A Killing Frost

by Seanan McGuire

Cover image

Series: October Daye #14
Publisher: DAW
Copyright: 2020
ISBN: 0-7564-1253-6
Format: Kindle
Pages: 351

Buy at Powell's Books

A Killing Frost is the 14th book in the October Daye urban fantasy series and a direct plot sequel to the events of The Brightest Fell. You definitely cannot start here.

This review has some relationship spoilers here for things that you would be expecting after the first five or six books, but which you wouldn't know when reading the first few books of the series. If you haven't started the series yet but plan to, consider skipping this review; if you haven't started reading this series, it will probably be meaningless anyway.

Finally, events seem to have slowed, enough trauma has been healed, and Toby is able to seriously consider getting married. However, no sooner is the thought voiced than fae politics injects itself yet again. In order to get married without creating potentially substantial future problems for herself and her family, Toby will have to tie up some loose ends. Since one of those loose ends is a price from the Luidaeg that has been haunting her family for decades, this is easier said than done.

The Brightest Fell had a very unsatisfying ending. This, after a two book interlude, is the proper end to that story.

I picked this up when I had a bunch of stressful things going on and I wanted to be entertained without having to do much work as a reader. Once again, this series delivered exactly that. The writing is repetitive and a bit clunky, McGuire hammers the same emotional points into the ground, and one does wonder about Toby's tendency to emulate a half-human battering ram, but every book has me engrossed and turning the pages. Everyone should have at least one book series on the go that offers reliable, low-effort entertainment.

The initial lever that McGuire uses to push Toby into this plot (fae marriage requirements that had never previously been mentioned) felt rather strained and arbitrary, and I spent the first part of the book grumbling a bit about it. However, there is a better reason for this complication that is revealed with time, and which implies some interesting things about how the fae see heroes and how they use them to solve problems. Now I'm wondering if McGuire will explore that some more in later books.

This is the "all is revealed" book about Simon Torquill. As we get later into the series, these "all is revealed" books are coming more frequently. So far, I'm finding the revelations satisfying, which is a lot harder than it looks with a series this long and with this many hidden details. There are a few directions the series is taking that aren't my favorite (the Daoine Sidhe obsession with being the Best Fae is getting a bit boring, for example), but none of them seem egregiously off, and I'm deeply invested in the answers to the remaining questions.

Toby hits a personal record here for not explaining the dangerous things she's doing because people might talk her out of it. It makes for a tense and gripping climax, but wow I felt for her friends and family, and substantial parts of that risk seemed unnecessary. This is pointed out to her in no uncertain terms, and I'm wondering if it will finally stick. Toby's tendency to solve complicated problems by bleeding on them is part of what gives this series its charm, but I wouldn't mind her giving other people more of a chance to come up with better plans.

I did not like this one as well as the previous two books, mostly because I prefer the Luidaeg-centric stories to the Daoine-Sidhe-centric stories, but if you're enjoying the series to this point, this won't be an exception. It's a substantial improvement on The Brightest Fell and did a lot to salvage that story for me, although there are still some aspects of it that need better explanations.

Followed by When Sorrows Come.

As usual, there is a novella included in at least the Kindle edition.

"Shine in Pearl": I was again hoping for more Gillian, but alas. Instead, and breaking with the tendency for the novellas to be side stories unrelated to the main novel, this fleshes out Simon's past and the other primary relationship driving the novel's plot.

It's... fine? The best parts by far are the scenes from Dianda's viewpoint, which are just as refreshingly blunt as Dianda is elsewhere. Neither of the other two characters are favorites of mine, and since the point of the story is to describe the tragedy that is resolved in the plot of the main novel, it's somewhat depressing. Not my favorite of the novellas; not the worst of them. (6)

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2023-10-14

Last modified and spun 2023-10-16