At the back of The Brightest Fell, the eleventh volume in Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, I found a welcome surprise, a novella set in the same world and tied to the events of the second book, A Local Habitation. Even though the finer details of that story had become slightly fuzzy with the passage of time, I found myself remembering it all thanks to the author’s dropped hints that brought it all back in no time at all.
The protagonist here is April O’Leary, a very unusual kind of fae: she used to be a Dryad, a tree-dweller, and she had come to be adopted by January O’Leary, the Countess of Tamed Lightning, an equally unusual knowe for fae standards, one where magic and computer technology could exist side by side, enhancing each other in new and peculiar ways. At the end of A Local Habitation, the death of January had left April as the heir to Tamed Lightning, and as caretaker for the people whose mental/spiritual/whatever energy had been drained from their bodies and electronically stored into a server.
Now, a few years after the facts, a way has been found to restore those people’s vitality to their bodies, through a ritual that, not uncommonly for Tamed Lightning, is part computer programming and part magic, and will require October Daye’s contribution to work. The only victim not to be restored will be January, April’s adoptive mother, because her body was damaged beyond repair, and both April and January’s widow Li Quin struggle to come to terms with this, while rejoicing for the possibility of bringing back their long-lost friends.
While April and Li Quin battle with their still-fresh grief and the uncertainties about the future, April makes a mind-boggling discovery…
I enjoyed this story quite a bit, both because it represented a sort of… soft exit from October Daye’s world after the end of The Brightest Fell, one of the most intense novels of the series, and also because it explored April’s character with some added depth: she is quite fascinating, because she is not exactly alive, being a virtual creature who exists in the data streams of Tamed Lightning’s computer banks. It was the only way for her to survive, after the death of her tree, and this kind of existence has changed April’s outlook in a dramatic way: she thinks like a software, she looks at the world and at people as if they were programs, or strings of code, and this colors both her thought processes and the way she understand people – or tries to.
There is a delightfully fascinating consideration about Toby that showcases April’s way of looking at things and people:
Sir October Daye is a knight errant of the realm. She is an irregular command in the code, a roving antivirus entering compromised systems and repairing what she can before moving on to the next crisis.
I loved it, because it was not only a way to understand what makes April tick, but it also felt so very fitting for October and the way she is. And now the wait for our favorite changeling’s next adventures goes on…