A Local Habitation is the second book in the October Daye series and therefore this review may contain spoilers for the previous book.
The hero’s journey has suffered in modern years. Once we could’ve gotten a knight in shining armour riding to the rescue, pennants flying. These days you’re lucky to get a battered changeling and her underage, half-trained assistant, and the princesses are confused technological wizards in towers of silicon and steel. Standards aren’t what they used to be.
Toby didn’t know her liege Sylvester had a niece, but she is sent to check up on her after she stops answering her phone. Jan is not your average fae; she’s a geek and running a technology company bringing the fae community into the 21st Century. However her county, Tamed Lightning, sits between Shadowed Hills and Dreamer's Glass, a political hotspot and Sylvester can’t risk upsetting the neighbouring duchy by visiting himself. When Toby and Quentin arrive, they find that missed calls are the least of their problems.
With A Local Habitation we see a glimmer of the writer behind the Newsflesh series (Seanan McGuire also writes under the pen name of Mira Grant). With the fae being hundreds of years old and reliant on magic, they’re not very tech savvy. Jan creates telephone systems that run between knowes among other useful things and I liked the mix of technology and fantasy. As someone with a career that doesn’t get much fictional coverage outside of Douglas Coupland novels, I kind of loved the idea of a Kitsune software tester. It’s just a shame they killed her off before the story started. I doubt there’s a market other than me who would jump on a spin-off series…
The knowe itself is almost Matrix like, with it adapting all the time. Instead of the info-dump of Rosemary and Rue, the world-building is a lot more organic and I felt I got a better idea of the politics and workings of a knowe, even if it was a slightly unconventional one! April was a fantastic character; a virtual druid, connecting into a server tree and having very little knowledge of social conventions. She is completely naïve in some ways and acts accordingly. There are some great characters and a real sense of humour creeping in.
“Go find Tybalt? How are you expecting me to do that?”
“I don’t know. Get a can of tuna and go round the Park calling ‘Here, kitty, kitty’?”
It’s a lot more structured that the first book and there’s a real whodunit element. You get a chance to work it all out just the right amount of time before Toby does. There are a few red herrings thrown in and it’s a race against time to stop the murders. Quentin becomes a more rounded character, stepping away from his courtly duties and becoming a fledgling assistant to Toby. There’s just enough of Tybalt to whet your appetite (and notice how Toby is still wearing his coat). He certainly won’t let the “here kitty kitty” go!
For those wondering, the title comes from A Midsummer Night's Dream. Both appropriate for the fae side of things but it also aptly describes April's situation.
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