Once Broken Faith

by Seanan McGuire

Cover image

Series: October Daye #10
Publisher: DAW
Copyright: 2016
ISBN: 0-7564-0810-5
Format: Kindle
Pages: 421

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This is the tenth book in the October Daye urban fantasy series, and there's no way to start here given the complex web of social relationships and extensive back-story. I will try to avoid too major of spoilers, but be warned that it's difficult to talk about the story without giving at least some clues to events of previous books.

The conclusion of A Red-Rose Chain has created a new political problem: A significant disruption in the way that elven courts can fight could usher in a new, more peaceful era, or it could make conflict far more vicious. It also has more personal implications for Sylvester, Toby's liege, and wide-ranging consequences for elven mechanisms of justice.

Less important to the courts, but important to Toby, there is also the possibility of removing one of the ways in which the pure-blooded kill changelings.

High King Sollys calls a convocation of the realms of the Westlands to decide how to resolve this problem, and the local queen is to host. Toby of course has to attend. That becomes more urgent when one of the firstborn decides to weigh in with her own opinions via the dreams of one of Toby's friends.

Then one of the attendees of the convocation is murdered.

This is, in a sense, a murder mystery, but it's less about the murder investigation than it is about elven court politics. Given that elven court politics is my favorite part of this series, this book made me very happy. As always, if you care about the quality of the mystery or Toby's investigation of it, you'll probably be sad. I'm notoriously unobservant of clues in mysteries, and I figured out the likely culprit early on. But if you like seeing more of McGuire's Westlands world-building, Toby being her irrepressible self, and people discovering why they shouldn't mess with Toby or her allies, this book delivers.

The Luidaeg is also a major character in the story, and continues to be the McGuire's best character. I love that friendship with Toby is making the Luidaeg more approachable and more involved in the kingdom, which is bringing out more and more of her character. I also enjoy watching her intimidate the hell out of everyone else while Toby treats her like another of her friends (admittedly with some extra respect). There are some faint hints in this story about the longer-term reasons why the Luidaeg is so willing to befriend Toby, something that I've been anticipating and that I'm looking forward to in future books.

Like a lot of this series, if you like these people, you'll like this book. If you don't like them well enough to get past the admittedly thin mystery plot or the tendency for most problems to be resolved by Toby throwing herself into horrific physical injury until everyone gives up, you probably won't. This one was full of the things that I read this series for, and therefore was one of my favorites so far. The resolution was perhaps a bit too easy, but the story was anchored on more interesting conflicts than a hissable villain and thus had more depth than A Red-Rose Chain. I also loved seeing glimpses of the elven courts from elsewhere in California and the west coast.

If you've read this far in the series, still recommended. Followed by The Brightest Fell.

The Kindle edition of this book (I'm not sure about the paper versions) also included a novella.

"Dreams and Slumbers": Following the tradition of the novellas associated with this series telling side stories with a viewpoint character other than Toby, this one follows Arden and tells a side story immediately following the plot of Once Broken Faith. (That also means that it's a total spoiler for Chimes at Midnight.)

I loved this story. Partly that's because it once again features the Luidaeg, but mostly it's that I think Arden is one of McGuire's better characters and it's a delight to see a story through her eyes. It's also entertaining to see how the other characters interact with her, and to see the reconfigured relationships that Toby leaves in her wake even when she's not around. Arden's balance of uncertainty, somewhat reluctant command, and self-awareness makes me like the character even more.

There is quite a lot of introspection and, to be honest, waffling, so other people's reaction may not match mine. But for me this was a highlight of the book. (8)

Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed: 2019-12-22

Last modified and spun 2019-12-24