Episode Number: 133
Episode Title: Toby Daye Trio (listen to this episode)
Transcript by: Susan the Great
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Renay: Hi friends, I’m Renay.
Di: I’m Diana.
KJ: And I’m KJ.
Renay: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour.
Renay: Hello, space bees! I’m joined today with two guest hosts, Diana and KJ. They are very kindly helping me cover Ana’s hiatus. Ana’s doing good, by the way, she’s resting and recovering from our long international nightmare.
To start us off, we’re going to talk about some good stuff that’s happened in the world. Diana, do you want to go first?
Di: Sure, some good stuff that has happened in the world for me is that Canada designated the Proud Boys as terrorists, which I—
Di: —greatly appreciate, because Canada has a lot to answer for in giving the world Gavin McInnes. This is a step in the right direction.
Renay: I continue to wonder how long it’s gonna take for the United States to be like, “Hmmm, you look kinda terroristy, we’re gonna classify you that way.” Cause it hasn’t happened yet.
KJ: Although there was something that came out recently about white supremacist terrorist groups. I don’t know if they used the terrorist, but there was some word out of the administration about how they’re going to start taking this more seriously.
Renay: I will cross my fingers and hope for the best, but also be very skeptical until I see actual change.
Okay, KJ! How about you? What is your one good thing?
KJ: I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but it was a useful thing, and that’s one of the big things that’s come out of the pandemic for me is that my office is closing. I’m not losing my job. We’re all being offered either a place in another nearby office or continuing to work from home. But I went into the office for the first time since—I think the last time I was in there was in July to pick up a piece of equipment—and bring stuff home and put stuff in boxes and it was a good sort of closure moment because it’s been hanging over my head as a thing that needed to happen. I probably won’t start work in the new office until July at the earliest, but it was sort of nice to have that closure. That moment of, “Okay, I am now leaving this place and I won’t come back to it.”
Renay: As you’ve communicated to me several times in the past, but I keep forgetting, you really don’t like working from home.
KJ: I really don’t like working from home. It’s not my favorite! I never thought that I would and it turned out I don’t. I look forward to the day when I can work in an office again. And the commute to the new office is shorter. I can take transit! Hopefully we’re all happy to take transit in July but we’ll see.
Renay: Didn’t California just open stuff up?
KJ: Yes, and in the Bay Area things are actually getting better. The ICU numbers are going down. It’s an acceptable choice up here. Things are quite bad still in Southern California, but my understanding is that people in Southern California for the most part weren’t obeying the regulations, anyway.
Renay: A lot of places in California you couldn’t do things like get haircuts?
KJ: And now you can!
Renay: In Arkansas, haircuts never shut down because the order that the governor gave was so toothless. Even now, with that toothless order, the fascists in our state legislature are like, “This is too much power for the governor!” Okay, fascists.
I hope once you can go to your office it’s safe to go so you can get out of your house! While working from home for me is really nice I can see how it could be not great for some people. Especially if you don’t have a lot of space.
KJ: Part of the problem is that my work space—the only place for me really to have an office space—is also the space where I do most of my creative work. It makes it a lot harder to make that connection, that jump basically, from “this is where I do my paid work” to “this is where I write and blog and record podcasts”
Renay: There’s no line which is hard.
KJ: Exactly. It’s harder.
Renay: Fistbump to all the people out there working from home, cause I know it can be tough.
Well, my one good thing: after several weeks, we’ve finally got my mom her COVID shot.
KJ and Di: Yay!
Renay: It was really stressful because the way that the Arkansas health department was handling it? I guess they were sending doses to these little independent pharmacies. You couldn’t make the appointment over the phone. You had to use a web portal. Yes. Okay. So all the people 60+ who don’t have reliable internet or only have smart devices? You wanna take them to a pharmacy website, to sign up for an appointment. Okay. Nothing could go wrong with that. Spoiler: everything went wrong with that.
