Genre Fantasy Publisher Daw Books Year Published 2012 Review Posted on 2/17/2014 Reviewer Rating
Ashes of Honor, by Seanan McGuire
Reviewed by Joshua Palmatier
If you've read this book, why not
This is the sixth book in the October "Toby" Daye series by Seanan McGuire, and the books have greatly improved since the first few hit the shelves. Seanan has settled into the characters and the world.
The premise of this one is that Etienne, one of the knights of Toby's liege lord who hasn't exactly been one of Toby's greatest supporters, has fathered a changeling. Except he didn't know about it until now, when the changeling is manifesting teleportation powers that are far too powerful for her handle. And now she's vanished. Etienne comes to Toby asking if she can find the missing teenager, before everyone finds out, including their liege lord. But even if Toby succeeds in finding the missing girl, she's old enough now that Toby will be forced into making the Choose--between fairy and humanity. One will rip her away from the other parent the child has ever known . . . and the other may mean her death.
I've thought the book in this series have been steadily improving. The first few were a little loose and not always cohesive. The world didn't feel settled and the characters were often making decision that made little to no sense. That shifted around the fourth book, with the plot threads becoming much more coherent and the world and characters much more grounded. I felt the fifth book was by far the best, and couldn't see how Seanan would best that one.
And Ashes of Honor isn't "better" than One Salt Sea . . . but it comes damn close. The plot thread in this book is easy to follow and the steps that Toby takes to find the girl all make sense (unlike some of the first few books, where it felt more like she was just stumbling around and fumbling in the dark until something happened to her). Here, she's making things happen herself, following leads, seeking help from allies, etc. In other words, she's being the detective that she's expected to be. And of course the plot opens up into something more significant and serious than a changeling simply running wild.
It turns out that the changeling's portals opening up hither and yon, uncontrolled, are actually tearing apart the foundations of fairy. In fact, she's opening holes into realms of fairy that have been sealed off and blocked. Toby isn't just trying to save the girl from herself, she's now trying to stop her from ripping the fairy realm apart.
And that's just the main plot thread holding the book together. We also have some significant character development with Toby and her friends, in particular, the long anticipated potential relationship with Tybalt comes to the fore here. I won't ruin how everything plays out, but I know many readers have been waiting for this subplot to take a more central role in the books, and it finally does. I'm certain the romance enthusiasts will mark this book their favorite in the series just because of that.
So, overall, one of the strongest books in the series so far. I hope that all of the future novels with Toby and this world retain the strength of these last few. If they do, I'll be reading about Toby Daye's adventures for a long time to come.