Seanan McGuire


A fantasy novella. First story in the Wayward Children series. Can be read as a stand-alone.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook
Publisher: TOR
Page count: 156

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children is a place for kids who have run away and returned changed can go to get counseling and hopefully return happy and same as before. Or that’s the hope of the parents who send their kids there. But most kids aren’t fixed or healed.

Because they’ve had such a profound experience that they can’t return to their former selves, just like adults can’t (and don’t want to) become the children they used to be. These children have not run away, they’ve gone to another world which became home to them and changed them. They’ve stayed in their worlds for years but grown but returned as kids. And the adults can’t understand that. Or won’t. So, the kids are labeled as crazy. Eleanor tries to get these kids under her wing to a school where they don’t have to hide their experiences or hopes of returning to that true home.

Nancy is the newest kid. Before she went through a doorway, she wore bright cloths, ran around, and laughed a lot. Then she went to the Hall of the Dead where she learned to be very, very still to please the Lord of the Dead whom she adores (not in a sexual way, though). Bright colors could be earned but Nancy hadn’t earned them, yet. So, she wears just black and white. Her parents didn’t understand it at all. So, they sent her to Eleanor’s.
Everything is new for Nancy, including the way that the kids and the teachers talk about the worlds. Some are high Logic, others high Nonsense. All of the kids want to go back, they don’t want to stay in reality but most of them realize that they might have to.

This is a weird book, horrible and wonderful at the same time. It’s not children’s story, at all, even though most of the characters are teenagers. It’s also not an adventure story, more like a snapshot of Nancy’s life for a few weeks. There is a mystery to uncover but’s not the main thing and I think it’s too easy for mystery readers to solve. I don’t usually like horror but this had just enough horror elements not to bother me.
I really liked the characters: Eleanor herself has gone to a high Nonsense world. She looks like she’s in her sixties but it older. Nancy’s roommate Sumi has also gone to a high Nonsense world and prefers to use windows rather than doors. She’s talks a lot and is pretty blunt. Kade is the keeper of wardrobe. Then there’s are the “creepy twins” Jake and Jill who went into a world that was similar to a horror movie. Jill was the vampire lord’s apprentice while Jake got to be the mad scientist’s apprentice. I also really liked the setting and a sequel is already out! Apparently it centers on Jack and Jill.

Even though the kids have had really strange and different experiences, this is still a school and they form groups and bully each other. That was one of the things I really disliked but I guess it comes naturally to kids. It’s the adults’ job to teach them better. I’m also not too sure if I liked how they reacted to the mystery part.

Many of the characters are not standard, which I found really refreshing. Nancy, for example, is asexual, one of the characters is a trans boy, and many are people of color.

Most of the kids at the school are girls. Nancy asks about that and is given an explanation:

“Because ‘boys will be boys’ is a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said Lundy. “They’re too loud, on the whole, to be easily misplaced or overlooked; when they disappear from the home, parents send search parties to dredge them out of swamps and drag them away from frog ponds. It’s not innate. It’s learned. But it protects them from the doors, keeps them safe at home. Call it irony, if you like, but we spend so much time waiting for our boys to stray that they never have the opportunity. We notice the silence of men. We depend upon the silence of women.”

Government agents are trying to protect the US from fairy tales because fairy tales are true and trying to suck as many people as possible to unhappy endings.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Running time: 12 hours and 5 minutes
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal

Apparently, this came out first in a serial format, one chapter at the time. I got it as a full audio book and the serialization shows a little, because McGuire recounts previous happenings. But I had too much fun with the book to get annoyed. However, this is a book where thinking about certain things later actually turned my initial enthusiasm down.

Henrietta Marchen (whose last name means fairy tale in German) leads a field squad of four people. They all work for the ATI Management Bureau. ATI is short for Aarne-Thompson Index, an index used to measure and keep track of real-life fairy tale manifestations. Fairy tales aren’t actually innocuous but instead they all want to make life terrible for everyone involved. Why? That was never explained. (I guess I have to admit that I’m not happy with a premise that stories are inherently evil. It just feels wrong.)

Anyway, three of the people in Henry’s team are connected to a specific fairy tale but they’ve managed to put their stories on hold (which is called being in abeyance) and that’s why they’re in the team. Henry herself is a Snow White, born to a Sleeping Beauty. Her mother was in a coma when she and her twin were born. Sloane Winters is an Evil Stepsister. While she manages to keep her murderous impulses at bay, she has a really foul temper and mouth, insulting everyone around her and especially Henry (whom she calls Snow-Bitch). She’s the main profiler and also does most of the violence. Jeffrey is an archivist and a fairy tale tailor. Andy Robinson is the only “normal” person in the squad, he’s the PR person who handles most contact with the “civilians”.

