Seanan McGuire's October Daye series shouldn't be possible. Every fantasy fan knows how rare (and rewarding) it is when an author manages to write books quickly and avoid long publishing delays. In that sense, McGuire has more than delivered: Since the 2009 debut of paranormal P.I. October “Toby” Daye in Rosemary and Rue, McGuire has churned out 17 books in just 13 years. The stories offer sweeping plot lines across multiple worlds and details centuries-old conflicts.
Not only has McGuire managed to capture an epic scale within her urban fantasy series—not only has she managed to average better than a book a year—but she hasn't skimped on the most important thing, which is quality writing.
Don't believe us? Well, consider McGuire's last two months. In September, she published Sleep No More, the 17th entry in the October Daye Series. Last week, she won the Hugo Award for Best Novella (for Where the Drowned Girls Go) while October Daye garnered a nomination for best series. Today, The Innocent Sleep (Book 18 of October Daye) hits bookshelves.
The Innocent Sleep follows Tybalt, King of Cats, in his struggle against master illusionist Titania. When magic cuts Tybalt off from his own reality, the deposed king must find a way to undo the damage. To start, he'll have to convince the woman he loves to help him. The only problem? She has no memory of the bond they shared.
You can learn more about The October Daye series here. Or, read on to get wrapped up in the story of Tybalt, Toby, and all the rest.
The innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
chief nourisher in life’s feast.
— William Shakespeare, Macbeth
EXITING THE SWEET SAFETY of the shadows for the warmer, softly lit solidity of the bedroom I shared with October was, as always, something of a shock. She pushed against my chest to be released and I let her go, staying where I was and watching as she stepped away to catch her breath and brush the ice from her hair, remaining within reach. We were both, I think, too shaken to move very far from one another.
She shot me a look, wearily amused, and pulled her fingers through her hair, coming away with flecks of frost clinging to her skin. The Shadow Roads did treat her harshly, even after all this time.
“When I said to get me out of there, I assumed we’d wind up in the Court of Cats or something,” she said.
I raised an eyebrow, and asked, “Why in the world would you assume that when home was right here, waiting to serve as a perfectly lovely option?” It had been so many years since I’d considered any point outside the Court a home. Now that the option was once again open to me, I was more than happy to exploit it.
She smiled, slow and warm and perfect and mine, offering me her hands. “You know, when you put it like that, I have no idea.”
I took her hands, raising both eyebrows to cover the fact that I badly wanted to start kissing her fingers, to reassure myself that we were both here, and solid, and safe, operating under our own control and not the control of an ancient and terrible Queen. “Why am I concerned that whatever it is you’re about to say will be in some way distressing?”
“I genuinely hope it’s not going to be,” she said. “I mean, we’ve talked about it before.”
“We’ve discussed a great many things.” I eyed her warily. “Many of them involve knives, blood, and screaming.”
“I think two of those are likely to be involved.” She took a deep breath, visibly steadying herself. “I’m pregnant.”
I knew the words. I understood the words. And in that moment, the words meant nothing to me; they were only sound, signifying nothing. Slowly, I frowned.
October attempted to pull her hands from mine, clearly intending to move farther from me. I tightened my grip, refusing her retreat. Puzzled, I cocked my head and continued to frown at her.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I do believe I must have misheard you.”
Suddenly insecure, she stopped pulling against me. “Um, if what you heard was ‘I’m pregnant,’ you heard correctly,” she said. “We’ve talked about this. You said you wanted to have kids. Did you not? Want to have kids?”
“You said we would have to wait until you had finished risking your life in a casual fashion,” I replied, keeping my voice as even as possible.
“I said I wasn’t willing to start trying until I was finished risking my life in a casual fashion,” she said. “Apparently, the universe had a different idea.”
All my attempts at remaining calm were slipping from my grasp. I allowed my frown to fade, face relaxing as I watched her. “You’re pregnant.”
