An Odd Way to Read October Daye

With the Hugo Award closing date not until November and due to circumstances giving me an unusually good head start, I’m making a serious stab at voting in the Best Series category this year.

  • The Daevabad Trilogy, S.A. Chakraborty (Harper Voyager) <- I’d already read all of this and enjoyed it!
  • The Interdependency, John Scalzi (Tor Books)<- I’d already read all of this and enjoyed it!
  • The Lady Astronaut Universe, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books/Audible/Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction/Solaris)<- I’d already read SOME of this and enjoyed it and then I read the rest of it!
  • The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells (Tor.com) <- I’d already read all of this and enjoyed it!
  • October Daye, Seanan McGuire (DAW)
  • The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager)<- I hadn’t read any of this, so I went and read it and enjoyed it!

So that leaves October Daye. I’d read none of these. I’ve read a lot of Seanan McGuire (in absolute terms…in relative terms to how much she has written…not so much) but mainly as part of Hugo reading. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read but I’m not a close match to an ideal reader for her work. I don’t then seek out her other books. There are books I read and appreciate the craft that has gone into them but don’t really grab me (e.g. Becky Chambers) and books I read & enjoy but have had enough by the end and then there are books that I want to consume more of. McGuire’s books so far have been more in that middle category for me. Undeniable talent but not quite what I’m after.

Of course, that’s what is so good about reading for the Hugo Awards. You get to read writers that push your own boundaries and involve you in other styles and narratives. Authors aren’t writing to appease individual readers, although inevitably they have a fanbase to whom they tailor their writing to some degree.

So the question was how to read October Daye. Not counting shorter works, there are 14 books and a 15th due in September. That is the essence of the Hugo Reader Paradox: there are too many books for a set of people who don’t believe there can be too many books. The rest of the nominees are either completed trilogies or ongoing series which are still at a manageable level of books for a new starter. Yet, back in the middle of the last decade when “Best Saga” was being discussed, October Daye was this kind of long-running series that was cited as the need for a new category.

Here is another dimension to my problem: trains or rather the lack of them. A global pandemic shifted my reading habits. Whereas, I used to mainly read books on a Kindle sitting on a train since 2020 I now mainly listen to audiobooks when going for a walk.

If I’m not going to read all of the series, then which parts should I read? The early bits? The later bits? The best bits? Reading the “best” ones (i.e. the ones fans like the most) upsets the pedantic side of my nature — I can’t judge a series just on the best bits! That’s cheating! Well, it isn’t but you know…or maybe you don’t and it’s just me…anyway, just assume that I wanted to get a sense of what reading the WHOLE thing is like without reading the whole thing.

My solution is to only read the odd-numbered October Daye books, at least up to book 7. I’d be “halfway” through that way and have a good sense of the series but only have read a quarter of the books!

How is the plan going? I’m on my third book i.e. book 5 One Salt Sea. So far I’ve read Book 1 and Book 3. I’m not won over yet but I’m also not tired of reading them or virtual throwing the audiobooks across the room.

Book 1 Rosemary and Rue is very much a debut novel and makes for fascinating reading just for the compare-and-contrast for McGuire’s writing compared with something as complex as Middlegame. You can see both the rough edges and the obvious talent but it also feels like a book of its time or rather a book of the time when McGuire would have first been working on it. Also, the noir-ish private-eye aspect of the story doesn’t quite work but the characters are engaging enough and there’s this real sense of promise in the story. You can also see all these budding themes and ideas that are going to sprout into later works.

Book 3 An Artificial Night is a massive levelling up in quality in all dimensions. Everything is more tightly written. It is also much more of an overt fantasy novel with just nods to the “real” modern world base setting for the central character. Most of the plot is driven by events in a faerie sub-world and you can also see McGuire’s interest in portal fantasies and the implications of these worlds on the children characters who visit them. There’s still a bit of a pacing issue with events feeling like they’ve reached a natural end twice before getting to the actual end.

Book 5 One Salt Sea I’m still reading. Now I’ve clearly missed a whole bunch of stuff in Book 4 but McGuire does a great job of getting a reader up to speed who may have missed a given volume. I don’t feel like this plan is going to leave me hopelessly confused.

I’ll keep going for the time being. I’m confident I’ll get to at least Book 9 now.

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24 responses to “An Odd Way to Read October Daye”

  1. I really enjoyed her Sparrow Hill Road and I have the second volume checked out from the library. The first October Daye was pleasant enough. Otherwise, she’s been a “Meh” for me.

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    • frasersherman: I really enjoyed her Sparrow Hill Road

      I really enjoy the October Daye series (got into it when it was part of the 2010 Astounding Voter Packet), and have read all of the novels and most of the copious amount of short fiction in that series.