I like the pacing. Slone is really the best character in the book and she even has layers which we get to see eventually. Henry is the first-person narrator of most of the story. But there are several third-person POV narrators, as well. A couple of chapters start with the POV of the victim of the story. Each chapter deals with one major tale and in later chapters more than one tale. After a few chapters a longer storyline starts to develop.

The stories range from Sleeping Beauty, who has a contagious sleeping disorder, to Pied Piper, and Goldilocks and the three bears and beyond. The twists in them are enjoyable and McGuire clearly knows them inside and out. However, I had some problems with why all the tales are dark and horrible. I guess the only reason is that otherwise there wouldn’t be much a story to tell. I’m also not so sure if it’s would have been wise for some stories to be evil and others good… Most fairy tales do have darker sides, especially in the older versions. And once you start to think about what the “lessons” are.

The other major element in the book is a police procedural. The team works for a government agency, flashes their badges to normal cops, and even have a boss who doesn’t like or trust them.

Recommended to people who like police procedurals and fairy tales with twists.
There’s a second book and I intend to get it.

Yes! A new Toby Daye book!

Publication year: 2016
Format: Audio
Running time: 11 hours and 28 minutes
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal

October, Toby, Daye is hosting a slumber party to the teenagers in her life so for once things are quiet. But not for long. Toby’s Queen Arden Windermere asks Toby’s help. In the previous book, the alchemist Walter revealed that he had found a cure for elf-shot. Elf-shot is what the fae nobles use to wage war on each other and threaten others while still keeping to the letter of Oberon’s law of not killing each other. When a full-blooded fae is shot with it, he or she will sleep for a hundred years but if a changeling is shot with it, he or she will die. Walter’s family was elf-shot and they were sleeping so he found a cure and woke them up. Queen Arden’s brother and best friend are still sleeping and she wants to wake them up. However, lots of fae are really concerned about the cure and the High King Aethlin Sollys has decided that nobody should be woken before he calls a conclave of all royalty. The High King is coming next week and Arden wants to wake up her brother and best friend before he arrives. Of course, he arrives early and catches Arden, Toby, and Walter red-handed.

Toby is ordered to attend the conclave. She loathes politics and now she must mind her manners among all the North American royalty. She takes her squire Quentin with her, of course. But there are, of course, complications. For one, the meeting takes place in one knowe and nobody can leave or enter until a decision has been made. For another, Toby’s fiancé Tybalt has to keep a distance from Toby. Tybalt is the king of the court of dreaming cats and he can’t be seen allied to anyone outside of it. For third, Toby’s liege Duke Sylvester Torquill will be there, too.

But soon after then conclave begins, one of the monarchs is murdered and it falls on Toby to find the murderer. Many of the full-blooded fae despise Toby because she’s a changeling which makes the investigation all the harder. Luckily, she has the backing of the Queen Arden and the High King and Queen. At the same time, the fae discuss the cure and surprisingly many are against it.

This is another excellent addition to the series. I adore these characters and the setting. Toby is her determined self and we get to see a lot of the Luideag the Sea Witch, Tybalt, and Quentin. I really enjoyed their interactions. I was rather looking forward to seeing Quentin with his parents but that didn’t happen. Arden is also seen more. She’s a new queen and new to the world of fae, as well, so she’s still unsure about herself. But this time she could host the gathered royalty without mentioning how much she wants to run away. So, she’s growing into her role. We also get hints that the young oneiromancer Karen isn’t what she seems.

The book has a lot of new characters. However, I thought the High King and Queen were a bit too easy to manipulate. Otherwise, the new monarchs were a nice mix: they weren’t all arrogant, racists jerks thinking that changelings were born to serve them.

This book didn’t bring as much heartbreak to Toby as some of the other books so it didn’t feel as intense to me as, say One Salt Sea. I wasn’t really happy with the ending, either. However, quite a few characters have been elf-shot during the series, so I’m very interested in finding out what happens to them. And I just have to wonder what is the Sea Witch up to? Hopefully, we’ll find out soon.

The new Toby Daye book!


Publication year: 2015
Format: Audio
Running time: 12 hours and 47 minutes

Publisher: Audible
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal

I’m a fan of the series (obviously: this is the 9th book) so I love the writing style and characters. Of course, I can’t be objective about it. By the way, I don’t recommend this as the first book in the series: that would be “Rosemary and Rue”. This time Toby and her friends travel to another realm and they find out just how much some fae loath the changelings.

