Friday, February 8, 2013

Ashes of Honor, or The Bitter Dregs of a Good Time

    A few years ago, a friend of mine gave me a book for Christmas.  (Feign shock).  He and I have a long-standing, albeit friendly, debate over the Fae  in modern literature.  As a rule, he prefers other paranormal creatures in his fantasy novels, given that the Fae are usually portrayed as sexual hedonists or cartoon-like, happy-bright wish givers.  However, recently the paranormal-urban genre has given us more common ground.  I don't mind the hedonism, and I can take the Disney-esque spin.  To me the Fae were always a kaleidoscope of color, passion, rules, and danger.  Rarely did a story featuring them work out well for anyone.  Seanan McGuire has designed a universe of modern Fae that are as dark and dangerous as they should be, with all the emotional dimensions that characters need to continue on, book after book.  Sadly, when I read the first book, Rosemary and Rue, I did not feel this way.  Thankfully, sticking with the series over the last few years, I can say this most recent book is really living up to its potential.

     Ashes of Honor is the fifth book of the October Daye series.  October, or Toby as she is called by some, is in the grip of self-destruction.  Her life has never been easy, but the last year has given a subconscious edge of fatalism.  She has lost her daughter, her first love, her mother, her father, and many others who should have stood by her over the years.  This novel opens with her trying to take down a gang of drug-dealing teenage Fae, all by herself.  To prove how passively suicidal she's become, she stupidly only brought a knife to a gun fight.  From here on, it is a mad dash from near-death experience to near-death experience, coming very close on multiple occasions to exsanguination.

     The best part of this book, and the series as a whole, is the evolution of the main character.  October Daye started out as a grudging knight-errant, a changeling turned into a goldfish for 14 years, full of emotional baggage that would be a golden goose for any therapist.  In the first book she only had two emotional switches: anger and fear.  By the third book she had rediscovered courage and compassion.  Now she is a healthy mix of most emotions, and she is beginning to realize her own worth.  Given her background and childhood as a changeling, October never believed herself worthy of the love and respect of others.  Her recent adventures have gone a long way to convincing her that those around her do care, and they will be loyal to her for a very long time.  This evolution in persona has been fascinating to watch, if a bit of a roller coaster ride.  At times I wasn't sure I could just sit through it; I wanted to smack her as much as I wanted to hug her.  Thankfully the plot always kept me riveted to the chair, and I usually didn't have long to wait before the heroine would figure out her new emotional center.

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Skip the next paragraph if you are not caught up on the series or if you are considering reading it.

     The tragic end to the last book made me curious as to how the author would prod October back onto the road "home".  Romantically speaking, the girl has always had a hard time.  Her first love was married off to a psychopath as a matter of politics.  Her time as a fairy bride ended when she was turned into a goldfish and disappeared from her "mortal" life for fourteen years; her lover and her child both thought she had just abandoned them.  Finally, she gets her first love back, only to lose him to a poison arrow.  Now Tybalt, the King of Cats, is declaring his feelings to her.  As much as I like Collin, I think Tybalt had a point- Collin loved the girl she had been, and he didn't always know what to do with the woman she had become.  I think October will finally understand what a love of equals means.  Tybalt will be someone who sees her as she is now, and he will be an equal partner to her.

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     If you haven't picked up this series yet, I recommend checking it out.  It's dark, edgy, witty, and fast-paced.  The urban setting makes the fantasy dramatic yet almost within the realm of belief.  If you enjoy Jim Butcher, Anita Blake (the earlier books), or Atticus O'Sullivan, then you should get to know October Daye.  She is well worth meeting.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a captivating tale of redemption and self-discovery through adversity. This review has piqued my curiosity! Thanks!