Review: The Unkindest Tide, by Seanan McGuire

Russ Allbery eagle at
Sun Jul 16 19:58:22 PDT 2023

The Unkindest Tide
by Seanan McGuire

Series:    October Daye #13
Publisher: DAW
Copyright: 2019
ISBN:      0-7564-1255-2
Format:    Kindle
Pages:     355

This is the 13th book in the long-running October Daye urban fantasy
series. There is a strong series arc and a plot that builds on previous
books, so this is a series with both significant spoilers and
significant confusion if read out of order. The Unkindest Tide in
particular is closely tied to the previous book, Night and Silence, and
should not be read before it.

For once, this story does not start with someone Toby loves being
attacked or going missing, or with someone trying to attack her. It
instead starts with the Luidaeg. For several books now, she's been
dropping hints about the debts that Toby owes to her and the favors she
will someday call in. That time is now; she's going to address a
problem that she has been putting off for years, and Toby is going to
help her.

This was a Luidaeg book, so I knew going in that I was going to enjoy
it, and indeed I did. That said, I thought it was a bit awkward. This
is a moment that McGuire has been building up to for quite some time
(series readers may have a few guesses at what the Luidaeg is up to)
and she wanted it to land with a lot of force while adding some
last-minute complications and letting Toby take her typical role as the
stubborn hero. But the primary complication she adds felt unrelated at
first, and while the story does tie everything together in the end, it
left the story feeling disjointed. The novel needed some fight scenes
and some opportunities for people to worry about Toby, so those were
provided, but I'm not sure they flowed naturally out of the story.

There are some truly great moments here between Toby and the Luidaeg,
and between Toby and a few of the other people involved in the story
(naming them would be spoilers). Some of the banter is really fun. But
I thought the best emotional moment of the book was a underplayed and
could have used some more focus, build-up, and time to breathe, rather
than shifting the Luidaeg off-stage for a big chunk of the story.
McGuire has a bit of a power level problem here and finds some deft
ways to avoid it, but I think that hurt the emotional arc. We're also
told a lot about the emotional impacts of the plot, but I wish it had
been shown more. The one character touchpoint the reader has is mostly
uninvolved, and her involvement is a bit disappointing when it does

The biggest flaw in this book is the biggest flaw in the series:
McGuire has a formula, and while it's more varied from book to book
than a lot of long-running series, it's still predictable. Toby and
Tybalt say the same things, Toby gets into the same kind of trouble,
she worries about the same things, the banter goes in predictable ways,
the and fights go very similarly to the fights in previous series
entries. A lot of the novel won't be very surprising. There are always
a few moments in each book that stir strong emotions, and personally I
love the world-building and am eager to read more of it, but there are
also sections of these books that I read very fast without feeling like
I'm missing much.

I've said this about this series before, which is another angle at the
same problem. I think the world-building is getting more interesting as
the series goes along, but the writing is not; if anything, it's
getting a bit worse. It's far from bad enough to stop me from reading,
and this was one of the better series entries overall, but it does keep
the series firmly in the "reliable fun" category rather than the
"excellent and worthy of savoring" category.

It's still reliable fun, though. If you're this far along, you'll want
to keep reading. The Unkindest Tide felt a bit like the end of an arc,
so I'm curious to see where the story goes next.

Followed by A Killing Frost.

As is typical of the last few books, there is a novella included at the

"Hope Is Swift": The novella at the end of Night and Silence was the
best part of that book and focused on exactly the character I was
hoping it would focus on. At the end of this book, I really wanted
another novella about Gillian and directly related to the main novel.
Unfortunately, what we get instead is a story about Raj that is
entirely unrelated to the rest of the book.

Raj is fine as a supporting character, I suppose, but he's not one of
the series characters I care very much about, and sadly this novella
did nothing to change my mind. It's a story of teenagers and of the
perils of fae/human interactions that I found rather predictable, a bit
anxiety-inducing (constant discussion of medical procedures), and
entirely forgettable apart from the bits I didn't like. The takeaway
lessons felt so obvious that they could have been the moral at the end
of a Saturday morning cartoon from my youth. Maybe if you're a cat
person you'd get a bit more out of it? I kind of regretted reading it,
sadly. (4)

Rating: 7 out of 10

Reviewed: 2023-07-16


Russ Allbery (eagle at             <>

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