Monday, May 16, 2022

The October Daye Reread: Ashes of Honor

Welcome back, dear readers. Today we’re going to revisit the sixth novel in Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series: Ashes of Honor. We assume you’ve been reading along with us because this will be rife with spoilers for past books and also for future, including a really significant spoiler. You have been warned.

These days, no matter how unhappy I may sometimes be about it, I know I’m a hero.
Ashes of Honor starts small. Etienne’s daughter has gone missing. Etienne is Toby’s former Knight at Shadowed Hills, very stiff and formal. But - in the dark years when Toby was turned into a fish and Luna / Rayselline were gone, Sylvester was an absolute mess (aka, he lost his damn mind). To cope, Etienne would occasionally escape and met a human woman (who also happened to be a folklore professor, the situation was far more of a complicated and sympathetic situation than it might sound), and unbeknownst to him, they had a child. That child, Chelsea, is now beknownst to him and she is missing, which brings us to Toby because she finds missing children. She’s a hero. Plus, there are complications for why Etienne is not asking his liege, Sylvester.

We’ve already done missing children with this series, though. Refer back to An Artificial Night.

Okay, Etienne’s daughter is also a teleporter (because she’s his daughter and that’s what the Tuatha are) - but she’s also a rare changeling whose powers outstrips her fae parent and is that even more rare individual who has all the power but none of the control and as a result she is ripping holes through the normal realms of faerie and into the deeper realms of faerie that were locked by Oberon before he disappeared - which is a completely different story that I’m going to both get to and spoil in just a little bit, in case the earlier spoiler warning wasn’t enough. But there are consequences to opening all of those gates and transporting - the worlds the firstborn made, and the deepest parts of faerie, don’t want to be locked away and those holes may not stay shut when the portals close and it’s enough that it scares the Luidaeg and if the Luidaeg is scared, it’s not good.

US Cover

Also, it’s kind of fascinating that even though the Luidaeg is frightened of what will happen if Chelsea is not found and stopped, she still sends Toby off to take care of it. Like, you’re Firstborn. You’re the frigging Luidaeg. More than just giving out spells and plot tokens (really cool plot tokens), why can’t she more actively go sort it out? But maybe the Luidaeg views herself as more of a blunt hammer even though we can’t really describe Toby as being a subtle knife.

But back to Oberon - this is technically the second appearance of Officer Thornton in the series. The first was as an unnamed cop in Late Eclipses who assisted Toby, but now he has a name. His name is Officer Thornton. Nevermind. I’m not sure Fight Club references are as much fun as they were in 1999. It’s not the same. Regardless - Officer Thornton happens to be the human aspect of Oberon, who has been hiding for hundreds of years. Presumably it’s not the only one, but it’s the only we we know of. I have a lot of questions, but pretty much none of them have been answered through When Sorrows Come. I expect some of them will start being answered soon, but that’s neither here nor Ashes of Honor. It’s only a digression. Officer Thornton = Oberon. Holy shit.

What we know in Ashes of Honor, though, is that Officer Thornton is nosing into Toby’s investigation and has all sorts of suspicions about what is going on and that doesn’t end well for him because it gets him transported to a deep realm of faerie, completely freaked out, and then left there!
”Purebloods make knowes, Firstborn make worlds…what did you think my parents made?”

“They made Faerie,” I said

“They did. And Faerie misses us.”
I’m somewhat obsessed with the deep realms of faerie because of how everyone reacts when they realize where Toby has been. Luna’s reaction to Annwn is stark. I’m waiting for a much longer story arc paying off the introduction of the heart of faerie worlds in later novels (later, meaning books that haven’t been published yet. Toby does go back to recover Officer Thornton / Oberon) once Oberon starts talking and explaining himself. There’s a lot of explaining to do. Toby is going to be all up in Oberon’s business and that’s going to be fascinating especially with how wary everyone is of Firstborn. Oberon / Maeve/ Titania will be a whole new level of intensity (once Maeve and Titania return).

I digress. Moving on.

Following another detour into Annwn to rescue Raj, I love Toby’s insistence that she will always come for him because he’s family. She says “we”, including Tybalt, but she means herself especially since there was an internal aside earlier saying that if she had to choose she would save Raj over Chelsea even if it means that Chelsea would wreck faerie with her punching holes through reality in ways that apparently shouldn’t be done. I do wonder if this is a bit of a reference to that earlier prophecy from Oleander in Late Eclipses (“You’ll see the end of us all, and you won’t be content until you know the gates are locked and sealed”)? About how Toby will be the destruction of faerie. Hmmm. Either way Toby collects strays and builds a very tight knit family. I love the idea that she wants to find a way to make Raj her squire. This, after loathing the idea of even having Quentin as a squire, now she wants two.
”I did,” I said. “I mean, I do. I mean…I don’t what what I mean.” I mean, I don’t know why you’d want to court me. I mean that I don’t know how to court you. I mean that I don’t know whether I want to be courted.
When I wrote about Late Eclipses, I noted that McGuire had stated that every third book is an emotional pivot point and if Ashes of Honor falls into that pattern - presumably it would be Tybalt and Toby each professing their love for each other. Before we actually get to that pivot point, it has become increasingly clear that Tybalt had very strong feelings for Toby even as she processed her grief for Connor (in self destructive ways) - and their relationships and conversations are very striking with Tybalt’s honesty and Toby’s avoidance. He’s come a very long way from the first two books of the series and it’s earned. It’s also been evident that Tybalt was going to be far more important because any other relationship, casual or Connor, always seemed to be in service to Tybalt’s story. Maybe that’s hindsight.

What I’m going to leave us with, rather than a fun reference to Toby’s grievous bodily injuries, is more of a question as to how many Dochas Sidhe there actually are. August and October seem to be the only ones, but there shouldn’t be a reason this early in the series for The Library to know much about the Dochas Sidhe.

”Dochas Sidhe?” Li Qin frowned. “That’s familiar somehow.”

“What? Where did you-”

“I don’t know. I think…The Library.”
Toby thinks she is the only Dochas Sidhe because right now she doesn’t know about August, but would August be the Dochas Sidhe documented in the Library or did Amandine have earlier children?

Open roads and kind fires, my friends.

Oh, nevermind. I can’t resist.

”I assure you, I am less injured than I appear,” said Tybalt. “I am simply conserving my strength while I recover from the effort of holding October’s intestines inside her body.”

Joe Sherry - Co-editor of Nerds of a Feather, Hugo Award Winner. Minnesotan. He / Him