Review: The Unkindest Tide – Seanan McGuire

Review: The Unkindest Tide – Seanan McGuireThe Unkindest Tide
by Seanan McGuire
Series: October Daye #13
Also in this series: The Brightest Fell, Night and Silence, A Killing Frost
Publisher: Daw Books
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 368
Source: NetGalley

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

My rating: One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

Hundreds of years ago, the Selkies made a deal with the sea witch: they would have the sea for as long as she allowed it, and when the time came, she would call in all their debts at once. Many people assumed that day would never come. Those people were wrong.

When the Luidaeg—October "Toby" Daye's oldest and most dangerous ally—tells her the time has come for the Selkies to fulfill their side of the bargain, and that Toby must be a part of the process, Toby can't refuse. Literally. The Selkies aren't the only ones in debt to the Luidaeg, and Toby has to pay what she owes like anyone else. They will travel to the fabled Duchy of Ships and call a convocation of the Selkies, telling them to come and meet the Luidaeg's price...or face the consequences.

Of course, nothing is that simple. When Dianda Lorden's brother appears to arrest Dianda for treason against the Undersea, when a Selkie woman is stripped of her skin and then murdered, when everything is falling apart, that's when Toby will have to answer the real question of the hour.

Is she going to sink? Or is she going to swim?

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Content warnings: View Spoiler »

For some people, the beginning of September means pumpkin spice lattes, the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, and an end to summer. For me, it means a new October Daye book. I’ve been reading this series since the very first book and, finally, at lucky number 13, we get the book I’ve been waiting for – the Luidaeg and Toby settling their debts.

“It’s sort of like going on vacation, except for the part where it’s not going to be restful and we’re all going to die.”

The Luidaeg is calling in her debt, and Toby and company must travel to the Duchy of Ships and restore the Roane. Sounds like a good thing, right? But it soon becomes clear that the end of the Selkies isn’t as cut and dried as Toby thought, and there’s more political intrigue going on in the Undersea than anyone expected. Add in the presence of her daughter Gillian and, well, it’s no surprise that Toby’s having yet another bad – and bloody – day.

“No spears for you,” I snapped. “No swords or tridents or anything else, either. You don’t know how to use them responsibly.”
“Rowan and thorn, you’re such a mom,” said Quentin.”

Families – the ones you’re born into and the ones you make – are a continuing theme in this series. Tybalt, Quentin, May… Toby’s surrounded herself with family and friends that she loves and is loved by, a family that spans Fae prejudices and probably common sense. October’s daughter Gillian is there as well, of course, as the only cure for her being elf-shot was to take on a Selkie skin, and her anger at being forced back into the Fae world and continuously used as a pawn against Toby is understandable. We also get more of the Lordens, as the local Undersea delegation to the Luidaeg’s shindig, both of their sons, and an exploration of what being a family is like to the Merrows.

“When the time comes, you and I will stand alone.”

But the best part of the book is the Luidaeg, the sea witch we’ve all loved and hated since she first appeared back in the first book. This book is really about her family – her Firstborn sisters, her Roane, and the other Fae, like Poppy, that she surrounds herself with. In a larger sense, the “family” theme extends to who the Fae see as their own. Selkies belong to the liminal fringes of Faerie, not quite Fae and not quite human in a way that even changelings, despised as they are, aren’t. They also don’t belong to either land or sea, leaving them stranded in between multiple worlds, but even so, they have a vibrant way of life and culture that will all be eradicated. Which leads into the next theme – the balance of justice and mercy. The Selkies are generations distant from their ancestors who slaughtered the Roane, and Toby has been drug into fixing this by virtue of being the only non-crappy Dóchas Sidhe. Why does this fall to them?

“I fell in love with a hero, October. I fell in love with you. I would never dream of asking you to change that essential part of who you are. I don’t want you to stop fighting. I just want to be fighting with you.”

The romance between Tybalt and Toby is just *chef’s kiss.* I love how understanding – if worried – he is about her propensity for ending up skewered and bleeding all the dang time. I love how Toby loves him for being, well, murderous. There’s a few particularly sweet conversations about their future that just about melted me. There’s also, of course, plenty of the usual humor involving Toby poking people with pointy things, Quentin making fun of Tobey for being a pincushion, and Poppy being, well, Poppy.

“It’s terrible to be the one who has to set things right when you didn’t play any part in breaking them.”

Overall, another great book that moves forward both the characters and the plot. This remains one of my all-time favorite series!

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