“Yes. That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”
“And you told Simon first.” I could accept the man as her father, I could. In many ways, I already had. But I was her husband, and the order irked me.
Her eyes widened slightly, pupils dilating. “He was dying. I shared my blood to save him. He must have picked up the thought from what he was swallowing.”
“So you didn’t tell him?”
“Not intentionally, or using actual words.”
“A baby.” The smile I had been fighting to contain finally escaped. I had been waiting so long for . . . oh, oak and ash. My eyes widened. “But before, when I—”
“You mean, when Titania.” October’s voice was iron, and not the killing kind. She pulled one hand free, reaching up to lay her fingers against my cheek. “You didn’t do anything. She forced you, and I’m fine. I’m fine, and the baby’s fine, and we’re both going to be fine.”’
I put my hand over hers, trapping it where it was, keeping her close to me. “You know how my first wife died.” Sweet Anne had been as mortal as the morning. She would have been long gone even had all things played out perfectly.
But I would still have changed the past, had I been able to do so. Even now.
“And you know I’m basically unkillable.” She stepped closer, until I could smell the salt-sweet of her skin. “Can we try to be happy? Please? For me? For us? So I can be in a decent mood and not totally terrified when I go to tell Quentin and May? Oh, ash and oak, and Raysel. Is she going to think we don’t have room for her? That we want her to lea—”
I pulled her into my arms and pressed my lips to hers, silencing her anxieties with a kiss. It wasn’t the sort of thing that would work for long; her worries would catch up with her soon enough, as they always did. But for the moment, all I wanted was to kiss her until she was breathless, then pick her up and do it over again. A baby. Our baby. A child we had made together, coming into Faerie already safe and loved, with no need to fear rejection as we had both done. She was already a mother, but I had never been a father to a child that lived, and the thought was dizzying and heady.
I took a step back, pulling her along with me, and sat down on the bed, placing her in my lap as I continued the all-important task of kissing her anxieties away. My little fish had many anxieties. This could take a while.
When I finally stopped kissing her, it was to lean back and smile without letting her go. “A baby,” I breathed. “Our baby. I’ve never been a parent before.”
I had come close, down the years, had taken the uncle’s role at every opportunity, but a child of my own, to love and raise in safety and in joy, had never been a part of my life. October snorted, like she wanted to argue, then leaned over, resting her head against my shoulder. “Our baby,” she agreed. “I guess it’s time to start talking about names. Oh, and there’s that whole Sleeping Beauty story thing. Do purebloods have any weird ‘Hey we have a baby now’ traditions that I need to know about?”
I swallowed my laughter. “Well, there won’t be a christening, if that’s what you’re asking. There will be a party, however, to present the infant to the local nobility, and to allow them the opportunity to provide gifts. It’s traditional for the Firstborn of the parents to be invited.
They never attend, of course.”
“Except that in my case, they actually might,” she said, with a groan.
“That’s a problem for tomorrow,” I said, and leaned down to kiss her again. This seemed like an excellent way to pass the next several hours.
That was when she screamed and jerked away, almost falling out of my lap. I held her where she was, staring wordlessly as she spasmed and thrashed, clearly caught in the web of some agonizingly painful physical reaction with no visible source.
She kept screaming. I stared at her, trying to find the words that would take her pain away, trying to figure out what enemy was attacking her so. The bedroom door slammed open. May burst into the room, her eyes gone wide and wild, and air around her crackling with the scent of cotton candy and ashes.
“Toby?” she demanded, a note of shrill terror in her voice. Her eyes snapped to me. “What’s wrong with her? Why is she screaming?” Then: “What did you do?”
“Nothing,” I said, and I could hear the horror in my own voice. “I was kissing her, and she just—”
October was struggling to breathe, even as she continued to scream. It seemed impossible that her body should still be producing sound, that she should be anything but silent and unconscious from a lack of air, all apart from whatever was happening to her. Quentin appeared behind May in the doorway, his eyes fixed on October and a short sword already drawn and in his hand. Jasmine, close behind him, was just as visibly horrified as the others. None of them seemed to have any better idea than I did why this was happening.