      But I really hated the first 2 books of Incryptid and resented the time I spent reading them, and I find the Wayward Children series rather “meh”, so I’m hesitant to try the Sparrow Hill Road or Indexing series. Middlegame was reasonably good, but you had to be willing to give a huge suspension of disbelief for the premise, and for the fact that these twins who are supposedly brilliant geniuses were unable to figure out something blindingly obvious.

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      • I read the first Wayward Children book and wasn’t impressed.
        I picked up the second Cryptid book and hated it. Half the book warns us that the Covenant cryptid-haters are an omega level threat, then when they show up to purge NYC of muties — er, cryptids — it’s three unremarkable people with guns.
        Even against humans, three people with guns is inadequate given the scale of the Big Apple.

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  2. I think I got to book 10 before cash flow sidelined me. I enjoyed them all. The series does improve steadily as it goes along, though Toby seems to get beat up worse every time.

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      • From book to book too lol (and McGuire boosts her regenerative abilities to enable this more lol). It gets to the point where a book where she does not wind up covered in blood – and it occasionally happens – is a stunner….but I mean when your power is based on blood magic,

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  3. I think I got through the first 10 as well. Part of my problem with them is that I’ve listened to all of them in audio and MRK’s narration seriously annoys me — especially her attempts at British accents. Sigh.

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  4. Yikes, That has to be a very poor way to read this series, given how the series is very much structured around 2-3 book arcs – like Book 2 is very skippable and book 3 is where things start getting good, but books 4-5 are an arc, with book 6 being majorly important in Toby’s character development after some major events in book 5.

    Books 7-8 and 9-10 are also similarly arcs, and book is basically a gamechanger in the series, so you’re gonna miss that. Book 11, like book 5, ends with major traumatic events that are dealt with in book 12, and well you get the point.

    Basically by going every other book, you’re going to feature some whiplash in mood, as McGuire has a habit of building the series in such a way that Toby deals with major events that cause her or her family severe trauma in subsequent books, so you’ll be generally seeing Toby just shrug off major events as if they never happened, when instead they took whole books, if not more than one book, to get through. I hope you’ll go back to read books 4 and 6 when you finish 5 and 7, to say nothing of 8.

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    • I might depending on things or not skip if I get invested in a plot arc. I’ve found though that she updates the previous book neatly within the text. I get how Toby is the Duchess of Goldengreen and has levelled up for Book 5 without reading book 4.

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      • McGuire in all of her serial works includes at least a few pages of recap to start each story, even in her shorter fiction that no one would read without reading something else first (where it gets kind of silly).

        So yeah plot wise you won’t be significantly lost (although reading book 9 without book 8 will be weird). But you’ll be missing some big emotional beats – without spoiling book 5, some major events happen there that change Toby’s emotional state and skipping book 6 will just be weird as a result. And the same with other books (Book 11 without book 12 is a similar thing)

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  5. I went to the WorldCon in San Antonio in 2013, and picked up a copy of Rosemary and Rue that was on the freebie table. At that point there were six books in the series, with the seventh published a short time later. After reading Rosemary and Rue I went on to buy every subsequent volume, so DAW’s investment in that giveaway was well rewarded.

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    • The Hugos got me similarly – When the series was first nominated for Best Series, there were 10 books and the Netgalley package in the Hugo Packet had all ten books in a single file. So I got it in the packet and figured I’d read 2 or 3 to form an opinion….and wound up reading the whole series in a week and then buying the next three when they came out (and only didn’t buy the fourth because I won an advanced copy).

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  6. It is one of those series that gets better as it goes along. I mean, I loved book one, but I loved book two more, and so on.

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  7. Some years ago, a good friend that I have known and called one of my best friends long before I met my husband 26 years ago, showed up at our house and said to me and my husband, “My friend Seanan that I have been hoping to introduce to you for a while got her first book published!” and he handed me a copy of _Rosemary and Rue_ and he added, “I think it is right up your alley!”

    I read it over the next few weeks. I ordered my own copy and gave his back to him. There have been very few of her books that I haven’t bought right on publication date since.

    I realize that I have a strange perspective on the world and get how it aligns with hers, so I know I am pre-disposed on many of her books.

    All that said, I find the Incryptid, Sparrowhill Road, and Wayward Children series more compelling than the October Daye series, even the first October Daye book cemented me as a fan.

    Since she always includes a quick encapsulation of the story so far in all her series, I think skipping some books does very little disservice to the series.

    IMHO

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      • Yeah, I really appreciate it that McGuire gives just enough “Previously on October Daye…” in each novel to tweak my memory, so that I don’t have to do re-reading to remember where things stand – because I wouldn’t be willing to do that for a series with this many entries (or for most series, for that matter; I make exceptions for things like Murderbot and Ancillary Leckie).

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