Book Review: The Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire

Posted October 2, 2019 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review: The Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire
Series: October Daye #13
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Published by DAW Books on September 3, 2019
Pages: 368
Format: Hardcover
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also in this series: Chimes at Midnight

Also by this author: Chimes at Midnight, Indexing, The Winter Long, The InCryptid Prequels, Pocket Apocalypse, A Red Rose Chain, Reflections, Once Broken Faith, "Dreams and Slumbers", Chaos Choreography, Magic For Nothing, Indigo, Every Heart a Doorway, The Brightest Fell, "Of Things Unknown", Beneath the Sugar Sky, Night and Silence, "Suffer a Sea-change", The Girl in the Green Silk Gown, "The Recitation of the Most Holy and Harrowing Pilgrimage of Mindy and Also Mork", Tricks for Free, That Ain't Witchcraft, "The Measure of a Monster", "Hope is Swift", Come Tumbling Down, Imaginary Numbers, "Follow the Lady", "The Fixed Stars", "Forbid the Sea", "No Sooner Met", Across the Green Grass Fields

Thirteenth in the October Daye urban fantasy series and revolving around a changeling knight with her chosen family. The focus is on the Luidaeg and the debt she’s calling in on the Selkies and on Toby.

My Take

McGuire provides quite a bit of background on what’s happened in the series. But I gotta tell ya, it mostly made me want to re-read the entire series for a better understanding of what’s going on and of character interactions. Sure, McGuire uses first person protagonist point-of-view from Toby’s perspective, and we get that grounding in Faerie Law and how harsh it is, but it doesn’t explain the details around the Selkie curse and why the Luidaeg has to go through with its ending. The twists and turns of how it has to end are enough to drive a reader insane. Well, me at least.

It does seem a hard punishment for today’s Selkies. Or not. It might feel even harder if McGuire had been plainer about how ending the Selkies (or not!?!?) will affect the whole clan. I do get Toby’s idea, but I don’t see how another seven years is going to make a difference… And why would every Selkie have to die anyway?

Okay, no. The whole temptation scene Toby goes through felt like a filler.

I’m irked with Torin. No, I lie. I despise the cheating, conniving, sniveling, weak-minded wretch. Even more, the whole scenario with Dianda being arrested as a traitor made no sense. As for Pete’s judgment on Torin…? I am so confused as to how this is gonna be so bad.

The Merrow have an odd way of conducting war. I can see where it reduces the carnage, but, oy. As for why McGuire tossed this side story in, I guess she needed more filler.

Those nursery rhyming spells crack me up.

I know, I know, I shouldn’t say it. But I don’t like Gillian. She’s a spoiled little shit who thinks she knows it all. I know, I know. She’s still a teenager and they do “know it all”. But still. That whole scene with Toby, Torin, and Gillian had me confused. How was Toby “doing this for Gillian”? And this, this is when Gillian calls Toby “mom”?

I dunno. I did not enjoy this story for all the confusion running rampant in it. Sure, I’m pleased we get a, sort of, resolution to the whole Roane thing, but it’s not really resolved in my mind.

The Story

The Selkies have been a stopgap. A way to keep the Roane bloodline alive. But no more. The Selkies will end. No more will they be trapped between, never seeing their grandchildren born. There will be. No. More.

Then there are those who don’t want the Roane to return.

Yet, they must fix what has been broken, for nothing can be broken forever and stay stable.

The Characters

Sir October “Toby” Christine Daye, Knight of Lost Words, is a changeling knight, a hero, for the fae who works as a private detective to pay the bills. (Karen calls her “Auntie Birdie”.) She’s finally learned that she’s Dóchas Sidhe, a bloodworker. Cagney and Lacy are Toby’s elderly Siamese cats. Spike is Toby’s rose goblin. Quentin Sollys, a Daoine Sidhe, is Toby’s sworn squire and in blind fosterage — no one is supposed to know he’s the Crown Prince of the Westlands, destined to be High King of North America. Penthea is Quentin’s sister in Toronto.

