books already, jumping in at The Winter Long—the 8th book in the series, which was released in 2014—is just going to confuse the crap out of you, and b) Sparrow Hill Road is just so different from anything else she’s written. To tell you the truth, it’s different than anything else I’ve ever read.

I also just really, really dig ghost stories.

Sparrow Hill Road follows Rose Marshall through her afterlife as a road ghost, funneling the spirits of those who die in auto accidents into the afterlife. As the book was originally a set of short stories, the novel has an ambling, non-linear quality to it. Some readers might not like this, but I did; it seemed to fit Rose’s perception of the world as a ghost. The stories are tied together by Rose’s quest to evade Bobby Cross, the man who killed her in 1952 and who continues to chase her spirit long into her afterlife.

I was struck by the Americanness of the novel. America has always been a nation of cars and highways, and the entire novel revolves around that. McGuire has taken our America’s relative lack of history, our culture of fast food and fast cars and yearning to escape, and turned into a mythology. It’s incredibly well done, and surprisingly creepy.

It is also, at times, an achingly sad story. As Rose remains perpetually 16, doomed to wander the ghost roads forever, the world and the people she left behind slowly die. It’s always 1952 for Rose, but the living go on without her. I think that’s one of the appeals of ghost stories for me: this idea of always being on the outside looking in, longingly, at the world of the living. Rose is sometimes called upon to escort the people she was closest to in life to their afterlives. It’s one of these moments that provide the saddest—and the best—scene in the story.

There are moments of joy and moments of pain and moments of excitement in Rose’s afterlife, and all are told in such beautiful, precise detail that you feel them along with Rose. Sparrow Hill Road is not your usual fast-paced, kick-butt urban fantasy, but for those of you who are looking for a great ghost story, or for those of you who are looking for something different than the norm, it’s definitely worth the read. This is a stand-alone novel, but I hope McGuire revisits Rose and her friends at the Last Chance Diner; there are more stories left to tell here.