Review: A Red Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire

red rose chainReviewed by Jen

I have to give credit to Seanan McGuire. It’s a pretty great feat to keep a series entertaining and engaging after nine books; and that is just what she has done here with this latest installment in the October Daye series. She crafts new stories and circumstances for her characters that feel fresh, while she still draws on their rich history and past connections to make them relevant.  She is consistent without ever being boring. But perhaps most importantly, she continues to infuse these characters with depth and emotion, making them easy to care about and root for.

As the story begins, Toby is engaged to Tybalt, working along with him, Quentin, and the gang to keep the Mists safe, as usual. But normalcy goes out the window when the new Queen’s second in command is elf-shot and the neighboring kingdom declares war. Toby has helped to stop a war before, but this time things are more complicated because what the King of Silences wants is something she’ll never allow: the old queen back on the throne. To make matters more complicated, Toby is sent to Silences as a diplomat, a role ill-suited to her disposition. Toby does her duty, though, which sends her to an unfamiliar land with deep-seated prejudice against changelings.

Toby spends much of the book, trying to stop a war that seems almost a foregone conclusion. She must endure treachery, traps, and ridicule.  Even worse, she has to worry about the safety of the team of family and friends she has brought with her, most of whom are hiding major secrets, like May’s origin as a Fetch, Quentin’s royalty, and Walter’s true identity. It’s in her connections with her people that Toby is most sympathetic. Obviously, Tybalt wins the top spot for me, but all of Toby’s relationships help make her who she is, and each character has his own, clear true voice, as well as history and depth.

I enjoyed the plot and the conflict. The pacing is good. The worldbuilding is expanding, but is still easy to understand and thankfully, it’s never overwhelming. I liked seeing the characters continue to grow and evolve. Specifically, I love the idea of Toby as a Kingbreaker. There is very little I didn’t enjoy.

I feel like McGuire goes out-of-the-way to be LGBT inclusive. From early on, these books have pointed out that the Fae community is accepting of gay relationships, which is cool. I’ve enjoyed May and Jazz and, frankly, didn’t give their pairing any more or less thought than I would any other secondary characters. But I felt like there was more a “message” in this installment, perhaps due to the inclusion of a trans backstory for one of the recurring characters in addition to a surprise new possible m/m pairing, and a little spiel about human intolerance. I personally didn’t feel like making that particular character trans added anything to his story and it felt to me like it was there just for the sake of being there. You could say that’s a good thing for the bigger picture in the world we live in and I would agree.  But it also took me out of the story as I wondered why the thread was introduced if it didn’t advance his plot development or his character.

Overall, this is a good new installment to a series I have come to enjoy quite a bit. I think fans of the series will satisfied. And I’m already looking forward to book 10.

Rating: B

*ARC provided by publisher

Click to purchase: Amazon

A Red Rose Chain
by Seanan McGuire
Release Date: September 1, 2015
Publisher: DAW

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