It’s been a struggle, but the other day they called her. They had a cancellation of some kind, which is why she got to get in. She’s like, “Oh well now there’s an appointment at four, you can come at whatever time is best, you can come at any time, you can just come and walk in” and we like “Yep, let’s go!” So I took her and she got the shot, and it was a super, really, really super-easy process. The shot didn’t hurt her at all. She said it burned when it was going in a little bit. She said the flu shot was worse and she’s got her next appointment. I am going into extreme detail about this, because number one, yay vaccines! And number two, yay my mother is getting her vaccine and hopefully won’t get this horrible disease. Good luck out there to kids who are trying to take their parents to get vaccinated because I know there’s not a system in place nationally. All the states are handling it themselves so it’s just like hit and miss and it’s super complicated. And that’s my one good thing! Everybody get vaccinated when you get the chance.
Renay: Next up, we’re going to talk about stuff we’ve been reading, or watching, or playing. I’ve expanded this category because it’s pandemic times and sometimes some media doesn’t work for everybody.
Diana, what have you been up to media-wise recently?
Di: Recently, I started playing the Marvel’s Avengers video game again. I had started playing it when it came out in September, but once I finished the story mission—which is excellent by the way—I kind of stopped playing. But then they released Kate Bishop content and I’ve been playing again.
It’s very loot heavy, you go in and do missions and you fight the bad guys and you get the loot and then you leave, but the story’s really great. It centers Kamala Khan, and has very bitter exes Bruce and Tony, and the Kate Bishop stuff is also really great.
Ashly Burch who voiced Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn is Kate Bishop and they did a really good job with her design. Her default is jeans, combat boots, a purple jacket, and a bullet proof vest and sunglasses, and it’s very Kate Bishop. I don’t know if I’d recommend paying full price for this game, but if you see it on sale, buy it for the campaign. The campaign is really really good.
Another thing I’ve been enjoying recently is the You’re Wrong About podcast. It’s hosted by two journalists, Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes. The premise of this podcast is that they re-examine things that our collective memory might have gotten wrong. A really good example is the Challenger disaster, and how one: it’s not actually an explosion despite what we remember, and two: how it’s really a good example of white collar crime and the normalization of deviance. They did a four part series on the DC snipers and how people remember it as this terrorist incident, but it’s really a good example of the escalation of domestic violence.
They’ll talk about other more light-hearted things, like going through Jessica Simpson’s biography and talking about how we, as a society, the way we perceive attractive young women. I love the podcast, it’s very good, I highly recommend it. Michael Hobbes also has a podcast he does with Aubrey from Your Fat Friend on Twitter, which is called Maintenance Phase which is all about weird health and wellness things that are actually not good. They did one on the presidential fitness test which is the bane of American kids’ existence. They did one just absolutely ripping to shreds The Biggest Loser. They did one on Halo Top ice cream. The You’re Wrong About expanded universe has been powering me through.
And then in terms of what I’m reading, the Star Wars High Republic stuff that just came out is really good. It’s set two hundred years before the prequel trilogy, and it’s really nice. It’s Star Wars, but aside from Yoda it’s all new characters. It’s really interesting to see how different the Jedi were even two hundred years ago, and seeing how far they fell by the time we get to the prequel trilogy and how much more dogmatic and closed off they were to different perspectives. I’m really enjoying it. I’ve read the first two books that were published and I’m hopefully getting the YA book today.
Renay: KJ, what about you? What’ve you been into?
KJ: Like many of us, I think I haven’t been reading that much during the pandemic. I’ve had a hard time focusing on it. But one thing that I did read was my first most anticipated book of the year came out in January. I pre-ordered it and started reading it on release day and read it in like three days. It’s The Mask of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick. M.A. Carrick is a pen name for Alyc Helms and Marie Brennan, and Marie Brennan is one of my very favorite authors. I have loved her books for a long time, especially The Memoirs of Lady Trent.
At Fogcon last year, which is a small SFF con in the San Francisco Bay Area, which might have been the last in-person con of 2020—it was the last weekend of March and had it been a week later I don’t think they would’ve been able to do it. She read a chapter of this book at Fogcon—Marie Brennan did—and I was totally hooked. It’s a secondary world fantasy: the story of a grifter who decides to pose as nobility to work her way into a noble family and take their money. It’s elaborate heists; it’s lots of politics; it’s got a couple of good romances in it; it’s obviously the first book in a trilogy. Rook and Rose is the name of the trilogy and it’s just a lot of fun. It was great character building, a really interesting looking world, and I’m excited to read more of it, so I definitely recommend this book.
