Be the Serpent by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is the 16th book in the long-running urban fantasy series (and one of the few urban fantasy series remaining) and as she does every four books or so, the author severely shakes up the plot and world. This story sets off shockwaves that I think are equaled only by The Winter Long, book #8. Faerie is not going to be the same going forward, and neither is Toby.
(And just as a question: How on earth does Seanan McGuire keep track of all the plot bombs she is going to set off throughout the series? Does she have a huge marked-up whiteboard on the wall? It takes a great deal of confidence and/or hubris to plant seeds several books back that will only come to fruition, say, ten or twelve books down the line, and assuming/hoping the series will sell well enough that your bomb will actually be able to go off.)
In this case, the particular plot bomb that explodes sky-high has to do with the deep history of Faerie. The timeline is (briefly) shown clear back to Faerie's creation, and Oberon, Titania and Maeve's emergence. This has more of an SF edge and connotation than I'd expected, and I hope (and expect, from all the hints around the sudden re-emergence of Seers) that we will be able to revisit it. This book also sets up the long game of the other vanished Queen and the sacrifice she had to make, and the threat hidden in the basic fabric of Faerie itself.
On a more personal level, Toby (view spoiler) a surprise that is revealed in the very last pages of the book, right before a cliffhanger that had me wailing and gnashing my teeth. The author doesn't do cliffhangers of this sort often, fortunately, because when she does they grab you by the throat. We also get a bonus novella told from the viewpoint of the Luidaeg, revealing the moment centuries ago when her terrible geas was laid on her. This didn't really advance the overall storyline, but it was nice to have as a character study of one of my favorite series people.
Sixteen books in, this series is as strong as ever. You definitely don't want to start with this book--the author does a good job of bringing us up to speed in a couple of pages, but nevertheless a great deal of what's going on won't make sense if you haven't read at least the past few books. I don't know how long the series is planned to last, but it seems McGuire is gearing up for the endgame.
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