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Review: A Red-Rose Chain, by Seanan McGuire

Review: A Red-Rose Chain, by Seanan McGuire published on

I didn’t start reading the October Daye books until last December. I like to think I was fashionably late to the party, sidling in the back door after all the boring small talk had been said, grabbing a drink, and, in general, pretending that I was there the entire time. I may have been late, but I am still a fan.

As with all my favorite kinds of series, I can’t even begin to discuss Red-Rose Chain without also briefly mentioning some of the other books. It’s impossible for me to separate the book from the series – if done well, they fit together like puzzle pieces, and how does one review a single puzzle piece without thinking of the big picture? I give the series as a whole an 8.5 out of 10 (with 1 being a simply terrible series that I really shouldn’t name because I’m a professional now; and 10 being Dresden Files). When held up against the rest of the books, I give Red-Rose Chain a 7.

It was simply not my favorite, which is fine; I am still a fan. I still love October Daye, I love the undertone of mystery, I love Tybalt, I love Spike, and I love how San Francisco is a character – a creature somewhere in the margins between crass and lovely, human and fae. I missed that in this book. Most of it is set in Portland, and Portland as a character was simply too new, and too… not San Francisco.

There was a lot of awesome in this book, don’t get me wrong. The mysteries (oh yes, plural) were deftly laid out. Seanan McGuire used our own prejudices to confuse us, and then dropped several bombs. Toby and the friends she brought along with her on her diplomatic mission were placed in the most sinister kind of danger they had ever been in, and we got a satisfying (if probably temporary) conclusion to a plot that took first seat in Chimes at Midnight. There are also some very fascinating scenes that deal with mind-control techniques, suppression of memories, and what can happen when a people group is traumatized. McGuire has always been good at digging into the psychology of everything, and it truly shines in this book.

It was always going to be hard for Red-Rose Chain to follow The Winter Long. That book blew up the series, and perhaps I will look back on this one as a pleasant interlude filled with sadistic monsters, traitors, and secrets, and a necessary respite from the sinister happenings in San Francisco. Everyone needs a vacation, but don’t get too cozy in Portland, Toby. San Francisco needs you.

It was time to head into the future. It had been waiting long enough.

And quite a future that is! Red-Rose Chain will be followed by Once Broken Faith (expected 2016), The Brightest Fell (expected 2017), Night and Shadow (expected 2018), and When Sorrows Come (expected 2019). All published by DAW.

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