Book Review: The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire

Posted December 10, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 8 Comments

Book Review: The Winter Long by Seanan McGuireThe Winter Long by Seanan McGuire
Series: October Daye #8
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Published by DAW Books on Septembe 2, 2014
Pages: 358
Format: eBook
Source: the library

Also in this series: Chimes at Midnight

Toby thought she understood her own past; she thought she knew the score.

She was wrong.

It's time to learn the truth.

Also by this author: Chimes at Midnight, Indexing, 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", The Unkindest Tide, "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

Eighth in the October Daye urban fantasy series and revolving around Toby, Knight, Hero, Changeling. Based in San Francisco.

My Take
Ooh, lots of important and shocking revelations in this one, and at least three conflicts for future stories. One is too sad, another will become a quest, while the third has been a mission for Toby for some time. New powers also reveal themselves. Whew, I’m tellin’ ya…there is no end of action in this. Convoluted and just plain mean! There are also some tender moments. Especially that one at the end…ah, sighhh…

What appears to be the main storyline too quickly expands into the second shocking revelation and leaves Toby battered and bloody. A usual state for her. Only this set of conflicts beats directly at Toby’s heart and her past.

The Winter Long starts on a light note, for us!, since Toby hates parties and having to be sociable, lol. It’s Queen Arden’s first Yule Ball. And you can’t help but adore Tybalt as he coaxes the so-reluctant Toby into doing all the things she’d rather not…and it’s not just the party she’s so against.

This is where some of my pet peeves come in. She knows she needs to eat to keep up her strength — or regain it!, yet she whines, moans, and complains about having to spend the time it would take to eat. There were a couple scenes where she’s whining on about it and…what I really don’t understand in these…she has to sit and talk about their plans anyway. Why not eat and talk at the same time? I hate this when authors have their characters ignore basic truisms to add drama. Work on this. Find another way. I’m really tired of this trope.

Oh, boy. I am so confused about Simon in The Long Winter. McGuire’s revelations, the words she uses, about he and Amy…they make me want to believe him. But then Simon’s actions make me see him as a lying bastard. Especially when Simon talks about what he got out of his deal. They also make me wonder why Toby appears to believe him so easily. I would have thought she’d be more skeptical. I do want to believe in this “better” Simon, but McGuire needs to work on this. There needs to be more trauma for Simon. More of a sense of conflict. Instead, I’m left with the impression that Simon is a really good liar, deceiving Toby, before he springs his traps. ‘Cause I sure can’t buy that someone who is supposedly as skilled as he is, as practiced, could possibly be taken this unaware in that first encounter.

Crack me up! Toby explains the lack of any real security at the entrance to Sylvester’s knowe and you will laugh too.

Well, this is grim…
“…the sad way most purebloods looked at changelings, like the fact that we’d die someday meant we were as good as dead already.”

Toby is wondering if Quentin is half Snow Fairy, lol.

Hmm, I’m not that thrilled with the scene in Goldengreen when Raj comes racing in. It felt heavy-handed and contrived. I am curious as to why McGuire didn’t provide any reactions from the Court of Cats. After events in Ashes of Honor, 6, combined with the “intrusions” Toby is making in The Winter Long and the “demands” she’s making of Tybalt, I’d expected some hassle.

I understand — and don’t understand — Toby’s anger at Sylvester. Rather, I do understand the anger, but I don’t believe in it. McGuire didn’t make me feel it. I do want to read whatever the ninth story will be, but I do wish I could feel more emotional about it rather than simply wanting my intellectual curiosity satisfied.

The Story
An unexpected revelation by Queen Arden causes Toby to commit to more than she desired. And I suspect Toby would much prefer another night like that to the days and nights that follow.

For old enemies resurface with some awful truths, and Toby must do battle to save herself and her friends.

The Characters
Sir October “Toby” Daye is the Knight of Lost Words in service to the Duchy of Shadowed Hills and to His Majesty, Tybalt, King of Dreaming Cats. She’ll also become Hero in the Mists for services rendered in Chimes at Midnight, 7. Her mother is Amandine (“Amy”), the Last Among the First. Seems Toby has a missing older sister, August and an unexpected, unwanted stepfather. Cagney and Lacey are Toby’s two Siamese cats; Spike is the resident rose goblin, catlike but, um, thorny with a preference for fertilizer instead of tuna.

May Daye is Toby’s Fetch, her legal sister, a former night-haunt, and housemate along with Jazz, a Raven-maid and May’s girlfriend. Quentin Sollys is Toby’s squire, a Daoine Sidhe illusionist descended from Titania, only…we learned the truth behind that in blind fosterage in Chimes at Midnight. Penthea is his little sister.

Tybalt, a Cait Sidhe formerly known as Rand, is the local King of the Court of Dreaming Cats, Toby’s frustrated lover who uses the Shadow Roads, secret pathways to get around; Raj is his heir and adopted nephew, the Prince of Cats.

Duke Sylvester Torquill, a Daoine Sidhe who rules Shadowed Hills, a knowe in Pleasant Hill, is Toby’s liege lord, and has long been as a father to her. Tybalt would gladly rake his claws across him. Luna is his angry duchess, a Blodynbryd, a rose dryad; Rayseline is their daughter, kidnapped so many years ago, damaged enough to kill anyone who crossed her path, and now in an elf-shot coma. Sir Etienne is a Tuatha de Dannan knight in Sylvester’s service and still without his powers; he is head of Sylvester’s security and about to marry his mortal lover, Bridget Ames, the mother of his child, Chelsea, who will be a powerful teleporter. And, he’s, um, changed his mind about Toby. Grianne, a Candela, and her MerryDancers is still Sylvester’s second-in-command. Jin is an Ellyllon, a hedonisitic fae who heals, and Sylvester’s personal physician.

