October 23, 2023

Review: Sleep No More

Sleep No More Sleep No More by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This 17th (!) entry in the long-running, and one of the few remaining, urban fantasy series follows right on the heels of last year's Be the Serpent . (Just as a warning, this book will make no sense unless you haven't read at least the previous volume, and preferably the previous two or three.) In the last book, Faerie was shaken up by the return of Titania, one of its original founders, inhabitants and Queens. The teeth-gnashing cliffhanger that book left us with sees Toby cast into an alternate version of Faerie where she was never a knight or a hero (or married to Tybalt); and where she is just a changeling (read servant/slave) who knows better than to resist her pureblood "betters."

This book follows up four months later, four months of Toby living in this alternate world and believing in all its soul-crushing tenets. The slow, painful unraveling of Titania's illusion/planted memories and Toby's return to the person she really is is expertly done. In the process McGuire asks some fascinating questions: who are we, without are memories? Can we become a different person entirely, if our memories are altered, and how do we get back to the person we were? And how will these competing sets of memories and experiences affect and change us? These questions are explored not only through Toby, but the Luidaeg and others. Along the way we look at our favorite characters with a sideways slant, as Toby sees them through the eyes of the person she could have been, if things had gone a bit differently.

It's an interesting way to see characters we've known across many books in a different and sometimes unflattering way (Tybalt, for one, briefly comes across as a possessive little snot). The pacing is excellent, as the story has to balance both the exterior action of Toby's journeying across Faerie to unravel Titania's plot, and the interior action of her recovering who she is and remembering those she loves. A lot of people learn things about themselves over the course of this book, and some of those things are not pleasant. This will shake up many of the characters' lives going forward.

It's unusual that an author can keep a long-running series compelling, and throw further surprises into the world, but McGuire has consistently done that with this series. The world of October Daye is as interesting as it has ever been, and it is definitely worth reading.

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