the Little Red Reviewer

Hugo nominated novelettes from Seanan McGuire

Posted on: July 1, 2013

Seanan McGuire has been all over Hugo nominations these last few years. I admit I’ve read very little of her work, so these two novelettes served as a good introduction to her urban fantasy. Both novelettes take place in the same universe as the October Daye series, but these aren’t stories about Toby Daye, but rather the supernatural fae and luidaeg creatures who also inhabit the world. It’s my personal opinion that Hugo nominated work should stand on its own, so don’t worry if you go into these having not read anything in the October Daye series, or anything else of McGuire’s.

This post finishes off my reviews of the Hugo nominated novelettes. Click back a couple of days to read my reviews of The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi by Pat Catigan, Fade to White by Catherynne M. Valente and The Boy Who Cast No Shadow by Thomas Olde Heuvelt.

sea salt tears

In Sea Salt Tears
(available to read for free, here)

I always like me a Selkie story, but the conceit that not all Selkies receive a skin is a refreshing twist. In a skinning ceremony, a young Selkie receives their skin because an elderly relative has finally decided to pass it on. Each family has a limited number of skins, and children know their chances at inheriting a skin are directly proportional to their status in their families. Put bluntly, black sheep don’t swim.

Liz and her friends are “celebrating” that their friend Daisy finally received her skin. And by celebrating I mean they all smile and hug Daisy and say how happy they are for her, and then retreat to the beach to drink and feel sorry for themselves. Liz is only sixteen, too young to be cynical, but too old to be as naive as the children who are still playing at the beach house. She’ll get her skin any year now, right?

A newcomer to their bonfire is a distant cousin, Annie. Liz and Annie hit it off right away, and although Annie lives far away, she tries to make it back to California for the skinning ceremonies. The story jumps forward in time quite a few times, eventually covering 30 years. As Liz watches more and more of her friends and cousins receive their skins, she starts to wonder if it will ever be her turn. Each time Liz is passed over for a skin, Annie is there for her, helping her feel better.

Not a day passes that that Liz doesn’t hope for that phone call, the call that will let her become what she’s been waiting for her whole life. And not a day passes that Annie wonders if she’ll ever be enough to make Liz happy.

It doesn’t seem to matter what Seanan McGuire is writing about, be it zombie fiction or urban fantasy or contemporary fantasy, but damn does that woman know how to get an emotional reaction out of the reader! The premise of In Sea Salt Tears isn’t complex, it’s about two women, each yearning for validation. But good luck reading this story without getting a big lump in your throat.

rat_cover_s

The Rat Catcher

Rand is a Cait Sidhe – a fae cat. He also has a weakness for Shakespeare. In London, in the year of our Lord sixteen hundred sixty six, the Court of Cats sits on the boundary between our world and the different fae realms. The Cait Sidhe have control of the shadows, through which you must pass to travel between the realms. Cait Sidhe are even more cat-life than regular cats, more contrary and vicious, and they care even less what humans think.

Rand (later known as Tybalt) is sent by his father as an ambassador to a larger fae court, where a young Roane prophet tells all in attendance of an all consuming fire that looms on the horizon. All must leave Londinium, she says, any who stay will burn.

Rand’s father, The King of the Court of Fogbound Cats is entrenched, his power is his throne. Can Rand convince at least his sisters and the many kittens of the Court of Cats to follow him away from this fire that may never come? And how, pray tell, is a cat supposed to tell his human friends at The Duke’s Theater to run as fast as their legs can carry them, before it’s too late?

While I thought the premise was neat, and I appreciated McGuire’s historically accurate setting, this story really didn’t do much for me. Unlike In Sea Salt Tears, I didn’t feel like I was given enough information to understand the connections between the Cait Sidhe and the other fae races, or to connect with Rand or the other characters we meet. I could tell there was a lot of history between Rand and his sisters and a Sidhe woman named September, but I’d obviously missed out on some previous discussions. Even though this is chronologically a prequel to the October Daye books, I definitely feel like readers who have more familiarity with that series would get more out of the story than I did.

I seem to run hot and and cold with McGuire. good thing I’ve got more Hugo nominated works of hers to read!

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6 Responses to "Hugo nominated novelettes from Seanan McGuire"

I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never even heard of this author. I want to try at least one of these though, and the one I’m going to try is In Sea Salt Tears. Not only because you liked that one better, but also I just think it’s a cooler premise. I love new twists on old myths.

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awesome, I hope you like In Sea Salt Tears! Seanan McGuire is a writing MACHINE, she has published a ton of urban fantasy and also write zombie fiction under the name Mira Grant. Stay tuned for my review of her Hugo Nom’d (yes, another one!) zombie novella The Last Stand of the California Browncoats. it’s a sort of prequel to her Newsflesh trilogy.

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I have heard of this author and actually really want to read some of her books. I need to become organised. I’m a big shambolic mess! Which book would you recommend as a first go?
Lynn :D

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Seems like most of her works figure into the Newsflesh Zombie series (written as Mira Grant), or the October Daye urban fantasy series. FEED is the first Newsflesh book, and ROSEMARY AND RUE is the first in the urban fantasy.

so I guess which are you more interested in? Zombie horror with a really good twist, or urban fantasy (also with a twist?).

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Well, pigs in space, I had no idea! I have read Feed!! In that case I’ll have to try the urban fantasy – I love a good twist.
Lynn :D

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Well, this helped a lot. I was a bit confused at the end of that book and wondering about the story there with Elizabeth and the “Annie”. It was a beautiful little love story with a horribly sad ending. She wasn’t a second prize, but Liz couldn’t stop being what she was either.

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