I couldn’t let her go, couldn’t go looking for whatever was causing her such endless pain. All I could do was hold her fast, keeping her from falling to the floor as she screamed and writhed.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she managed a break in her screaming long enough for her to catch her breath. Silence fell, broken by the soft sound of footsteps on the stairs. She looked to May, gasping as she struggled to speak. “Is that. . . Raysel?”
“She’s asleep in her room,” said May. “She was exhausted. I know that seems odd, given the whole ‘cursed to sleep for a century’ thing, but magical sleep and real sleep aren’t the same thing. She’s fine.”
October took another breath. It sounded painful. It sounded like a dagger in my own heart.
“Someone . . . on. . . stairs,” she said.
May looked at her in horror before she whirled to stare at whoever was coming down the hall. She paled at the sight, taking a half-step back, putting herself more firmly in the bedroom door. “You can’t be here.”
October tried to stand. I didn’t let her go.
Quentin turned. “You!”
This time, when October tried to stand, I allowed it, and stood with her, close behind, putting my hands on her shoulders. Not to hold her in place—to be sure she knew that I was there, for anything she needed. She drew her knives, keeping them low by her sides, and I shifted slightly to make it easier for her to strike if the need arose.
The smell of roses wafted down the hall, woody and wild and tantalizingly familiar. I wanted to follow those roses, to sniff at them until I understood where they were coming from. October stepped forward, and I let her, lowering my hands as she left me behind.
“Quentin,” she said.
Her squire ducked his head as he hurried into the room and moved to stand beside her. May remained in the doorway, eyes on our unseen intruder.
“Child of mine,” said a female voice, familiar and not, all at the same time. I saw May stiffen, and I knew who had come for us. “Child of mine, you cannot stand against me. Stand aside.”
May glanced at October, agonized, before she moved out of the doorway to make way for the woman who appeared in her place. Titania stepped into the room, looking flatly at October. Her expression was almost neutral, more dismissively unimpressed than anything else. Her hair and clothing were once again impeccable, all signs of the earlier battle washed away. I couldn’t look at her directly. She was so much more than we were, and she had caught me so easily before this. . .
“You can’t hurt me,” said October, my brave girl. “You can’t hurt any of us. You’re not allowed to harm my family.”
“True, child,” said Titania, voice sweet. “But you forget how young you are. You forget how much more time I’ve had to play this game. So much more time than any of you. Only the distorted child of mine comes anywhere near to me, and hers is a dilute and unwarranted claim to her age. I know the way of ward and wording. I know the roads through riddle and restriction. Do you truly think my husband can stop me from doing anything I want to do?”
“Get out of my house,” said October, with cold finality.
“I can’t hurt you.” Titania smiled. “But I can make you someone else’s problem.”
The smell of roses grew stronger, filling the room. My nerves jangled with the sudden awareness of danger, and I moved to wrap myself around October, to protect her and our child from the threat Titania represented. As for Titania herself, she watched me begin to move, expression entirely serene.
“Uh‑uh‑uh,” she said, shaking a finger. “Naughty kitty. You’ll not ruin this for me. You’ll not ruin this for her, either, or for anyone. I don’t think there’s a place for you in what I’m doing.”
October’s knives clattered as they slipped from her hands and fell to the floor. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t do anything but glare in futile, frozen hatred at the woman who was meant to be the mother of us all.
The air turned pink with sourceless brilliance, then red, crimson and carmine, as if the entire world were bleeding.
This is how October sees the world, I thought, and my mental voice was the accent of my childhood, of a London that passed centuries ago, and for a moment, it dazed me, and in that moment, everything went away.
I never even saw her disappear. She was simply gone. They all were, and I was alone, plummeting through endless, burning white.