Tuesday, January 2, 2024

The October Daye Re-Read: Once Broken Faith

Welcome back, dear readers. Today we’re going to revisit the tenth novel in Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series: Once Broken Faith. We are making a real push on this series, though if 2023 is the only year McGuire publishes two October Daye books that will do well with helping me catch back up to to publication.

I was a bit confused with Once Broken Faith because I had assumed, based on the title, that this is the book where we deal with the selkies but apparently I’m still three books away from that and I still have no sense of what happens when in this series.

Instead, this is the book where everyone deals with there now being a cure to elf-shot. The High King orders a conclave and comes to the Mists, and not everyone is happy about the existence of a cure. Toby is coming off of having just deposed a second monarch, her squire (unbeknownst to most) is the heir to the throne of the Westlands, and was central to the discovery of the cure - and as such is invited to the conclave.

Since this is an October Daye novel, there is murder, Toby ends up involved (and covered in blood) and Toby is expected to find out what’s going on and save the day because that’s what heroes do and Toby is, by title, a Hero. Capital Letters.

This is a re-read and there are forever spoilers, but I am going to wonder and speculate on a major bit of an upcoming spoiler (from Be The Serpent, book 16) so be warned. Here be spoilers. We’re going to lead off with it.
“More than ever, it struck me how little she looked like her parents. That, combined with her unlikely, inexplicable magical gifts, made her seem like a changeling in the mortal sense - a child who shouldn’t have been where she was, who belonged to different parents, in a different world”
In this book Toby finds out that the Luidaeg has been taking extra protection for Karen beyond what she already knew, and that they have more of a relationship than Toby could have guessed - but here’s what I don’t remember and will rediscover as the series goes on: Does the Luidaeg know who Stacy Brown really is? What does she suspect about the Brown kids actually being Firstborn themselves as a reason for their power?

Stacy, for readers who may not remember straight off, is the long time friend of Toby. They are both changelings, and Toby stands pretty much as Aunt for each of Stacy’s kids despite the lack of blood relation - though that last bit shouldn’t be too much of a surprise for who Toby is and how she collects family. Also, and this is unrelated to the October Daye reread, but I should really think about how Seanan McGuire deals with the idea of Found Family, because it is a strong aspect of her Incryptid series and now I’m wondering how deep that goes in her other work (though these two series do cover much of her novel length work). It’s definitely present in the Wayward Children novellas.

Back to Once Broken Faith. At this point we know that Karen (Stacy’s daughter) is an oneiromancer (she can see glimpses of the future through her dreams and can communicate through dreams), a rare gift in Faerie. Another of Stacy’s other daughters, Cassandra, can see the future through the air. There’s a term for that too. And - spoilers for further down the line but the other kids will also have surprise and incredibly rare abilities. Because they are Firstborn. Because Stacy isn’t the changeling that she thinks she is. What does the Luidaeg know?

Once Broken Faith doesn’t answer that question. It really introduces it and only in retrospect. The Luidaeg knows seers, that’s what her Roane were, and as a Firstborn (and friend of Toby) she’s probably the only creature in a position to help Karen and guide her. I suspect that’s the real answer and whenever the other kids are revealed (and maybe it’s all after Be the Serpent, I don’t recall) - I can only imagine that it makes the Luidaeg ask questions. If it does, I suspect those questions are asked off page.
“You’re the hero of the realm here, Toby. I’m just the sea witch. You’re supposed to leave me slumbering in my watery cavern until you need a handy deus ex machina.”
Speaking of the Sea Witch, I do so very very much appreciate the self awareness from the Luidaeg. She’s a character that truly works because she’s half a narrative device but has enough restrictions placed upon her that she can’t just Firstborn her way into everything and blow it all up. The Luidaeg threatens all sorts of things and her reputation is such that Faerie believes her, but she doesn’t do nearly as much as it seems like she should.

Plus there is a sense later in the series (I think it’s later) that the Luidaeg has been positioning Toby for some truly significant events and it’s more than the selkie thing that has been looming over Toby’s head for a number of books now.

Also, staying with the Luidaeg for just a bit longer: There’s a moment with Elliott, a Bannick with magical cleaning powers, and the Luidaeg where he doesn’t know and is maybe hoping that she might be his Firstborn because the Bannick do not know who their Firstborn is and it’s such a small moment of purely rendered heartbreak. The propulsive narrative is always fantastic, but I love the lore digressions that never go deep enough for me.

Back to the actual plot - which is that one of the monarchs attending the conclave is murdered, another is semi ironically elf shot, and as hero the realm and an individual with a strongly vested interest in how this all turns out (and who is incorrectly a suspect by those who don’t care to know her very well) Toby has to do the hero thing and solve a bloody mystery. It’s not my favorite of the series storylines, but McGuire does a great job developing and expanding the reader’s understanding of the world.

We also learn just how far Toby’s body can be pushed and still regenerate. The answer: death. It can be pushed to death and still regenerate, for which I will have a lot of questions much deeper into the series because even though she risks it all most of the time, things are getting bigger and bigger and there’s a Titania sized fist headed Toby’s way and probably multiple times.

Next up in the re-read will be The Brightest Fell, in which Toby’s mother is the worst. Now, with bonus siblings.

Open roads and kind fires, my friends.

Joe Sherry - Senior Editor of Nerds of a Feather. Hugo and Ignyte Winner. Minnesotan.