I know it seems like I write these reviews moments after I finish the work in question but the truth is some of these have been kicking around for months (I blame the depression), not this review though, I literally just finished the book in question.
The first book in this series, Rosemary and Rue, was surprisingly good, and surpassed my expectations (which are, admittedly, very low for the urban fantasy genre). The world McGuire has created is so captivating that I can almost forgive her protagonist’s investigatory fuck ups (which often involved her getting shot in the first book).
This time around, October’s liege, Sylvester, Duke of Shadowed Hills, charges her to check on his niece, January, who is Countess of a the newly formed County of Tamed Lightning, sandwiched between his realm and the Duchy of Dreamer’s Glass. He can’t go himself, nor can he send more qualified members of his Court for fear of sparking a war with Dreamer’s Glass, though he does send her with Quentin, a page in need of some experience outside the knowe. What was supposed to be a simple courtesy call, however, quickly becomes deadly as someone starts killing off January’s key people.
As with the last book, I found many of the characters likeable. Besides Toby, there’s Quentin, an underage, inexperienced page currently being fostered in Sylvester’s Court, who is, interestingly enough, more savvy than October when it comes to technology. The staff of ALH computing were a mixed bag for me, I liked January and Elliot (who is a bannik, fae who are able to magically clean people and things), but couldn’t stand Gordan, who makes no secret of the fact that she hates purebloods and spends most of the novel hating on October (who she sees as the “lapdog” of the purebloods).
The world continues to be compelling. It’s populated by a wide variety of fae with their various organizations and politicking. Honestly, have the fun of urban fantasy for me is reading about the various fantastical elements and seeing how the author puts their own unique twists on myths, folklore, magical systems, etc. I love the ides of a company that specifically makes technology that is compatible with the weirdness that is Faerie, especially since traditional lore on the Good Folk often places them at odds with modern technology.
Unfortunately, like the first book, October doesn’t really do a lot of traditional investigating. Once again, I felt like the plot happened to her instead of her doing anything to drive the plot forward, to be fair, however, she’s facing an unknown assailant and something’s wrong with the phones. I’m probably jumping the gun by saying this, but her PI training seems like more of what TV Tropes calls an Informed Ability than a skill that has any bearing on the plot. My other major issue with this book is that the characters make a ton of questionable decisions. Guess what the remaining staff members at ALH do when Toby warns them not to split up? They split up, of course! One of the characters even references the “never split the party” rule in tabletop gaming. Personally, I was baffled that it didn’t occur to October to take a certain course of action (which seemed obvious to me) until about halfway through the book. At least Toby doesn’t end up injured and in distress as often as the first book.
Also unfortunate, but there’s not a lot of diversity here either. The only person of colour is one of the murder victims who was dead before October arrived on the scene. In terms of triggers, Alex, forces a kiss on October and his sister, Terrie, flirts with Quentin (who is underage), he also makes October feel attracted to him against her will. Fortunately, October is not having any of his shit (especially when other characters tell her “he can’t help it”) and tells him to stay away from her and Quentin. I also disliked how the killer is referred to using ableist terms for mentally ill people, which, while a pretty common trope, is still harmful.
Despite some very questionable decisions on the part of both main and minor characters, I’m enjoying this series and I look forward to reading the rest of it (provided I don’t get sick of it like I have with so many other series). I’m captivated by this world, even if the characters annoy the hell out of me sometimes.