Recommended for fans of McGuire, folktale characters ★ ★ 1/2
The second installment of the urban fantasy October Daye series, A Local Habitation was initially an improvement on Rosemary and Rue, especially due to the integration of unusual beings from folklore–the Bannick cleaning scene was a fun interpretation of cleaning fairies, and the hippocampi fish tank was clever. (Aside-I would dearly love a little Spike of my own). The opening scene with an inebriated October escorting her almost equally inebriated friends to the train was fun, and dialogue with Tybalt well-written–a little bit flirty, but without all those smoldering glances and peering through eyelashes that show up in less well-written UF. I liked the Luidaeg, even if her and October’s dialogue did start to remind me of Wesley and the Dread Pirate Roberts. The demonstration of October’s skills and the nighthaunt background was very interesting, and well done, with that eerie touch of folklore menace (fae are not nice, after all). Certainly, McGuire has a gift for character creation and dialogue.
October spends a lot of time running around a maze-like converted warehouse with people dying around her–after awhile, I started to wonder if I was reading a Scream script, since it lacked the horror of a truly suspenseful setting. There’s a brief acknowledgement of this when she orders everyone to stay in groups of two for “safety,” but then promptly lets some of them run off or go do some crucial job by themselves. [ Needless to say, they died, except for the killer. (hide spoiler)] The teen mock-horror flick connection comes particularly clear when the entrance gates fall on her car as they are returning, presumably preventing her from ever leaving the estate again.
However, plotting and mystery building remain terribly weak; it wasn’t surprising who the villain was, and one of the ‘twists’ was only a surprise to October. I don’t mind figuring it out as much as I mind watching her flail her way through an investigation acting like a victim. Hercule Poirot I’m not, so if I can figure it out, there isn’t any reason why the main character shouldn’t. Really–my eyebrows go up any time someone in a modern setting claims they “won’t get a cell phone”–clearly some plotting device will pivot on being unable to connect at a crucial moment. Yes, I understand that October is a technophobe. But if she doesn’t rely on modern gadgets for investigative assistance, than she should be a lot better at using her own people investigating skills. Dead giveaways hidden below page break.
Most disappointing is when the story started to break down about halfway through the book. I realized that McGuire most often is uses a modern American female voice to embody October’s inner narrative, and suddenly the premise of her as changeling falls apart. When heading back into the investigation, October suddenly digresses to medieval knight imagery and ‘how there aren’t heroes anymore.’ She carries on this line of thinking for about a chapter, at one point bemoaning a “shortage of problems that straightforward” like giants or witches. But hero mythology is from the non-fae perspective on faerie, so it’s disappointing to hear such mundane human observations when October usually is intent on telling the reader how it is in fae. (She really should have mocked heroes as gold-seeking musicians looking for a sugar mama).
Overall, McGuire seems to be an idea genius, but suffers from plotting and a slightly dumb heroine. I read slowly and thoroughly in the beginning, enjoying the set-up and the characters. Half-way through, I started to skim because, well, frankly, I could without losing sense of the story, and I have limited tolerance for the “lost with a killer after us” plot. Re-reading at slower speed actually highlighted narrative problems I had glossed over.
Ah well. I’ll check out the next from the library to see if they improve.
Fun line: “The technology that was in its infancy when I had left had grown into a spoiled teenager by the time I returned, complicating everyone’s lives and making a nuisance of itself down at the mall.”
October, “what’s so important you keep trying to reach him? Why didn’t you send a messenger?” January changes the subject and October lets it roll.
Or how about when October is searching people’s offices and desks “just to keep Quentin busy?” but instead makes a major discovery?
Or five minutes after having a fit that teams are being split up, she orders Quentin to lock himself in the room while she goes and checks on the errant employees–and decides not to tell the boss unless “they refused to listen to me.” Except, of course, they already did. Puzzling, puzzling–and not in a good way.