A Red-Rose Chain: Some pacing issues

A Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsA Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsA Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire

This is one of my favorite of Chris McGrath’s covers for the OCTOBER DAYE series, and it’s one of my favorite titles too, so it pains me to say that this isn’t one of my favorite books in the series. A Red-Rose Chain (2015) suffers from some pacing issues and didn’t quite knock my socks off like The Winter Long did.

The kingdom of Silences, analogous to mortal Portland, declares war on the Mists. By faerie law, the Mists has three days to try to make peace instead. Toby annoys Queen Windermere at exactly the wrong moment, and her punishment is to travel to Silences as an ambassador.

There’s a good deal of setup for this, followed by several chapters of Toby and her chosen family discussing who should go along on the trip and why or why not, and unfortunately, reading it feels kind of like… getting your large family ready to go on a trip. Eventually, it’s decided that Toby will be accompanied by Tybalt, May, Quentin, Spike the rose goblin, and the alchemist Walther Davies.

They finally get to Silences around the 100-page mark. Their time there is anything but pleasant; King Rhys of Silences is a creepy bigot, and he’s in league with the deposed Queen of the Mists, who’s seething about her lost throne and abilities. Toby and friends are beset by constant insults and threats.

And then they find out what’s really happening in the kingdom, and everything gets worse.

 October Daye SeriesThe climactic scene comes quite late in the novel, which leads to the denouement feeling kind of rushed, especially when contrasted with the long, slow start. A Red-Rose Chain also suffers a bit from coming right after The Winter Long, too — that previous book dropped a lot of bombshells, and I’d hoped to revisit some of them right away, especially given a title that mentioned roses (the villain of The Winter Long is associated with roses).

However, Seanan McGuire does give us one big plot development that will affect all of Faerie, a disturbing villain for our heroes to fight, and funny dialogue to lighten the often-dark plotlines:

I blinked. “That may be the best reason for not wanting to be King that I’ve ever heard. ‘I’m going to get tenure.’”

Published in 2015. Things are looking up. For the first time in what feels like years, October “Toby” Daye has been able to pause long enough to take a breath and look at her life — and she likes what she sees. She has friends. She has allies. She has a squire to train and a King of Cats to love, and maybe, just maybe, she can let her guard down for a change. Or not. When Queen Windermere’s seneschal is elf-shot and thrown into an enchanted sleep by agents from the neighboring Kingdom of Silences, Toby finds herself in a role she never expected to play: that of a diplomat. She must travel to Portland, Oregon, to convince King Rhys of Silences not to go to war against the Mists. But nothing is that simple, and what October finds in Silences is worse than she would ever have imagined. How far will Toby go when lives are on the line, and when allies both old and new are threatened by a force she had never expected to face again? How much is October willing to give up, and how much is she willing to change? In Faerie, what’s past is never really gone. It’s just waiting for an opportunity to pounce.

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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One comment

  1. That cover art IS lovely! I can easily see why you like it so much.

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