In terms of what I’ve been watching, my partner and I, my spouse and I, we finally bit the bullet to subscribe to HBO Max because we wanted to watch Wonder Woman. We’ve never had HBO before, ever, so we suddenly had the whole world of HBO content open to us. So we started with Watchmen. First we actually watched the movie because T had never seen it and he’d never read the graphic novel and we thought it would be useful background knowledge for it. Then we went to the series. Unfortunately, we haven’t quite finished it yet, so I don’t wanna say too much, but it’s very good, it’s not what I was expecting, and I don’t wanna say more than that.
But what I’ve really been doing is I’ve been replaying Dragon Age: Inquisition. Probably the last four months or so of 2020 I made the both terrible and wonderful decision of picking up Civilization VI, I was a Civ addict for a long time. I stopped playing some years ago when I stopped playing PC games for RSI reasons. Then I found out it was available for the Playstation. I decided to get it and basically played it non-stop. I finally decided that the way to break this addiction was to get back into Dragon Age.
I rolled up a new Inquisitor for the first time since I think 2016. I’m playing the Dalish elf origin. I’m romancing Dorian. I’m enjoying it quite a lot and I’ve already got my next game planned. And part of the reason I picked up Dragon Age again is because for several years now, it’s the canon which I am most—drives me the most to write fiction based in it. So I was hoping that it would inspire me and it has worked! I have gotten some irons in the fire and hopefully some actual fiction will come of it soon. It’s just been great to re-immerse myself in this world that I enjoy so much.
Renay: I own Dragon Age. I own it! But I was really wigged out when Zach and I started the first game and there’s no voice acting?
Di: It’s weird. I will say, as someone who played the trilogy backwards. [laughs]
Di: It is very weird to go from fully voiced protagonists with the Inquisitor and with Hawke, and then to go to Origins and have there be no voice. But Origins is very good! I really like all the different origins. I think I’ve played all of them through but I don’t have a canon yet for a Dalish elf or Cousland because I’m gonna be honest: being a human noble seems very boring to me! [laughs]
Renay: One day! One day, friends!
Well, I have not been playing games, however I got a rec for a podcast from our mutual friend and beautiful human Jenny from Reading the End called The Magnus Archives. It’s a horror podcast and the premise is that it’s this institute that takes these spooky statements from people and it’s really disorganized. So the head archivist who is brand new is reading them in order to file them. You really have to just ignore the premise! Why are we recording written statements in the 20th Century onto tape? Let that slide and get into it and it becomes more clear. It is really scary in some places. Other places it’s just kinda more introspective. I would call it existential, maybe? It raises a lot of questions about humanity and power. The last podcast like this I was into was The Black Tapes, and if you’ve known me for any amount of time, you know how upset I got at the terrible ending of that show. They just gave up! So I was really dubious about getting into another audio horror podcast that might disappoint me, but so far this is doing really, really well. I really like it. I’ve inhaled it. I mean I’ve been listening for a week and a half now and I’m up to episode 105. The podcast’s making me want to look up some actually good horror books that might be available in audio. That might be where I go next! Who knows?
The other thing that I’ve been into are White House press briefings which is a really big nerdy thing to say I guess! But we didn’t have White House press briefings because the last administration was a garbage fire and all they could do was lie so they just quit having them. I really like the ones that we’re having now. It feels like, and we might be getting ahead of ourselves here, but the last Democratic administration didn’t seem to know how to deal with the rising tide of conspiracy theorists and theories, and bad faith journalists, and journalists who just don’t know how to handle fascism. It really feels like this administration learned a lot from watching how the previous Democratic administration got screwed and how the last administration behaved. The press secretary, Jen Psaki, she previously was a spokesperson for the state department. She just doesn’t take their shit! And it’s great! I admit, it’s a press briefing, it’s not super exciting, but I feel more informed by just listening to a forty-five minute to whatever press briefing than trying to hunt up news from journalists. If I listen to the press briefing, I know what the news is gonna be talking about, and it’s just been a very chill way to plug into politics in a way that doesn’t feel like my brain is going to leak out of my ears. It’s been very enjoyable. Highly recommend.
KJ: The Magnus Archives has been on my radar for a little while. When you started describing it I immediately thought of The Black Tapes. I’m glad it has some of that same vibe but better.
