Book Review: Seanan McGuire’s A Red Rose Chain

Posted October 23, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Seanan McGuire’s A Red Rose Chain

A Red Rose Chain


Seanan McGuire

urban fantasy in Paperback edition that was published by DAW Books on September 1, 2015 and has 358 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Home Improvement: Undead Edition, Indexing, The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination, Half-Off Ragnarok, Midway Relics and Dying Breeds, Games Creatures Play, The Winter Long, Sparrow Hill Road, The InCryptid Prequels, Pocket Apocalypse, Black as Blood, Blocked, White as a Raven's Wing, The Ghosts of Bourbon Street, IM, "Good Girls Go to Heaven", "Full of Briars", Reflections, Once Broken Faith, "Dreams and Slumbers", Shadowed Souls, Chaos Choreography, Magic For Nothing, Indigo, Every Heart a Doorway, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, The Brightest Fell, "Of Things Unknown", Beneath the Sugar Sky

Ninth in the urban fantasy series revolving around Sir October Daye and based in San Francisco with this story beginning in March 2013.

My Take

It’s a story fraught with tension, fear, bigotry, and arrogance. It really is well done, there’s just…something missing. Something I can’t figure out, even as Toby shows why she is a hero as she gives more than her all to exact revenge. I suspect it’s the reason I haven’t given it a “5”, which really isn’t fair.

It’s scary when Tybalt starts listing all the ways that a fae court can maneuver in the mortal world to hurt other fae without offending Oberon’s law.

Lol, Quentin reckons being Toby’s squire has been fabulous for his education, “By the time [he’s] king, there won’t be anything left that can surprise [him].”

What is it about arrogant people who think they’re so much better than anyone around them? It’s bad enough having to suffer their self-important egos, but must they treat everyone else so poorly? And Rhys is too involved in himself to hear what he doesn’t want to hear. I do love that he’s terrified of Toby and her reputation as a king-breaker, mwah-hah-hahhhh…

“My blood isn’t ‘tainted’. I got it from my parents. … And if Tybalt and I have kids, they won’t be tainted either. They’ll be our children, and we’ll love them no matter what their heritage looks like.”

It’ll crack you up when May gives Toby all the reasons why she must go with Toby to Silences. Chief of them is that Toby is hopeless with clothes and grooming! It’s even funnier how relieved everyone else is at the thought that Toby won’t be let loose without a maid, lol!

They discover how horrible the Silences of today is once they get there. They’ll never be able to sleep, eat, drink, or speak as long as they’re there. Although, I did enjoy the possibilities offered by Tybalt’s comment about Toby’s origins.

Huh? I’d never a thought that reproducing children of Maeve with children of Titania would be like mixing apples with cheese graters. Ewww. I keep trying to imagine that one.

I like Joe’s reasoning for opening a comic book store. It’s so practical!

“Open roads, O’ fellow readers.”

The Story

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.

The Characters

Sir October Christine Daye, Knight of Lost Words, is a hero and knight of the realm, protecting the peace amongst the fae in our world. She’s also half-fae, a Dóchas Sidhe, thanks to being the child of a Firstborn (Late Eclipses, 4). Spike is Toby’s rose-goblin, one of Luna’s cuttings. Cagney and Lacey are Toby’s Siamese cats.

Tybalt, a.k.a., Rand, is Toby’s fiancé and the King of Cats, a Cait Sidhe. Quentin Sollys is Toby’s squire and the crown prince of the Westlands in blind fosterage. His parents are High King Aethlin and High Queen Maida Sollys who are based in Toronto. Professor Walther Davies is Tylwyth Teg and an alchemist and chemistry teacher at UC-Berkeley. May Daye is Toby’s fetch, a death omen who was once a night-haunt ( Late Eclipses ), while Jazz is a Raven-maid and May’s live-in girlfriend.

The Court of Cats is…
…Tybalt’s kingdom. Raj is his heir. Tybalt will leave Gabriel and Opal as his representatives when he leaves with Toby on her diplomatic mission. Alazne is Gabriel and Opal’s only surviving kit.

The Kingdom of the Mists is…
…one of the Divided Courts and based in the knowe in Muir Woods. The cowardly Queen Arden Windermere, daughter of the murdered King Gilad Windermere, is its newest queen after events in Chimes at Midnight, 7. Nolan is her elf-shot brother. Madden is Cu Sidhe, a faerie dog, who used to work next door to Borderland Books in a coffee shop. Now he’s Arden’s seneschal. Faolitiarna “Tia” is Madden’s sister. Lowri, a Glastig, is one of the Queen’s guards.