Simon Torquill is Sylvester’s twin brother and evil to the core. He’s been working for a nameless power and was supposed to kill Toby in Rosemary and Rue, 1. Oleander de Merelands was a fae assassin determined to destroy Toby but Toby got her instead (see Late Eclipses, 4).

The Luidaeg, a.k.a., Viviane, a.k.a., Antigone, is the oldest of the Firstborn, a child of Oberon and Maeve. She’s also Toby’s auntie, the sea hag, and one of Toby’s allies, she thought.

Queen Arden, a former bookstore clerk, was the lost heir to King Gilad Windermere whom Toby persuaded in Chimes at Midnight to come out of hiding. She is now the Queen of the Kingdom of the Mists (Chimes at Midnight). Her knowe is in Muir Woods. Madden is a Cu Sidhe, a faerie dog, who worked the coffee shop next door, and is one of Arden’s few friends. Lowri is the head of Arden’s guard and recognized for bravery.

Li Quin Zhou, a Shyi Shuai, a luck bender, and the Countess January’s widow, is the current regent of Dreamer’s Glass — no one is expecting its former ruler, Duchess Riordan, to return from where Toby left her in Ashes of Honor, 6. April O’Leary is the current Countess of Tamed Lightning, January’s adopted daughter, and a cyber Dryad.

Karen Brown is the very young daughter of Toby’s changeling friends, Mitch and Stacy; she’s also an oneiromancer: she sees the future in dreams and uses them to tell people what she thinks they need to know. Her oldest sister, Cassandra, is majoring in physics at UC-Berkeley. Magdaleana “Mags” Brooke, a Puca, is the Librarian at the Library of Stars where the one rule is no violence. Danny is a fae taxi driver, a troll who is one of Toby’s friends.

Dean Lorden is the current Count of Goldengreen, a fiefdom of the Kingdom of the Mists. Marcia is the Seneschal of Goldengreen. Dean’s mother is Dianda, The Duchess of Saltmist and a Merrow (think mermaid). Mary is a Roane woman with a gift of prophecy who is part of Dianda’s court.

Evening Winterrose, the former Countess of Goldengreen, the one who died in Rosemary and Rue (and if this doesn’t make ya want to go back and re-read that story…!), is threateningly back. She’s the eldest daughter of Titania and Oberon — a Firstborn and “nigh-impossible to kill” — and should have no sway over a descendant of Maeve’s.

Four major holidays for the Fae include Beltane, Samhain, Midsummer, and Yule. The “knowes are little pieces hewn out of the Summerlands, carved to fit fae needs and desires…reflect[ing] the personalities of their keepers”. Tybalt keeps mentioning the Divided Courts, and I’m not sure what he means. The Rose Road can be accessed by a Blodynbryd and it runs between “the Summerlands and places where the walls of the world are thin”. Libraries exist “in shallowings, space scooped out in the thin membrane between the Summerlands and the mortal world”; you can only get in if you’re invited by the Librarian.

There are three schools of magic: flower which is illusions and wards inherited from Titania; water which is transformation and healing from Maeve; and, blood which is memory and theft from Oberon. Toby is blood; Simon is blood and flower.

Doaine Sidhe are descended from Titania and Oberon; Tuatha de Dannan are descended from Oberon alone; Dóchas Sidhe is two generations removed from Oberon and is a result of Amandine having a baby with a human.

The Cover
The cover is icy roses in Luna’s winter garden as the snow falls and chills our Toby, her hair flying in a breeze, her shirt soaked in blood (per usual), jeans hanging low, and her beloved leather jacket protecting her from the thorns even as she carries a bleeding rose through the stone archway away from the Shadow Hills knowe.

The title is in truth The Winter Long as Toby, Quentin, and Tybalt go up against a chilling adversary.

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8 responses to “Book Review: The Winter Long by Seanan McGuire

    • I have heard that from other readers, that book 1 was slow. It’s been so long since I read the first story, annnndd, I’m thinking that the slowness might have arisen from the confusing part of Toby being a fish and trying to understand how people fit into this world.

      There was some brouhaha (in my mind about the story) about Devin and how he fit into Toby’s life. I suspect McGuire was so busy making it interesting that she forgot to straighten out some of those threads. I did enjoy it thoroughly for the characters, the setting, the way McGuire set up the whole knowe idea, her wicked twist on the fae, and the drama and tension of it.

    • Ooh, but think of all that lovely potential, Lorna. All the promise of 7 stories ahead of you to enjoy, *she says with a grin* And you are most welcome for the review. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  1. This book had so much going on and oh, the revelations. I think we’ll get more from the Court of Cats’ I certainly hope so. Like you, I have mixed feelings about Simon after this book. I want book nine NOW!

  2. I’m with you, Bea! I want it now. I do not want to wait. Although…I do want to wait. I’d rather McGuire did a lovely job of writing (and editing!), so I have another lovely story to read. I hate being so torn…!

    I am hoping, as well, for a story that focuses on the Court of Cats. I suspect we’ll find that Tybalt will end up abdicating in favor of Raj, so he can spend time with Toby. And I don’t know how I feel about that one. IF that were to happen…ahem…*grin*

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