Renay: Yes, it’s much better, and also I find that the voice acting of the side characters is better than in The Black Tapes. Jenny tells me that it’s slow to start, but I actually didn’t find it that slow to start. Maybe because I jammed twenty-five episodes into my face within 48 hours? That could’ve had something to do with it. It didn’t feel like it’s slow to start for me at all, so your mileage may vary but I really, really love it a whole bunch. Whoever does the sound engineering: top job. Chef’s kiss.
Okay space bees, if you’ve been reading or watching or playing something that you think we’d be interested in giving a shot, you can let us know by shooting us an email or poking us on Twitter.
Renay: Rosemary and Rue is the first book in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. It follows October’s unwilling return to the world of faerie to investigate the murder of Evening Winterrose. October Daye is an urban fantasy series, and it was first published in 2009. We’re gonna do a whole reread and discussion of the series together over the next few months, because there’s a lot of books in this series! It’s gonna be full of spoilers. If you have not read this series you will probably be spoiled, because we’re not gonna spoiler mark it. This is a very in depth discussion, but we highly recommend you read these books because we think they’re very good.
Di: I love these books. I first picked them up when I graduated college in 2012 and I was delivering pizzas, and I needed something to do in my downtime. I started reading a whole lot and I picked up Rosemary and Rue because I was on an urban fantasy kick. I will say that the first few books are slow. It takes until the third book for it to really kick off, but the premise was really solid. I really enjoyed the idea that in San Francisco, there’s faerie lurking everywhere, which makes sense because San Francisco and the Bay Area are kinda like that.
I thought Toby was a really interesting character because she does not want to be there. She is very depressed in this first book. It sets off a lot of interesting mysteries that you don’t even realize are happening until—for me, one of the big ones and I know KJ is gonna talk about some of the other ones—we meet the character Marcia. Where she’s in Lily’s [service]—who is an undine—and she is described as this very thin-blooded changeling—someone who doesn’t have a lot of faerie in her, but she shows up later. I don’t think Marcia is actually a thin-blooded changeling. I think she’s Maeve. I think Marcia is Maeve or someone very powerful who’s hiding, cause I don’t buy that she’s a thin blooded changeling.
And the other thing: I don’t buy Stacy as a thin blooded changeling because in this book—and also further books—Toby is very clear about when she tastes someone’s lineage and she’s able to put it together. We always get mentions of what someone’s faerie lineage is, but we never get that for Stacy. Stacy is just described as another thin-blooded changeling. We never hear about who her parents are. We only hear about her grandparents in passing and two of her kids have these prophetic abilities that we’ve never really seen before. So I think there’s also something hinky going on with Stacy and we don’t really see that in this book because Stacy—aside from Mitch—Stacy mostly appears off-camera, she’s just someone mentioned as one of Toby’s friends from before who now has a family and we’ll get more of Stacy and Mitch later on. Anyway, Seanan McGuire does a very good job of seeding potential things that grow later on.
Yeah, this one was kinda hard for me to reread though, because I forgot how much I deeply hate Devin. I hate him so much, my notes for this book are, “Devin is the fucking worst” and it’s true. In a different series, Devin would have stayed around and been the, “Oh, he’s the bad boy from Toby’s past. He’s going to tempt Toby into criminal ways.” I really appreciate that one, he’s shown to be the fucking worst towards the end, and two, he’s dispatched, he’s dead, he’s not coming back, hopefully. I enjoy this book; I definitely think it’s one of the weaker ones in the series, but it was also one of Seanan McGuire’s first published novel. I think it makes sense that it’s not up to the same level of her other books.
KJ: Just jumping right in there with the bombshells of your thoughts of what’s coming next.
KJ: I picked up Rosemary and Rue when it was first published. I was in a bookstore for a different author event. The bookseller was like, “Oh hey, here’s a series, and we have an author event for this book coming up later today if you want to come back later and attend. She’s a debut author. It’ll be really fun.” I was like, “Oh, that sounds fun but I have plans, sorry!” I bought the book and left. I regret that, greatly, because among other things I find Seanan McGuire to be one of the best live performers in the business in terms of doing presentations and doing Q&A. I will watch any panel she’s on no matter what it’s about. So not going to the reading was a mistake; picking up the book was not a mistake.