Engaged to marry Toby, Tybalt, the former King of Dreaming Cats, a.k.a., Rand, is Cait Sidhe with access to the Shadow Roads, secret corridors and connections between the dark places of the world. He and Jazz are still recovering from events in The Brightest Fell, 11. Anne had been Tybalt’s first wife, a human (who died in childbirth in the early 1900s). Raj is Tybalt’s heir and Quentin’s best friend since events in An Artificial Night, 3. Ginerva, a Princess of Cats from the Court of Whispering Cats (Night and Silence, 12), is standing in as regent until Raj is old enough to take the throne.

May Daye is/was Toby’s Fetch (An Artificial Night) who lives in Toby’s Victorian with her traumatized girlfriend, Jazz, a Raven-maid who runs a secondhand shop in Berkeley.

Leucothea is…
…the Pacific Ocean and ruled by Queen Palatyne who turns a blind eye to the Duchy of Ships.

The Duchy of Ships is…
…an island with a lighthouse with ships of all kinds moored together to form an even bigger island, a safe harbor for people with nowhere else to go. It’s ruled by Captain Pete, a.k.a., Amphitrite, Firstborn daughter of Titania and Oberon, Mother of the Merrow, and the Luidaeg’s half-sister. Rodrick is a first mate and mans the Jackdaw, one of the ships that pass between coastal kingdoms and the ducal waters as floating knowes. The duchy’s inhabitants include Cephali who are half octopus, Sirens, Asrai, Selkies, and more.

Saltmist is…
…an Undersea duchy ruled by Duchess Dianda Lorden, a Merrow, who is mated to Patrick, an air-breathing Daoine Sidhe, Baron Twycross. Peter is their son and Dianda’s heir. They owe loyalty to Palatyne. Helmi and Kirsi are Cephali guards. Mary is a Roane woman with a gift of prophecy who is part of Dianda’s court.

Torin is Dianda’s younger brother and heir to the Duchy of Bluefish. He’s also Amphitrite’s great-great-grandson.

The Selkies were…
…born in the slaughter of the sweet and kind Roane, the children of “cousin Annie“, stormsingers who saw the future in the tides. Due to the Luidaeg’s spell, Selkies are a people blended of fae and human, and they rule themselves. The five major North American clans include Liz Ryan’s Roan Rathad where Baron Aberforth is the local regent, Mathias Lefebvre’s Lefebvre clan is from the waters off the Kingdom of Beacon’s Home, an east coast Canadian kingdom near Halifax, Isla Chase of Belle Fleuve, Joan O’Connell represents Tremont, and Claude Anthony who represents Sweet Water.

The drunken Elizabeth “Liz” Ryan, a former lover of the Luidaeg’s, leads the local colony of Selkies, the Roan Rathad, to which Gillian is attached to learn how to be a Selkie. Connor O’Dell had been a Selkie diplomat assigned to Shadowed Hills and had been Toby’s lover after his marriage ended (One Salt Sea, 5). Diva is Liz’s daughter. Diva’s great-great-grandfather’s name had been Aulay.

René O’Dell Lefebvre, a schoolteacher, is married to Mathias. Connor had been his second cousin. Isla had been René’s sister. Moving Day is, I think, the day the Selkies will arrive at the Duchy of Ships. The Convocation of Consequences is when the Selkies must pay the piper. Beathan had been the Luidaeg’s Roane grandson.

Goldengreen is…
…the knowe Toby gave to Dean Lorden, Count Goldengreen (One Salt Sea), and one of Dianda and Patrick’s two sons. (He’s also Quentin’s boyfriend.) Marcia is the changeling seneschal who steers him away from the nastier dangers of his position.

Stacy (quarterblooded and one of Toby’s oldest and closest friends) and Mitch (halfblooded changeling) Brown have five children, who include Cassandra and Karen, who is an oneiromancer. Danny McReady is a Bridge Troll who drives a taxicab and is a friend of Toby’s. Lily had been an Undine living in the Japanese Tea Gardens (Late Eclipses, 4). Oleander de Merelands had been a fae assassin (Rosemary and Rue, 1, and Late Eclipses).

Miranda Marks is married to Toby’s ex-fiancé, Cliff Marks, and Toby’s daughter, Gillian, calls her mother (Night and Silence, 12). And Gillian currently wears a Selkie skin to keep her alive.