When Gilad reigned, the Mists was a safe place for changelings.

The Duchy of Shadowed Hills is…
…ruled by Duke Sylvester Torquill and the closest person Toby has to a father, and it turns out he’s actually her uncle. He’s also her semi-estranged liege lord after what happened in The Winter Long, 8. Simon Torquill, Sylvester’s brother, is Toby’s stepfather, having been married to Amandine, Toby’s mother, a daughter of Oberon. A bad man, actually. Luna is Sylvester’s duchess and a Blodynbryd. Bridget Ames (Ashes of Honor, 6) is also a professor at Berkeley and living with Sir Etienne, a Tuatha de Dannan knight and Toby’s former instructor.

Danny is a bridge troll and a taxi driver. Stacy and Mitch Brown are more of Toby’s friends, and their children include Karen, their fifteen-year-old daughter and an oneiromancer, able to move, manipulate, and communicate through dreams (An Artificial Night).

The Kingdom of Silences in Portland is…
…ruled by a bullying bigot of a Tuatha de Dannan, Rhys, a former baron in the Mists, appointed as king by the false Queen after the War of Silences. The false Queen is the former psycho bitch queen (and former Siren before Toby bled it out of her(!) and still part Banshee) in the Mists, who is Toby’s greatest enemy. The former ruling family had been Tylwyth Teg. Marlis is Rhys’ seneschal and Walther’s sister, held in thrall. The kingdom is known for training the best alchemists.

Waltrune “Truny” was once Marlis’ sister. Torsten is Walther’s cousin and the crown prince of Silences. Now he’s elf-shot and suffering Rhys’ attentions. Other members of Walther’s family who are elf-shot include Walther’s parents and Uncle Holger and Aunt Silger, the king and queen.

Ceres is Luna’s sister and had been tutor to the Davies and Yates family lines, and she’s thrilled that Toby killed their father in An Artificial Night, 3. Ceres’ mother was Acacia, a Firstborn of Dryads and Blodynbryd.

Cait Sidhe in Portland is…
…a potential ally with Jolgier, a.k.a., Joe, as their king of cats and a friend of Tybalt’s. He runs a comic book shop; Susie is his human clerk. Libby is Joe’s human wife whom he loves dearly.

The other Divided Courts include…
Countess April O’Leary is a cyber dryad, who rules Tamed Lightning with the help of her remaining mother, Li Qin, a scholar (A Local Habitation, 2). Dianda is a Merrow and rules Saltmist, an Undersea kingdom (One Salt Sea, 5). Wild Strawberries and Deep Mists are other courts.

Oberon is the king of the faeries, one of the First Three, and he “locked up” the door between Faerie and our world while he “went on vacation”. The other Two are Maeve and Titania. He left the fae with but one rule: don’t kill. Elf-shot is one of the ways the fae get around that rule. The Luidaeg is a sea witch and a Firstborn daughter of Maeve and Oberon. She is the mother of the Roane. Eira Rosynhwyr, a.k.a., Evening Winterose, is her elder sister and a Daoine Sidhe Firstborn.

Changelings are part human, part fae while mixed-bloods are a blend of different fae, and still considered purebloods, with the added challenge of almost inevitable madness. The Choice is a time in life that all changelings come to. When they must choose between being fully human or fully fae. If they choose human… Dóchas Sidhe are bloodworkers who can temporarily take the powers of anyone whose blood they sample, manipulate their blood, and heal very quickly. Tuatha de Dannan can teleport but aren’t much at illusion. Cait Sidhe are fae cats with their own courts. Cu Sidhe are faerie dogs. Mauthe Doog is a shaggy black dog who can pop in and out of sight and is from the deeper realms of Faerie. Daoine Sidhe. Tylwyth Teg can fly.

Rose-goblins are a blend of cat and spiky rosebush. Goblin fruit is a naturally occurring narcotic that doesn’t affect the purebloods, but an unbreakable addiction for humans and changelings. A knowe is a hollow hill where the wall between the Summerlands and earth is thin.

Chelsea Ames was the too-powerful teleporter and Etienne’s changeling daughter in Ashes of Honor, 6, who ripped holes in that door. Connor had been Toby’s lover.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a gray and gloomy one, a gray mist obscuring the woods and the castle barely there behind Toby, red rose petals falling around a Toby clad in an empire-waisted sheer white and bloody gown, her black leather jacket hanging from her shoulders. It’s a pensive look on Toby’s face, for she has much to ponder.

I think the title is a reference to the rose goblins created by Ceres and Luna, creating a A Red Rose Chain that will aid Sir Toby in her quest to achieve peace between the kingdoms.