However, it sort of sat on my TBR for a while. I didn’t read it until a few years later, by the time at least four books of the series were out. I read this book and immediately went onto the next ones, so that makes my experience of getting into this series a little different. I will echo what Diana said about this not being the strongest of her books, but it all feels like first novel issues. The core of the story is very good, and the characters are very fascinating, and it definitely set me up to want to know more about Toby and her world.
I live in San Francisco, and I actually bought the book at Borderlands Books, which becomes a key setting later in the series. That’s kind of a fun connection to it. Even if some of the geographical locations don’t always link up, the San Francisco of the books feels like the San Francisco of the real world, and it gives you the idea that San Francisco could have—it definitely feels like there could be faerie creatures lurking in the fog. That’s a feeling really brought to life in the books.
The seeds for later that I have been looking at are for things that’ve been revealed and that’s the true identity and motives of Evening Winterrose. That’s actually the main reason I wanted to reread this series: was to see how those plots are seeded and how well they hold up. I had forgotten just how much Evening was not set up as the villain in the beginning. Evening was sympathetic; Evening was seen—Toby thought of her as a friend, as an ally, to know that that rug is going to be pulled out from under us in I guess eight books or so. I was looking for clues to that and there are a few but it’s subtle. It’s one of those things that feel like a real surprise and a real reversal but not a cheat. I can see that definitely coming up.
Another thing that struck me was just how much Toby’s relationships with people have changed over time. Tybalt is the obvious one to mention, because they are Not Friends, and Toby thinks of him in fact as almost an enemy. Although the fact that she goes to him with the hope chest and trusts him with it is sort of telling. But then also her whole relationship with Sylvester and how I had forgotten that she was afraid to go back to him, and she hadn’t seen him in all that time, that she’d been avoiding him. For them to build the relationship back up to something so close and so important to her, and to know that it’s going to be destroyed again is very interesting and a little heartbreaking. The first time I read this book it was heartwarming to see her and Sylvester reconnect, and now it’s very bittersweet, knowing what’s going on behind the scenes.
Di: If I can just add to that thing about the changing in relationships? It’s also related to Sylvester, but the degradation of her relationship with Luna is just so heartbreaking. Because Luna in this book is portrayed as this alternate mother to her, because Amandine is who she is and not a good mother. Luna provided that source of comfort and then just over the course of the series to see it degrade to where it gets in A Killing Frost where Luna effectively banishes her from Shadowed Hills. I haven’t reread the series in a while so I can’t remember the specific steps that got us to that point, but it’s still very sad to see how that relationship changes.
And then going with Tybalt and how the seeds of that attraction were planted? The edition I have is the tenth anniversary edition and it has an all-new novella and it’s about how Toby finds the queen’s knowe after it collapses. At one point in the novella after she’s had a couple of encounters with Tybalt, she’s got this glass stone that helps her find this knowe, and she’s thinking about Labyrinth and the Goblin King, and she’s basically thinking about how much she likes tight pants. I’m just like, “Oh girl, even in 1992 you got it bad, and you’re trying to deny it so much.”
Renay: Unlike everybody else, I didn’t start reading the series until a lot of the books were out, so I don’t have the same experience of a lot of the earlier books that are weaker than the later books, just writing style wise.
Going back to this book, it has been really weird. I actually forgot a lot of the things that happened in this book, so it was kinda like reading it for the first time, and there’s a lot of stuff I don’t remember. I totally forgot about Connor completely.
Renay: Completely erased that man from my memory. In this book you can see both the set-up for Toby and Tybalt’s relationship, but you can also see the set-up for Toby and Connor getting back together. I remember when I was first reading this series and I would go—was it you, KJ? Because I think I came to you several times about Connor and Toby and whether or not they were gonna be a thing, or whether Toby and Tybalt were gonna be a thing. Because I had a preference! A very loud preference, for Tybalt, and you were just like, “Keep reading.” Do you remember that?
KJ: Vaguely, yes, I do think I remember that.
Renay: I was very biased. That first scene where Tybalt rescues Toby when she’s been shot by a potential assassin and takes her to her friend Lily for healing. I’m like, “Oh my god, I ship this so much.” I was very all-in on that relationship from the beginning and totally forgot about Connor. So, sorry Connor!
