ARC Review: “A Killing Frost,” by Seanan McGuire

Hey all! I was ridiculously, incredulously happy and grateful to receive this ARC from Netgalley and DAW since Seanan McGuire is one of my favorite UA authors out there right now, and the October Daye series is on my top three series. I have requested quite a few Seanan McGuire books in the past, but this is only the second book I have received from her, and the first in this series (the last SM title I received and reviewed was for her other awesome series, InCryptid).

The “Seanan” section of my bookshelf.

A Killing Frost is book fourteen (!) in the October Daye series, and so it will be a little hard to review without some lookback on the series, but without further ado (or much ado… about nothing)…

From the Publisher:

When October is informed that Simon Torquill—legally her father, due to Faerie’s archaic marriage traditions—must be invited to her wedding or risk the ceremony throwing the Kingdom in the Mists into political turmoil, she finds herself setting out on a quest she was not yet prepared to undertake for the sake of her future…. and the man who represents her family’s past.
That isn’t much of a synopsis. So, real quick, October Daye is a knight of the realm and mostly fae, despite being more of a fae woman and a human man. She is also a dochas sidhe, meaning that she can change the composition in the fae’s blood, can read memories in blood, and can taste every fae’s magic through their blood. Over the series, this ability has gotten stronger due to Toby having to change the composition of her own blood and through training.

Toby is headstrong and often solitary despite having by her side a menagerie of young fae including a squire, a sister/Fetch named Meg, the King of the Cats, cait sidhe Tybalt, as a fiance, and the support of the sea witch Luidaeg (the OG bad a**). She has a strong protective streak and a bundle of mommy and daddy issues from her Firstborn mother who couldn’t give a damn about her and her human father who died forever ago, and is now saddled with stepfather Simon Torquill, who once turned her into a fish (long story).

Like usual, Toby must complete a quest for her life to move on and give her room to pursue her own happiness: She must save Simon from himself, despite him being lost to everyone and downright evil due to it. The question is rarely can she do it, but rather, will she make it out in one piece?

What I Loved:

  • The Worldbuild. McGuire’s ability to build a world has never ceased to amaze me. Toby’s world is filled with mythologies of all types (obviously mainly celtic, given where the sidhe come from), but the story still manages to tie in the fact that this fae kingdom is based in the US, and brings it into the 21st century with a tech dryad named April (how cool is it to think of cell phone services in Faerie knowes?!). Given that this is book 14, Killing Frost ties in a lot of the worldbuild from prior books, and readers of the series are fully invested and entrenched in high Fae society in western North America, from the sea to the land to the sky.
  • The Magic. What makes the Toby Daye series so interesting is that each type of Fae have very different magical powers that all interact differently, and Toby is no exception. She is constantly learning new things about her powers, since she has no teacher, so by extension, so are we. This series has potions, magical bargains, spells powered by will, and hidden kings. Every book in the series shows you a different facet of magical life, and it keeps the reader engaged and intrigued. Is there anything not possible?
  • The Luidaeg. The Luidaeg (pronounced Lou-shak), real name Antigone and known as the Sea Witch, is by far my favorite character. She is the mother of the Roane and Firstborn of the Selkies (not going into detail here; read the books!), and as cruel and kind as the sea itself. Throughout the series, the Luidaeg is shown having to make tough choices, since she is unable to lie and is also bound be a geas to make a bargain with whoever is foolish enough to come to her for one. She is as good of a friend and ally to Toby and the gang as she can be, but the bargain issue is a strong one. In Killing Frost, the Luidaeg finally gets some good news and it feels so redemptive and satisfying to see such a tormented character finally get some peace (that is all I can say on that without spoiling anything).

Favorite Luidaeg quote:

“It always comes down to the sea. Creatures of the land like to think dryness is a natural state of living things, but that’s arrogance and nothing moe; the sea came first and the sea will come last and everything in the middle is only a story sung by children who have achieved temporary mastery of the air.”

What Didn’t Work as Well:

  • October’s Lack of Survival Instinct. Toby is famous for running headlong into quests and problems without any regard of her own life, since she is dealing with a lot of underlying mental health issues and has slowly been healing. Readers of this series are heavily invested in her slow recovery, and love her whole support group (May, Tybalt, Quintin, etc). However, in Killing Frost, there felt like a step back from all of that good growth, and (without spoiling anything) she almost got her friends hurt. While I usually appreciate a female protagonist that goes off and saves herself and others without needing a “white knight,” Toby doesn’t even allow Tybalt (her fiance) in on the “secret” and to help as a partner. I am not sure if this is going to be a trend, but I hope that Killing Frost isn’t a portent to Toby doing more dumb stuff later.

Toby quote:

“Camelot never endures. No matter how shining the castle on the hill seems, it’s still capable of falling.”

  • Surprise ending. Given that this is an ARC and the fourteenth book in the series, there is not much I can say on this. What I can say is that I dislike when authors bring in odd relationships/plot points from “off page” that were never really apparent to the reader, and then make it a central point in a book. Killing Frost did just that, and it felt confusing and forced.

Bottom Line:

A Killing Frost was another excellent addition to the Toby Daye series, and while I am worried about some character development and weird plot twists, it does nothing to ruin the series as a whole for me. I may have to go back and review this as a series so that anyone unfamiliar gets a better understanding for how much of a magician Seanan McGuire is when it comes to writing an amazing UA series. Highly recommend readers of UA to check out the first book, Rosemary and Rue, (buy it here as paperback) if you are not already a reader of this awesome series. Four waves out of five! Preorder here for the September 1 release; this gives Seanan newbies enough time to power through the first thirteen books (trust me, time flies when you are reading such amazing books).



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