Windermere in the Mists is…
…the Faerie kingdom in San Francisco ruled by the true Queen of the Mists, Arden Windermere, a Tuatha de Dannan who had been run out by the false queen (Chimes at Midnight, 7). Nolan is Arden’s recently awakened brother and Crown Prince of the Mists. Marianne had been their nursemaid who saved the Windermere children. Cassandra Brown is Stacy’s oldest daughter, an aeromancer with a gift for foretelling, who works for Arden.

Shadowed Hills is…
…a duchy ruled by Sylvester Torquill, Toby’s uncle and liege, and a Daoine Sidhe. Luna, a Blodynbryd, is Sylvester’s duchess. Sir Etienne is Sylvester’s seneschal. Chelsea is Sir Etienne’s daughter (Ashes of Honor, 6). Simon Torquill, Sylvester’s brother, had been Toby’s stepfather. He’s lost again due to the bargain he had to make with the Luidaeg.

Tamed Lightning is…
…back to being ruled by Countess January O’Leary, Simon and Sylvester’s niece (Night and Silence, 12). April O’Leary, the former countess and a cyber-dryad (A Local Habitation, 2), is January’s daughter.

Faerie Background
Oberon is king of the fae with two queens, Titania and Maeve, which resulted in the Divided Courts. Each has/had a different magic specialty. Oberon’s is blood, which is memory and theft; his descendants are the Tuatha de Dannan. Dóchas Sidhe, children of the Last Ride, are two generations removed from Oberon and are a result of the Firstborn Amandine having a baby with a human. Oberon’s Law states that purebloods may not kill other purebloods. Changelings and humans are fair game.

Titania is flower, which is illusions and wards; her descendants are the Doaine Sidhe through their Firstborn Evening Winterrose, a.k.a., Eira Rosynhwyr, which makes Evening the Luidaeg’s half-sister (Rosemary and Rue). Dawn was one of Evening’s children.

Maeve is water, which is transformation and healing; the Luidaeg, a.k.a., the sea witch, is Maeve’s oldest surviving child and formally known as Antigone of Albany. She’s also the mother of the Roane who were destroyed. Titania cursed the Luidaeg to tell no lies and to help anyone who can pay the price. Poppy became Aes Sidhe when she gave up being a pixie in The Brightest Fell, 11, and now she’s the Luidaeg’s apprentice. Lilac is a friend of Poppy’s who is still a pixie. Officer Thornton was a human policeman who got caught up in events in The Brightest Fell. Blind Michael had been the Luidaeg’s brother (An Artificial Night). More sisters were Aoife who created the Swanmays and Aine who created the Raven-maids.

Both Evening and the Luidaeg are Toby’s aunts, which makes Oberon Toby’s grandfather. Malvic. Chryseis is the Mother of the Cephali.

Toby’s mother is Amandine the Liar, a disdained Firstborn of Oberon. August is Amandine’s oldest daughter. It was the five-hundred-plus-year-old Janet Carter who caused Faerie to break, and she’s Toby’s grandmother.

A knowe is a fae holding, a little piece hewn out of the Summerlands, carved to fit fae needs and desires…reflect[ing] the personalities of their keepers”, anchored to the mortal world by enchanted doors. A seneschal runs the non-household side of a knowe. Fetches are what happens when a night-haunt ingests the blood of the living, becoming perfect mirrors of that person.

Elf shot, poison created by Evening Winterrose, is intended to put a fae to sleep for 100 years; when it hits a human, they die. Devin had gathered in changelings as a pack, a thieves’ den, he called Home in Rosemary and Rue, 1. Julie had been one of the changelings. A hope chest can change the balance of a person’s blood and were made to keep Faerie in balance. Naia had been a Roane who had prophesied the Great Fire of London.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a range of oranges and browns with a sunset sky behind the close-up of Toby, her hair flying in the breeze, revealing the tip of her pointy ear, and wearing her black leather jacket, at the side of the old wooden sailing ship. An info blurb is at the top in white with the embossed author’s name in white below that. To the right of Toby’s shoulder is the series info in white. Below the ship’s rail is the title in a embossed cracked and raggedy yellow. A deep orange circular badge notes, in yellow, that there’s a novella at the end of the story.

The title truly is The Unkindest Tide, for no one had expected the Luidaeg to call in the Selkies’ debt nor for it to result in murder.

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