Toby and her friends have achieved a lot and have finally started to enjoy their life. Then Rhys, the King of Silences, declares war on Arden Windermere, the new Queen of the Mists, who is Toby’s friend and the boss’s boss. Apparently, the previous, false Queen fled to Silences and managed to secure King Rhys’ help with getting Mists back. However, Arden can send a diplomat to discuss peace and the diplomat has three days to do so. Arden sends her hero, Toby. Toby is horrified at first but has to agree. She takes a small retinue: her boyfriend, her squire, her “sister”, and Walther as her alchemist.

Changelings don’t have it easy in any realm of faerie but in Silences they’re born into servitude. They’re beaten and subjected to addictive substances or poisons at the whim of their masters. This of course angers Toby and her friends. In addition to changelings, King Rhys also disapproves of… well everyone except pure-blooded human looking fae. And he makes his views known loudly and often. Unfortunately, this makes him a bit cartoonish and not in a good way and a clear villain for Toby to bring down.

Like the previous books in the series “A Rose-Red Chain” gives us revelations about Toby and the people around her, although not nearly as much as the two previous books. Walther specifically is from the Silences and part of the former ruling family. That’s why the Sea Witch told Toby to take Walther with her. He also has some other secrets which were a wonderful surprise to me.

Once again, I greatly enjoyed the book. The regular cast is wonderful and we’re introduced to some new characters, as well. We haven’t seen much of Toby’s sister May lately so I was happy to see more of her. Toby also has to test the limits of her powers. On the down side, the villains were one-dimensional and I didn’t really believe that such a small realm which constantly snubs and insults potential allies could really win a war against the Mists. It could well be that we’re introduced to characters and situations which become even more important later.

Yes! A new October Daye book!

Publication year: 2014
Format: audio
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal
Running Time: 11 hrs 58 mins
Publisher: Daw

With this story, Toby’s life turns again upside down and many of the things she knew about her past turn out not to be true. Unfortunately, it also drives a wedge between her and some of her friends. She also learns something new about her powers.

Toby’s life is, for once, going well when she’s summoned the Queen of the Mist’s Yule festival. Even though the new queen is Toby’s friend, she’s very reluctant to attend. In fact, Tybalt has to force her to. But it’s worth it: Toby is named a hero of the realm.

However, when she and her merry band return home and finally get to bed, Simon Torquill comes calling. Simon is, essentially, Toby’s nemesis: he turned her into a fish for 14 years and destroyed her life with her mortal family. Simon is also Toby’s liege lord’s twin brother and he kidnapped Sylvester’s wife and daughter, damaging them beyond repair. Toby is more than surprised to see him and when he tells her that he works for someone else. However, that someone has put a geas over Simon so he can’t reveal who that person is.

After an exchange of spells, Simon flees and Toby decides to warn her liege, whom Simon could be impersonating.

This is another emotional roller-coaster for Toby and for us readers. The final enemy is revealed and it came as a surprise to me, even though the clues were there all the time. Toby trusts her allies more willingly than before, which is great. The motivations of some the characters remained vague but I think it’s partly because Toby didn’t really listen to them. Maybe in the future we’ll get a better explanation for some of the things. Otherwise, I throughly enjoyed this book.

The familiar cast returns but Tybalt and Toby’s squire Quinten take the clear center stage. I’m not complaining; they’re my favorites! Along with the Luidaeg, who was awesome, too!

Excellent addition to the series.

Publication year: 2012
Format: Audio
Narrator: Emily Bauer
Running Time: 11 hrs, 20 m

Verity Price comes from a long line of Prices, who are cryptozoologists. Originally, they had been part of the Covenant of St. George, a group of people who want to keep humanity safe from all of those things which go bump in the night. However, when grandfather Price realizes that not all of the non-humans are evil or even capable of threatening humans, he decided to leave. After that, the Covenant decided that the Prices are just as evil as any non-human, and the Prices are trying their best to keep to the shadows. They have managed to keep hidden from the Covenant and some of the cryptids even think that the Prices are an urban legend.

However, Verity doesn’t really want to live her life in the shadows. She loves ballroom dancing and wants to compete, even though that means that she will be in the public eye, however briefly. So she takes on a role and a wig, and starts to compete. Her family objects but don’t stop her. In order to compete, Verity moves to New York. In order to live in New York, she has to take a job. So, she’s a cocktail waitress in Dave’s Fish & Strips, which is a strip joint, owned by a bogeyman. And during the night, she runs through the roofs and protects humans from the more dangerous non-humans. She even compares herself to Batgirl.