Di: I mean, to be fair, I a lot of us forget about Connor.
KJ: I didn’t forget about Connor. I think Toby and Tybalt is better end-game ship, but I thought Connor was, as a way for Toby back into faerie, I thought that he worked as she’s sort of rediscovering the world.
Di: I think the reason for me that I forgot about him was because like I said, I started reading in 2012. I read the first five books pretty close together. The first one I read as it came out was One Salt Sea—the one where Connor dies—and so it’s been like nine years for me at this point. I’m just like, “Connor? Who’s that—Oh, I remember now!”
Renay: Yeah the downside to reading a series where there’s several books out, like more than three, and you just sorta mainline them all and you’re like, “Whoa, what happened in those previous books?”
Another character: I just forgot that the Luidaeg was in this specific book in the way that she is, especially given the importance of her character in later books. Because obviously the books plant a lot of hints about her story throughout the series. I don’t think we’ve seen the end of those! For example, one of the hints that gets dropped in this book was the poor red shirt Roane dude, who ends up—who’s dating one of Toby’s childhood friends—gets capped. Toby makes this comment, “Oh well, he’s a Roane and they’re almost extinct.” That’s another example of the way that Seanan McGuire is seeding this world with potential story beats.
Di: The Roane play a big, big role in a little bit in book five, but then especially in book thirteen.
KJ: But yeah, dropping a hint for something that isn’t going to become a big deal for thirteen books is really quite something.
Di: There was one other thing that—oh, the hints about the queen. So in this book we find out one, that the queen has no name, two, that she has three different lineages of faerie, where most people have only one or two, and then, three, that something is not quite right with her. She only plays a very small role in this, but you can see in this book that that’s gonna be something is going to be coming up. Because she ruled the mist, but what happens when there’s something wrong with the ruler?
KJ: Yeah, that becomes a pretty big deal pretty quickly if I recall—the whole changeover of power. I can never remember what happened in exactly in which book. The only thing I have in my head is that book eight is when the truth about the Winterrose is revealed.
Di: It’s book seven where the truth about the Nameless Queen comes out and we get the change of power.
KJ: Oh, okay.
Di: Because it happens the book after Toby and Tybalt hook up.
KJ: Ah, okay!
Renay: Yes, this whole series will be us marking time by Toby and Tybalt’s interactions and how close they are to banging.
KJ: But Diana what you said about Devin? It sort of made me think about how a different series would have handled him and it also made me think of Seanan’s strong statement that her female protagonists will never be sexually assaulted. It seems like those things kind of go together? That getting rid of the creepy male predator who is clearly—not just women, but just the weak, the changelings—is preying on the changelings for his own gain, that she got rid of him and bought in different kinds of villains and different kinds of antagonists? I think that’s sort of telling.
Di: Yeah, I agree. And then the other thing that I find very interesting about this book is I’ve been seeing—and when I was reading a lot of urban fantasy, a lot of urban fantasy has the protagonist working with law enforcement in some way. And with this one, Toby is working with faerie authority. She has to in order to operate within faerie, but she’s not really working with mortal authority. She is a private investigator, and so there are some interactions with police, but we always see it kind of sideways, which is interesting with recent discussions of law enforcement in fiction.
Renay: In the first book, Toby makes a comment about the police as a toxic body, and it’s very explicit and I thought that was very…not cool to read for a book from 2009, but prescient maybe? That the idea of the police as heroes was not being endorsed by the narrative. They were, at least from the main character’s perspective, they were extremely troubling to deal with and it just wasn’t worth it.
KJ: Well also with authority, the fact that the ultimate authority in this part of the world is the queen, and she’s revealed to be a corrupt usurper also feels somewhat connected to that. Even Sylvester turns out to have his serious problems.
Di: It’s definitely interesting going back and visiting something that, like I said, I haven’t read in nine years.
KJ: Yeah, I’ve always meant to reread this series, but never have. I have forgotten so much that happens in the earlier books. I didn’t forget Connor; I forgot Devin. Devin is the character I completely forgot about.
Di: Speaking of things being seeded, I just remembered. So in the prologue—because I was flipping through A Killing Frost recently—where SImon turns her into a fish, I’m just gonna read it because I have it open.
