Chimes at Midnight

by Seanan McGuire

Cover image

Series: October Daye #7
Publisher: DAW
Copyright: 2013
ISBN: 1-101-63566-5
Format: Kindle
Pages: 346

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Chimes at Midnight is the seventh book of the October Daye series and builds heavily on the previous books. Toby has gathered quite the group of allies by this point, and events here would casually spoil some of the previous books in the series (particularly One Salt Sea, which you absolutely do not want spoiled). I strongly recommend starting at the beginning, even if the series is getting stronger as it goes along.

This time, rather than being asked for help, the book opens with Toby on a mission. Goblin fruit is becoming increasingly common on the streets of San Francisco, and while she's doing all she can to find and stop the dealers, she's finding dead changelings. Goblin fruit is a pleasant narcotic to purebloods, but to changelings it's instantly and fatally addictive. The growth of the drug trade means disaster for the local changelings, particularly since previous events in the series have broken a prominent local changeling gang. That was for the best, but they were keeping goblin fruit out, and now it's flooding into the power vacuum.

In the sort of idealistic but hopelessly politically naive move that Toby is prone to, she takes her evidence to the highest local authority in faerie: the Queen of the Mists. The queen loathes Toby and the feeling is mutual, but Toby's opinion is that this shouldn't matter: these are her subjects and goblin fruit is widely recognized as a menace. Even if she cares nothing for their lives, a faerie drug being widely sold on the street runs the substantial risk that someone will give it to humans, potentially leading to the discovery of faerie.

Sadly, but predictably, Toby has underestimated the Queen's malevolence. She leaves the court burdened not only with the knowledge that the Queen herself is helping with the distribution of goblin fruit, but also an impending banishment thanks to her reaction. She has three days to get out of the Queen's territory, permanently.

Three days that the Luidaeg suggests she spend talking to people who knew King Gilad, the former and well-respected king of the local territory who died in the 1906 earthquake, apparently leaving the kingdom to the current Queen. Or perhaps not.

As usual, crossing Toby is a very bad idea, and getting Toby involved in politics means that one should start betting heavily against the status quo. Also, as usual, things initially go far too well, and then Toby ends up in serious trouble. (I realize the usefulness of raising the stakes of the story, but I do prefer the books of this series that don't involve Toby spending much of the book ill.) However, there is a vast improvement over previous books in the story: one key relationship (which I'll still avoid spoiling) is finally out of the precarious will-they, won't-they stage and firmly on the page, and it's a relationship that I absolutely love. Watching Toby stomp people who deserve to be stomped makes me happy, but watching Toby let herself be happy and show it makes me even happier.

McGuire also gives us some more long-pending revelations. I probably should have guessed the one about one of Toby's long-time friends and companions much earlier, although at least I did so a few pages before Toby found out. I have some strong suspicions about Toby's own background that were reinforced by this book, and will be curious to see if I'm right. And I'm starting to have guesses about the overall arc of the series, although not firm ones. One of my favorite things in long-running series is the slow revelation of more and more world background, and McGuire does it in just the way I like: lots of underlying complexity, reveals timed for emotional impact but without dragging on things that the characters should obviously be able to figure out, and a whole bunch of layered secrets that continue to provide more mystery even after one layer is removed.

The plot here is typical of the plot of the last couple of novels in the series, which is fine by me since my favorite part of this series is the political intrigue (and Toby realizing that she has far more influence than she thinks). It helps that I thought Arden was great, given how central she is to this story. I liked her realistic reactions to her situation, and I liked her arguments with Toby. I'm dubious how correct Toby actually was, but we've learned by now that arguments from duty are always going to hold sway with her. And I loved Mags and the Library, and hope we'll be seeing more of them in future novels.

The one quibble I'll close with, since the book closed with it, is that I found the ending rather abrupt. There were several things I wanted to see in the aftermath, and the book ended before they could happen. Hopefully that means they'll be the start of the next book (although a bit of poking around makes me think they may be in a novella).

If you've liked the series so far, particularly the couple of books before this one, this is more of what you liked. Recommended.

Followed by The Winter Long.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Reviewed: 2017-05-07

Last modified and spun 2017-05-08