A Local Habitation

by Seanan McGuire

Cover image

Series: October Daye #2
Publisher: DAW
Copyright: March 2010
ISBN: 1-101-17173-1
Format: Kindle
Pages: 377

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A Local Habitation is the second urban fantasy about the changeling October Daye (known to nearly everyone as Toby) and her attempts to balance human and fae worlds. Reading Rosemary and Rue is not required; it provides some background, but A Local Habitation stands alone quite well.

After a brief opening exchange with Tybalt after a night drinking with friends, A Local Habitation starts with Sylvester sending Toby to investigate the mysterious silence of his neice in a neighboring fae kingdom. When she arrives, she discovers a murder scene in a strangely abandoned software company, a variety of fae employees, a very unusual dryad, and malfunctioning magical phones that are the actual cause of the loss of contact. As she starts to investigate the murder (and attempts to get her temporary partner out of harms way), more people keep dying, turning the book into a race for answers before everyone ends up dead.

This is a much different book than Rosemary and Rue. While the first book dealt heavily with fae politics, class, and magic, A Local Habitation follows more of a detective novel structure. (I see from poking around the web that I'm not the only person who thought of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.) However, Toby has a serious problem: much of her ability to solve murders comes from her magical ability to read blood, but the blood of every victim here has been somehow drained of its essence. To complicate the situation even further, the night-haunts, who always take the undecaying fae corpses and leave behind apparently human bodies, aren't coming.

Given that Toby's primary tool is missing, it's somewhat forgiveable that she's not much of a detective in this story. Still, there were at least two glaringly-obvious anomolies that she completely failed to pursue for pages on end. I was gritting my teeth. One of them was also fairly obviously a red herring, but Toby's failure to put what I thought were obvious clues together led to her making a bit of a fool of herself. The other (the phones) was obviously relevant to the story from the beginning, which made it more frustrating to watch Toby apparently ignore it for nearly the entire book.

This means that while the setup was detective novel, the actual action was more survival until the killer becomes obvious. When read from that angle, the book worked better for me. Toby has an appealing desperate determination that always has me rooting for her even when I think she's being a bit dim, and I enjoyed the character dynamics with both her friends and with the locals. And I didn't piece together the culprits until near the end, so they weren't too obvious (although that's partly because the primary culprit ended up being one of my favorite characters, and I really didn't want that to be the case).

The background had a lot of potential that wasn't used to the extent that it could have been. A fae realm named Tamed Lightning that has, at its heart, a software company is a wonderful setup, as is the way that various fae personalities and talents were put to use for software development goals. McGuire explores that a little bit, particularly via the dryad, but I wanted much more than we got, including more of how magic might entwine with technology or how technology could impact the day-to-day details of fae life. Hopefully there will be more of that in future volumes.

This is not quite as good of a book as Rosemary and Rue, but it's still lots of fun. McGuire stays with unusual supernatural creatures (not always from the same tradition; we get a kitsune here) instead of the same varieties that we've read in dozens of other books, and that variety is one of the best features of the series. Toby remains an engaging heroine, even when she's being a bit dense, and I like the twisty fae politics and the frightening alliances Toby makes. I will certainly keep reading (in fact, I've already bought the next book).

Followed by An Artificial Night.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2012-07-12

Last modified and spun 2014-12-21