Before I start my review, an aside about the cover art. Chris McGrath has really outdone himself on the cover for Late Eclipses. Wow, that’s gorgeous. It’s also an actual scene from the book, and every element in the scene is important to the story, from her ball gown to her leather jacket to the items she holds.
Moving along to the book, Late Eclipses features a mystery that hits close to home for Toby Daye. Lily, the Lady of the Tea Gardens, falls ill… but it’s supposed to be impossible for Undines to get sick. Then other friends of Toby’s become ill too, and Toby suspects the involvement of an old nemesis of hers, Oleander de Merelands. But no one else has seen or heard from Oleander, and Toby herself has been feeling rather strange lately… could it be that she’s losing her mind?
I love reading the October Daye novels. Seanan McGuire has a wonderful way with words. You never know when a moment of beauty is going to sneak up on you — or a moment of humor:
Every Duchy has something that makes them unique. Golden Gate excels at political intrigue, Wild Strawberries produces amazing chefs, Dreamer’s Glass threatens to invade the neighbors, and so on.
The world-building is great, featuring a plethora of fae beings from folklore, and the political intrigue is always interesting. Late Eclipses has the added bonus of new revelations about the nature of Toby’s mother, Amandine, and of Toby herself. Yes, I love these books. Even when they’re flawed.
And, sadly, Late Eclipses is flawed. The problem is Toby. It’s not that I don’t like Toby. I enjoy reading her voice, and I feel for her and want to see her happy. But… she’s just not observant. Which is not good, in a character who is essentially a detective. When she missed a major clue in Rosemary and Rue, I told myself it was because she was blinded by sentiment. When she did it again in A Local Habitation, I excused it because it was tech-related and she’d been a fish during much of the tech boom. This time, it’s just frustrating that, yet again, something jumped out really glaringly at me but didn’t register on Toby’s radar at all. Then there’s the trick to navigating the halls of Shadowed Hills. Toby lived there for years and never noticed, but a teenage boy can live there for a few months and catch on?
It’s also frustrating that, after several scenes of utter awesomeness, Tybalt is randomly absent from the last quarter of the book — and replaced by the bland Connor. I suspect we’re stuck with Connor at center stage for a while, too, as the next book, One Salt Sea, is set in his home realm.
So you’re probably asking me, why am I still giving the book four stars? Well, I enjoyed most of it, and I simply love reading McGuire’s writing style and sinking into her faerie world for a few days. I just wish Toby would become more observant, and that the hinted romance with Tybalt would finally get at least a little bit off the ground.