Readers of Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series all agree on their appreciation of Tybalt, King of Cats and – for some time now – Toby’s love interest, a relationship that has grown and matured over the course of several novels, developing in a delightfully organic way. It was therefore a lovely surprise to discover this short story, available for free download on the author’s site, focusing on October and Tybalt’s first date. You can find the story HERE (it’s the sixth down the page, and you can download it in various formats).
This being Seanan McGuire, you will not find a saccharine-laden tale of two people enjoying a romantic dinner, there will be no overly sweet, cringe-worthy dialogue between them, nor rainbows and unicorns and all the tropes that could apply to such a situation.
No, this dinner between Toby and the King of Cats, their first foray into the outside world since they acknowledged their mutual interest, is carried out on the strength of intelligent humor, on the interplay between two people who have been friends and allies before becoming lovers, who have learned to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and how to play them to mutual advantage.
Oh, and there’s an attempted assassination as well, but I guess that’s all part and parcel of who they are, too…
What I most enjoyed here was the juxtaposition of Toby’s more modern point of view and Tybalt’s centuries-old courtly attitude, a contrast made clearer by the fact that the story is told from his point of view (a welcome change from the Toby-centric narrative of the rest of the series). Tybalt’s earnestness is both the product of his own character and of the times he was born in, and it results in a delightful speech pattern that lends more depth to the concepts he expresses. There is a passage in the story that’s a good example of that, and is worth quoting:
“I won’t pretend that you do not have the capacity to break my heart. The fact that I would trust you enough to risk the breaking of it is a compliment […] Would I sulk for a time, years perhaps? Yes. I am only a man. But I would return to you with my hat in my hands and ask that my friend take me back, even if my lover had journeyed forever into that strange and distant country known as ‘Memory,’ where never a living soul may go.”
Even someone as little romantically-inclined as myself can’t remain indifferent to such intense, and yet contained, emotions: in less skilled hands, the concepts expressed by Tybalt might have come out as stuffy or hyperbolic, but here they sound just… perfect. As perfect and balanced as this story – a must-read for all Toby admirers.
What are you waiting for?