The Winter Long Author: Seanan McGuire Series: October Daye 8 Publisher: DAW, September 2, 2014 Format: Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 358 pages List Price: $7.99 (print) ISBN: 9780756408084 (print) Review Copy: Provided by the Publisher
Toby thought she understood her own past; she thought she knew the score.
In her forward to The Winter Long, Seanan McGuire states that the prior seven books all were for the purpose of telling this particular story about Toby Daye, a Halfling knight of the fairy realm and a sometimes private detective who solves mysteries. Years ago, when I read the first novel in this series, I had the feeling that there was more to the story. McGuire always has hinted about a lengthy period when Toby was transformed into a fish and trapped for years, and every book since then has provided another piece to that puzzle. This is the first time, though, that the reader gets to hear specifically about that particular time – who transformed her and why. What is most interesting is that Toby herself seems not to know the true facts behind one of the most influential acts in her life. What she believes about why she was transformed may not be true.
McGuire’s Faerie world has multiple kingdoms and fiefdoms, and Toby has been instrumental in righting some of the more grievous wrongs that can take place. Through Toby, we learned about the Firstborns, those individuals who were the first born among the Faeries and the most powerful. Toby’s greatest ally, the Luidaeg, is one of those Firstborn and has always seemed to be indestructible. However, Toby discovers that the Luidaeg is not the most powerful creature she knows. There is another who is even more powerful, and it appears that this individual has something against Toby.
It is difficult to talk about this book without spoiling the story. The Winter Long probably should not be read as a standalone novel; a reader should start with Rosemary and Rue and come to know McGuire’s world and its inhabitants better before diving into this one. It makes sense that McGuire needed to tell the other stories first before tackling the tale about Toby’s transformation. Like Toby herself, at the end of this novel, the reader still does not know everything about that event. However, this one finally broaches the subject of Toby’s imprisonment almost head-on. All the other novels only touched very lightly on the subject. For the first time, we get to hear from the “villain” himself, Simon, the brother of Toby’s liege lord, Sebastian. What Toby learns is that Simon has a closer relationship to her than she ever knew.
The story centers on the return of a character who has been presumed dead throughout the series. This individual ranks very high in the Faery hierarchy and, to Toby’s dismay, seems to be acting against Toby instead of for her as expected. Saying more would spoil the tale. Suffice to say, Toby and her friends are in danger once again, and Toby has to solve the mystery behind her own life.
We learn more about the Faery library, which was introduced in the previous novel. McGuire further deepens Toby’s ongoing relationship with Tybalt, the King of Cats, and starts to unwind the tangled web of Toby’s past. By the end of the novel, Toby has come to question most of her own beliefs about Sebastian, the liege who was like a father to her, the Luidaeg who has been her closest ally, and her own mother who is mysteriously missing in this book. Although the story closes with many questions, McGuire has provided enough intrigue that the reader is not disappointed with the fact that nothing is resolved; instead, I am eagerly looking forward to the next chapter.
McGuire has created a fascinating picture of Faery culture that takes the classic structure and turns it on its head. Her descriptions, her world-building, and her characterizations all are top-notch. Her stories are more in line with the Grimm telling rather than the Disney movies, but the Brothers never provided such a rich, detailed account as that of Toby Daye.