Verity is an experienced monster hunter and she has been trained to do it pretty much from birth. She doesn’t have any special powers, though. She’s also the snarky first-person narrator. She’s very protective of her family and those cryptids who are harmless. Although I would have thought that killing 15 women isn’t harmless…

The book is full of non-humans: Aeslin mice, Ahools, Bogeyman, Ghouls, Madhura and others. All of them are given at least a short description and most of them have integrated somehow into the humans world. McGuire’s website has descriptions of them.

The book has also a lot of entertaining characters, such as the Aeslin mice. They live with Verity in her apartment and they worship her as their goddess, cheering pretty much anything she does. I also really liked Verity’s adopted cousin Sara who is a telepath. But the best characters for me were Verity’s family, her brother, sister, parents, grandparents, cousins… it’s so refreshing to read about a character who has a, a family and b, family who cares and supports her. Lovely!

Apparently inevitably, the book also has a romantic interest, Dominic DaLuca. He’s from the Covenant. Yep, he’s one of people who want to kill the Prices. Sorry, but I thought the way they met was a bit stupid and I guess the whole romance was the most predictable part of the book. However, I did warm up to him when I realized that he isn’t the stereotypical alpha male and after they team up, I really like the mentoring relationship Verity has with him. That’s right the woman is the more experienced monster hunter and isn’t afraid to point it out when ever it’s appropriate.

Overall, the book has far more good points than bad ones and was lots of fun.

Bauer’s perky, young voice is very nice for Verity but it’s a bit too much for the male characters.

Oh and it has lots and lots of fun, quotable lines:

“Cryptids like to live where humans don’t, but they also like to be close enough to steal cable.”

“Yeah, wow. I didn’t know people actually paused portentously in common conversation.”

“The Argentine tango isn’t here to play nicely with the other children. The Argentine tango is here to seduce your women, spill things on your rug, and sneak out your bedroom window in the middle of the night.”

“‘Telepaths have ethics?’ Dominic’s eyes narrowed, tone and posture united to convey his disbelief.
“My mother and I do,” said Sarah, letting her head settle against the back of the chair. “We mostly got them from Babylon 5, but they still work.”

“Mother Nature is a freaky lady who probably created pot just so she could spend all her time smoking it.”

Yes! A new Toby Daye novel!

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal
Running Time: 12 hrs, 15 min

Toby has heard that someone is selling goblin fruit in San Francisco. While it gives a nice high for the pure blood fairies, humans and changelings tend to become addicted and eventually die, so Toby really wants goblin fruit sellers out. However, because fairies’ bodies are taken away by night haunts, so that humans don’t find weird bodies and find out about the faerie world, she doesn’t know if anyone has already died or who they were. When Toby finds an hapless changeling’s body she, Tybalt, and May decide to wait for the haunts so that Toby can talk with them. This means that Toby has to face her dead enemies and also her dead lover. That’s a difficult situation all by itself and on top of that Toby finds out that several changelings have died from eating goblin fruit.

Toby storms to the court of the Queen of the Mists who rules SF. Toby is convinced that the Queen will have to protect her subjects, even changelings. The others are more skeptical but they can’t allow Toby to confront alone the Queen who loathes her. However, it turns out that the Queen herself is supplying goblin fruit. When Toby appeals to her to stop the trade, the Queen banishes Toby; she has three days to get her affairs in order and leave the Queen’s area.

Toby asks the Luidaeg to help her. The Sea Witch tells Toby to seek out those who knew king Gilad, who was the King in the Mists before the Queen. Toby follows her advice and starts to suspect that the Queen isn’t actually the rightful ruler. Now, she has three days to lead a revolt against her.

I really liked Chimes at Midnight but I don’t think it was as personally intense as the two previous books, so it suffers a bit in comparison. The plot is fast-paced and we’re introduced into new places in Faerie. One of them is the Library of the Stars which you can’t even find without an invitation. Another excellent literary library!

The familiar cast returns: Toby’s former fetch (death omen) May and her girlfriend, Toby’s squire Quentin, the Luidaeg (my personal favorite), and Tybalt, of course. Most of the characters from the previous books make at least a cameo, so this is really a great way to connect again with them all. We also get to know a bit more about Quentin and he has clearly grown quite a bit during this series. So, it’s perhaps a bit disappointing that Toby hasn’t learned. She still makes a couple of quite bone-headed mistakes. One of the could have avoided the final fight or made it at least a lot less dramatic.

Overall, a good continuation to the series and I strong recommend reading the previous books before this one.

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