“Oleander laughed. ‘Oh she’s a sassy one.’ Her expression darkened, moon shifting in a heartbeat. ‘Make her pay for that.’
‘Of course.’ Leaning forward, Simon pressed a kiss against my forehead and whispered, ‘I’ll make sure someone finds your car in a week or two once they’re ready to give up hope. Wouldn’t want to make your family wait for you too long, now, would I?'”
And as we find out in later books where Simon turned her into a fish as a way of protecting her. I read that and I’m like, “Oh my god,” I’m pretty sure that was something that she had in mind: the revelation about Simon and his relationship with Toby was something she had planned really far in advance.
KJ: The first author event I went to for this series, which was probably book six or seven, I actually asked her how far ahead she had plotted, and she said at the time she’d sold thirteen books, but had more. She knew where the story was going even beyond that, so I think a lot of this stuff, much of this stuff was planned in advance. I don’t know how in detail, but definitely I think she has the broad outlines of the story in mind.
Renay: Some of my favorite things from this book, rereading it, were stuff that I hadn’t forgotten specifically, but I enjoyed the viewing of it through eyes that know what’s coming. For example, in this book, Toby adopts a rose goblin called Spike. I guess I just totally forgot that she got Spike this early in the series; in the first book. Also there was the fact that her squire—who becomes her squire later—is introduced in this book as well, and the way that she interacts with him versus the way that she interacts with older members of the faerie court is really fascinating. Also a little heartwarming as well? She’s like, “Oh, he hasn’t been corrupted by all the snobbery yet,” so she still relates to him. I found that super delightful, especially since we know how that relationship is going to grow and change in the future.
KJ: Yeah, it was Quentin for me, too. When Quentin first shows up on her doorstep, and I was like, “Oh, the relationship the two of you have in front of you just makes me happy to think about it.”
Di: I love that one of Toby’s defining characteristics is her randomly adopting all the teenagers she encounters. Like we have Quentin, we have Raj, we have Chelsea, we have Dean. I think based on A Killing Frost, Raysel is going to end up among her brood. It is also a little sad that so far Gilly is the one person who is not there.
Renay: I totally forgot how upset I was? Because I wasn’t expecting it, right, when I first read this book, where Toby is following Simon and gets turned into a fish for fourteen years.This fourteen year gap where she loses everything was super gutting to me. Earlier Diana said Toby is super depressed and it comes through really well in how she has so little care for her physical—both her physical and mental health. It’s not that she is subservient. It’s more that she feels resigned to being tossed around by the tides of the faerie court, and she’s just given herself over to it because her mental health is so bad. In a lot of ways, this book was pretty gutting.
KJ: Yeah, I totally agree. And even though sometimes things get objectively worse for Toby, I feel like overall her situation is getting better because she has her community back, basically. She may not have wanted the faerie community, but as she finds her way back in on her own terms, I think it helps her and makes her life and her mental health better.
Di: Yeah, I definitely agree with that, because we see, throughout the books the people who are close to her, every time she starts kind of backsliding they are like, “No, we love you, we care for you, you have value besides, you know, being Amandine’s daughter and being a living hope chest.”
Oh, that’s the other thing I wanted to talk about was the hope chest! Again, it’s a little bit of foreshadowing into what’s the deal with Toby where it’s this—and also some of the other characters—where hope chests can turn changelings either full human or full faerie. And Toby gets a little of that, when she touches it and it does some subtle tweaks to her, but it doesn’t fully change who she is. Then as we find out later, that’s Amadine’s line’s whole thing. And also as we find out with Simon and Sylvester, they were changelings once upon a time.
KJ: Right, there’s a lot more of the secret changeling thing that becomes more of a big deal as the story goes on.
Renay: And the perspective that Toby has to the faerie is that like all these so-called “purebloods” or whatever are lording it over people like her, which I find fascinating as we watch her grow over the books into not being so ashamed of her lineage. She’s like made herself into her own person and she’s developed her own skills, and she’s done it on her own terms. The farther along we go, the more sarcastic she gets about them. She will give them respect when they earn it, but otherwise as she grows as a person she’s like, “You’re full of shit.” I really enjoy that aspect of her character.
