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Bewildering Stories

Seanan McGuire, Ashes of Honor

reviewed by Danielle L. Parker

Ashes of Honor
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: Daw, Sept. 4, 2012
Length: 368 pp.
ISBN: 0756407494; 978-0756407490

If you did nothing but read, no normal person could now keep up with the many “urban fantasy” series published. I personally like only two enough to buy the next in the series as soon as they come out (the Harry Dresden and Twenty Palaces series, if you must know).

Others used to be stellar but disintegrated under the pressure of Get the Next One Out There. Those I track in the hopes the author will return to what made me love the books in the first place. A raft of others I read if a freebie comes my way but don’t enjoy enough to buy for the home library. Few of the latter exhibit the steel bones and shark teeth of those seminal progenitors of the genre, Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and Laurell K. Hamilton’s early Anita Blake books.

And of course there’s now an entire library of unknowns out there I can’t sample and still hope to have a life. Right now, so many zillions I’m amazed even the publishers keep track of them. What’s really fueling the never-ending demand? That voracious pink monster R finally tired of fantasizing girls from the typist pools meeting Italian counts on holiday or nabbing the ship’s doctor on the cruise. In other words, rrromance! The Big R never dies. Black holes have nothing on its appetite.

So what about this urban fantasy? Seanan McGuire’s October Daye books fall into the Get It from the Library category for me. Ashes of Honor is the fifth, sixth or seventh I’ve read, and I’m not counting. In the series, Faerie lives hidden in the real world (San Francisco in this case). The protagonist, October Daye, is a half-human, half-faerie changeling detective (“knight” in the Faerie parlance) adept at following literal blood trails.

October is playing Russian roulette with thugs to grieve her dead boyfriend from the previous book when she lands her latest assignment. The half-breed changeling offspring of a fellow Faerie knight has vanished. The lost teen shows all the power of a full-blooded Faerie and none of the limitations.

Bad guys (or gals, in this case) may be using her wildcat powers for their own nefarious purposes. Those purposes stand a good chance of busting wide worlds that should be closed and destabilizing the Faerie-San Francisco axis as October knows it. So, assisted by her various friends and helpers, October sets out to nab the teen and save Faerie.

As for why the October Daye books aren’t on my buy-it-and-keep-it list: you need a high tolerance for twee. I might say Seanan McGuire conjures up a fairly unique vision of huggy-huggy touchy-feely misty-eyed faeries. When October finds a monster perched on the top of her car and calls for help, the emergency response includes “Shall I bring soup?” Faerie daddies hug long-lost daughters, and faerie knights ruffle the hair of their squires and make doughnut runs. October, who’s had a daughter, a husband and a boyfriend, blushes like a maiden around her King of Cats suitor (who’s been dangling around Ms. Clueless the entire series, all but semaphoring her with his feelings, if I remember correctly). The problem is: none of these people feel real.

So I suspect an iron dose of horror alleviates the sweet strawberry taste of that big pink R in urban fantasy for me. But if you enjoy your fantasy sweet, and you adore good-hearted hugs, dig in: this one’s for you. Enjoy!

Copyright © 2013 by Danielle L. Parker

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