Late Eclipses

by Seanan McGuire

Cover image

Series: October Daye #4
Publisher: DAW
Copyright: March 2011
ISBN: 1-101-50253-3
Format: Kindle
Pages: 372

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Late Eclipses is the fourth book the October Daye series, and relies heavily on characters introduced in the previous books. I recommend reading this series from the start; jumping into the middle would miss a lot of nuance. Thankfully, though, enough is explained that you don't have to have read the previous books recently. (I wish more series would do that.)

Unsurprisingly, the book opens with Toby's life getting more complicated. Also unsurprisingly, that means getting more entangled in the affairs of the fae court, as Toby gets pushed farther out of her comfort zone. But that quickly takes a back seat to much worse news: Toby's close friend Lily is deathly ill. That isn't supposed to be possible for an undine. And Lily isn't the last person to get deathly ill in this book.

I should note up-front that this book contains one of my least favorite tropes in fiction of this sort: a protagonist who falls under the influence of something mind-altering and has to keep second-guessing her own perceptions. I have this problem with most books about drugs or some equivalent. There was enough of that here to irritate me, but this is just a personal quirk and I'm used to other people liking those books better, so you may need to adjust my rating accordingly.

That said, I liked Late Eclipses better than An Artificial Night, even with that drawback. It's less dark, less bleak, and returns to some of the mystery feel of the first two books of the series. A lot of urban fantasy mixes in a bit of a detective element, usually from the noir tradition, and I think that provides a useful plot driver. There's a lot at stake in this story, but Toby also gets a lot of agency. She's out doing things, making guesses and following up on them, rather than trying to endure vast horror. And she has more trust in her instincts and abilities, and is gathering more allies and respect. There was a bit too much of "abuse the protagonist" for my tastes, but some of the court maneuvering is quite satisfying.

There's always a risk with power curves taking away the risk in stories like this, or of having to constantly invent a bigger bad than the previous one, but McGuire is doing a good job keeping control of that. Toby is getting stronger, and it's obvious that she's more than she appears or realizes. Coming to terms with the edges of that is part of this story. But the dangers in these stories have been very different in kind rather than escalating degree. The complex political machinations of the fae court help here considerably, creating problems that Toby has to navigate through with allies and careful thought.

One of my favorite parts of this series continues to be the supporting cast. We don't get as much of the Luidaeg here, but we get lots of May (who is becoming one of my favorite characters of the series) and several other excellent supporting characters. It's rare that I like the supporting cast of an urban fantasy series this well without feeling like they're overshadowing the protagonist.

Some parts of this story bugged me for idiosyncratic reasons, but I still thought it was a step up from the previous installment. McGuire's world doesn't seem to be running out of steam. I'll definitely keep reading.

Followed by One Salt Sea.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2015-06-07

Last modified and spun 2016-01-01