A Local Habitation is the second book in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. The first book in this urban fantasy series is Rosemary and Rue, and I would definitely recommend beginning with that novel since it tells a lot about the different characters and the world. Even though A Local Habitation just came out earlier this month, the third book, An Artificial Night, will be released in September 2010.
The morning after a drunken girls’ night out, Toby receives a visit from her liege lord, Sylvester Torquill. Sylvester is worried about his niece January since he hasn’t heard from her in three weeks when she normally calls weekly, but due to area politics, he cannot visit her in Tamed Lightning without raising the suspicions of those nearby. Since January is his only living relative other than his daughter, Sylvester would like to make sure she is ok. So he requests that Toby go visit her for 2 or 3 days to check up on her while bringing his page Quentin along for the educational experience. Although she’s not ecstatic at the thought of playing baby-sitter, Toby cannot refuse her liege lord and sets out to Tamed Lightning.
Toby and Quentin arrive at January’s computer software company where they meet several of her employees and get a snack before they get to talk to January herself. At first January does not trust that her uncle actually sent them, but once she smells Toby’s magic, she is convinced they did indeed come from Sylvester. January insists that nothing is wrong, but she seems very nervous and Toby gets the feeling she is lying and something is not right with the place. The next morning when she and Quentin return to January’s office, she discovers her instincts were right – one of January’s employees was just murdered and this is not the first time this has happened.
While the previous book was enjoyable, this new installment was a big improvement. Although I was eager for more by the end of the first novel, Rosemary and Rue did take a little while to get going and immerse me in the story, but this one had me hooked right from the start (it probably did not hurt that the first chapter had a lot of Tybalt, who is my favorite character). The pacing was much better since there was not a dull moment from the beginning to the end. Although there were still quite a few infodumps like the first book, they were also spread out better and they also contained enough humor that reading them was not tedious.
The books in this series are told from the first person perspective of Toby, and her narrative voice seemed much stronger in this book. Her comments had a lot of personality and wry humor – she seemed a lot more alive and likable. Although she was still tough at times, the softer side of her that was sometimes apparent in the first book seemed more at the forefront and she seemed more confident, more like she fit into the fae world even though she’s trying to keep one foot in the human world in which she chooses to live. It wasn’t hard to see that she really cared about many of the other characters. Even though she initially complained about feeling like a baby-sitter to Quentin, she got over it pretty quickly since she liked the kid and had fun with him and they (mostly) got along very well.
Very little of this novel takes place in San Francisco as most of it happens in Faerie. This was great since the world of Faerie is a wonderful place to visit and contains many different types of fae – Daoine Sidhe, Cait Sidhe, Kitsune, and a dryad living inside an information tree in a computer to name a few. Toby is half Daoine Sidhe, half human and cannot do much magic at a time without wearing herself out, although she does have very powerful blood magic due to her mother. She’s not magical enough to be good in an offensive battle, but she does have a few handy tricks up her sleeve and finding out more about what she could do was interesting.
There were several new characters introduced since it mostly took place at January’s computer software company, but there were some old favorites as well. Sylvester was occasionally present, and Quentin and Connor were both major characters. Fortunately, Tybalt was also there quite a bit – he and Toby are so fun together, especially early on when Toby was drunk. At the end of the first book, he was my favorite character and by the end of this one, I loved him even more.
Although there are some great humorous moments, there is also plenty of tragedy. This novel can be on the darker side – Toby is not perfect and not everything always works out for the best. If something does go wrong, it’s not all magically fixed at the end like some books. Personally, I love this about them but those who like their perfect happy endings may want to look elsewhere for reading material.
My main complaint is that as much as I liked Toby, there were some times I couldn’t believe how stupid she was being. It would be a spoiler to explain that in detail, but basically she had a lot of clues that something wasn’t quite right and you would have expected her to figure it out a bit earlier with the observations she made.
Overall, A Local Habitation is a lot of fun to read and is an even better novel than the first book in the October Daye series. It had great pacing, plenty of both dark and humorous moments, an intriguing look at Faerie and some memorable, three-dimensional characters (if a bit slow-on-the-uptake on occasion). After reading this one, I am very glad the next book is due this fall because I’m very invested in this series now.
My Rating: 8/10
Where I got my reading copy: I received an ARC (thus the lack of quotes – I was about to quote some of the drunk conversation between Toby and Tybalt but then realized I’d better not since you’re not supposed to quote from an ARC without checking against the final copy).
Reviews of other books in this series: