Monday, December 6, 2021

The October Daye Reread: A Local Habitation

Welcome back, dear readers. Today we’re going to revisit the second novel in Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series: A Local Habitation.

A small bit of background. I wasn’t hooked on October Daye the first time I read Rosemary and Rue (feel free to refresh yourself on the re-read of that novel) and it took me five years before picking up A Local Habitation. This was the novel that made me want to read more, though it would be the next book, An Artificial Night, that really sealed the deal. More on that in the next remembrance. We’re here to talk about A Local Habitation. So, let’s do just that.

Spoilers ahead and my assumption is that you’re either familiar with the series or you’re reading along. You’ve been warned.

US Cover

A Local Habitation picks up six months after Rosemary and Rue and Seanan McGuire has let that time do some of the work of smoothing off the edges from some of the rougher character traits with Quentin, The Luidaeg, Tybalt, and even Toby. After the initial meetings and introductions and interactions in the first book, the relationships are being established off the page and between the novels. Let’s be clear, though, established in this case really only means that there is a greater familiarity between Toby and Quentin and between Toby and the Luidaeg. It is that greater familiarity that allows the real work of characterization and just plain ass caring about everyone to occur within the pages. Now there is actual banter between Quentin and Toby and that is something that would not have occurred without the passage of time and the assumption that Toby is in at least periodic contact with Shadowed Hills.

This reminds me that I already miss the friendship between Toby and Sylvester. Here that friendship is reforming after, frankly, Toby’s fourteen years as a fish and resultant recovery. But, and spoilers for much deeper into this series than we are right now, that friendship will be strained to and possibly past the breaking point and it is absolutely heartbreaking. Seeing it here, so fresh and renewed, is bittersweet on the re-read.

The plot, if we want to get into it at all, is that Toby is sent to Tamed Lightning (another faerie county) by Sylvester because his niece, January, hasn’t been answering his phone calls and it’s more than a little weird for that county to go silent. Toby goes, is required to take Quentin along, and murderous shenanigans ensue.

A Local Habitation is a complete story on its own but Seanan McGuire seeds the rest of the series with events that first occur here. Like - this is the book where Toby gets Tybalt’s jacket (it’s quietly important). This is also the book where Toby first calls the Night Haunts, which in the scope of the series is relatively small but it is still a fairly significant event because it a) gives us a lot of information about the nature of faerie, b) recurs as a plot point throughout the series - both as something that actually can be done as well as how the haunts view Toby as an almost antagonist, and c) what that means for future stories.

After Rosemary and Rue, there is a bit of an unspoken friendship between Toby and the Luidaeg. As harsh as the sea witch seems in these earliest novels (and she absolutely is a terrifying creature), in light of having recently read When Sorrows Come it is interesting to see how far the Luidaeg mellows and what her relationship with Toby (and Quentin!) becomes. It’s fascinating and unexpected - except now you’ll expect it because I just told you about it. Also, Toby has a very interesting observation that I wouldn’t have picked up on when I first read the book but it is absolutely true and the series bears this out.

“It’s hard to think of the Luidaeg as lonely - she’s older than nations, and she’s watched empires die - but she was”.
We often think of the Luidaeg as a force of nature. She’s Firstborn, almost a deus ex machina just on her own, and the series bears out that she is deeply lonely and so incredibly deeply hurting at all times. There are moments in A Local Habitation (and especially in An Artificial Night) where we are reminded that the Luidaeg is terrifying, but at the same time the Luidaeg is being humanized and gradually turning into one of the most fascinating characters in the entire series. This makes those moments where side characters have moments of extreme shock when Toby just casually tosses off a line about how she went to the Luidaeg a whole lot of fun.

French Cover

One thing that I find very interesting in A Local Habitation is just how weak Toby is. Her blood is significantly more human than it will be later in the series and Toby has to work so incredibly hard to do even small glamours and spells that there is a physical cost. You’ll get used to the phrase “magic burn” this early in the series. But, oh, how Toby will push her limits. That’s what she does.

Even though I’m not fully on Team Tybalt or tied to the future Toby / Tybalt relationship - all of the flirting between Toby and Alex when Toby is at Tamed Lightning just feels off. Of course, that’s a thing that turns sour hard due to Alex’s casual violations, but I felt that way from the start. I’m curious how much of that is planned to feel off or if I just don’t like Alex because I don’t like Alex.

To that point, Tybalt doesn’t quite feel like Tybalt in how he is written. He is much less flowery, though maybe that’s due to his relationship (or lack thereof). He does tell her to keep the jacket, but it is otherwise not a romantic relationship in A Local Habitation. It’s just not as antagonistic as it is in Rosemary and Rue, which is refreshing even this early in the series.

That’s it for A Local Habitation. October Daye is hooking me again from the start and it is hitting so many of those notes that I loved the first time. I’m already excited for An Artificial Night so let’s pause here and we’ll meet up again when it’s time to talk about the next book in the series.

Open roads and kind fires, my friends.


Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, 5x Hugo Award Finalist for Best Fanzine. Minnesotan. He / Him