Di: I do too, and kind of related to that, what you said about how she becomes more confident: so in this book, she’s tempted by the hope chest, and that’s why she’s like, “Tybalt you need to keep this away from me, I cannot have it near me.” Whereas in the later books when she has the opportunity to change her blood or interact with the hope chest, she’s like, “Keep me as I am. I want to keep my humanity. I don’t want to let that go.”
KJ: Yeah. We’ve talked a little bit about Amandine. It’s interesting how in this book she’s portrayed as the flighty faerie princess who hasn’t been part of Toby’s life. It’s funny: when she talks about her mom in this book, she doesn’t think of her as being particularly bad or toxic, and it gets to be more and more so as the series goes on. Until we get to the most recent book where she got banished, right?
Di: She’s not banished, but she and Simon get divorced and she throws a fit.
KJ: So she’s not banished but she’s definitely fallen from favor.
Renay: Amandine was an interesting character for me, going into this book, because even when I read this book for the first time and subsequent books, some of the ways that Toby talks about herself in the context of her mother really raised some red flags for me. So like in this book, for example, when a faerie and a mortal get together and have a child like Toby, at some point the child—their baby magic runs out so they have to face the changeling’s choice and choose whether to stay in the mortal world or go to the faerie lands. When Sylvester shows up for October, and asks her, she says I’m just like my mother, so Sylvester pulls both October and her Amandine into the Summerlands. In that moment, Toby—she blames it on herself, she blames herself for that choice and for trapping her mother in Faerie. Just the way that she framed that as if it was her fault, as a little kid, so even back when I was reading this series the first time I was like, “Ah, hm, I do not trust this woman.” Obviously, parents are quote-unquote human and they care about their kids, so if you’re a parent and you care about your child, you don’t let them internalize this idea that they were at fault for something they weren’t at fault for. That’ s why I was always always suspicious of Amandine. Always.
KJ: Yeah, that’s a good catch.
Renay: Do we have any closing thoughts about the first book?
Di: Devin’s the fucking worst and I’m glad he’s dead.
KJ: It’s the seeds of what’s to come later and I’m pretty excited for it. Although I’m not excited for the next book because it’s my least favorite by a lot but we’ll talk about that next month.
Di: The next book has some good stuff in that we get more Quentin/Toby bonding, but the plot is not great.
Renay: Next month, everybody, you can enjoy me being the odd one out because I do like the next book. [laughs]
KJ: Maybe rereading it I’ll like it better!
Di: Yeah, and I’ve not read some of the early books in nine years, so…
Renay: How many space bees would you give Rosemary and Rue?
Di: Out of five, I’d give it 3.5. It’s a solid book, it’s not top tier Toby Daye for me.
KJ: The convention is three space bees and a jar of honey, right? That’s kinda where I am, too. Both for the book on its own and the work it does to set up all the great things that come later.
Renay: On this book, after rereading it, I’m at a four. Even though it’s very much a first novel, the way that it aligns its story beats in order to anchor the rest of the series later on is just really, really good.
Di: Before we wrap up, I just want to mention that in the ten year anniversary edition, there is a pull quote from The Book Smugglers. When it’s listing all the praise that this book or series has gotten, they include Book Smugglers which makes me happy.
Renay: Space bees, thank you very much for listening to our show. Diana, where can our listeners find you online?
Di: You can mostly find me on Twitter at @BookishDi where I talk politics, Star Wars, and women’s sports.
Renay: KJ, where can people find you?
KJ: I have two primary homes on the internet. The first is on Twitter, @iamkj, and I too talk about politics and science fiction and post pictures of my cat and the city. And then I also write on Dreamwidth as owlmoose, and you can find me on Lady Business, where I am one of the contributing editors.
Renay: Hooray! Thank you both so much for coming on the pod to talk about books with me. I really appreciate your time, and I’m excited for us to continue our October Daye reread next month.
Di: Speaking of that, my cats are currently wailing outside because I have the door closed and they’re just like, “Mother does not love us! Mother keeps us unjustly shut from this chamber!”
Cat: [meows loudly]
Renay: [meows back]
Di: You can hear that?!
Renay: They’re so sad, Diana! They’re so sad!
Di: Oh my god, those cats.
Renay: Okay, we have one outro to do, and then we’re done, and you can free them from their torment!