rymenhild: gears from anime series Princess Tutu (The gears of the story)
[personal profile] rymenhild
Seanan McGuire's half-fae San Francisco investigator Toby Daye solves approximately one mystery per book, but she lives in a world with plenty of mysteries left. This post, which I began writing months ago but have been saving until [livejournal.com profile] muchabstracted finished the series, begins to guess at some of the hidden mysteries. Expect major spoilers for all three published books, as well as the sample chapter for the fourth book. Also, be warned that the post is enormous.

I'll start by listing a number of curious pieces of information. We get these from Toby's interior monologue, as the series is set in tight first-person narration. Toby is, and this is important, a completely unreliable narrator. She doesn't lie -- but she doesn't know everything, and she has no idea what she doesn't know.

  • Someone is lying or has lied to Toby. Tybalt knows what the lie is, and knows or suspects who the original liar was. Toby believes the lie so utterly that she has no idea that she's repeated the lie to Tybalt.
  • Sylvester has a brother, Simon and a sister, January's mother; Toby notes that it's unusual for Daoine Sidhe pureblood families to include so many children.
  • Sylvester and Simon are twins, five hundred years old or so.
  • Oberon, Titania and Maeve are missing. According to the FAQ, they've been missing for five hundred years. Or so. Huh.
  • The Luidaeg calls Toby "child of Oberon," even though the Daoine Sidhe are claimed by Titania. Toby interprets the address to mean "hero", but what if it has a more specific meaning with respect to Toby's lineage?
  • We don't know what happened to Luna and Rayseline in their years of prison, but when they came out, Luna was sadder and Rayseline was greatly changed.
  • We actually don't know very much about what happened in the fourteen years when Toby was a fish. Neither does Toby... and Toby doesn't know what she doesn't know.
  • Perhaps during those years, or perhaps earlier, around the time when Toby ran away from home, Amandine started going mad. But Amandine was sane and strong when she first brought Toby into the Summerlands.
  • Actually, Faerie is full of mad beings. Amandine, Blind Michael, the Queen of the Mists, Gordan, Rayseline... is mental illness endemic to Faerie?

I'll start with the question of who lied to Toby, and about what, because all of the guesses I have about the other questions spring from my answer to that question. Tybalt refuses to tell Toby what the lie is, or who might have told it to her, or when she passed it on to Tybalt; he dares her to investigate the lie herself.

Toby very rarely believes things unquestioningly, and she doesn't trust that many beings. The liar must be (a) someone who Toby trusts, and (b) someone who knows more than Toby. The first category limits the options to Toby's family, friends and allies. The second category knocks out a good many of those friends: Connor, for instance, and Stacy and her family. May didn't exist yet when Toby told the lie to Tybalt, so she's out. Also, the liar should still be alive, because if he or she were dead, Tybalt wouldn't hesitate to accuse him or her. Remaining possibilities for the liar: Lily, Amandine, Sylvester, Luna, the Luidaeg. The Luidaeg doesn't lie to Toby; her truths are terrifying enough. As far as we know, Amandine's hardly told Toby anything about her heritage and her world. Lily generally talks in riddles, which Toby would then have to decipher before deciding whether or not to believe the hidden claims; I don't think Lily's the culprit. We learned a great deal about Luna's secrets in An Artificial Night, and I think it's overdoing it to presume that Luna is deliberately misleading Toby about even more matters. (Lies of omission, certainly. Luna hasn't told Toby everything. But I don't think she's actively spoken untruths to her.)

That leaves Sylvester, whom Toby trusts utterly, who is a father-figure to Toby, and to whom Toby has sworn oaths of fealty. If Sylvester has been lying to Toby, the discovery of the truth is going to hurt. That's a good reason for Tybalt not to accuse Sylvester to Toby. I think the liar is Sylvester. But what is he lying about, and why?

I saw, in someone's review somewhere, a suggestion that maybe Toby isn't actually a changeling. This suggestion tallies with much of the evidence. Tybalt starts behaving oddly when Toby resurrects Alex Olsen in ALH. Perhaps changelings shouldn't have that much power. Perhaps Daoine Sidhe can't resurrect the dead. Perhaps some of Toby's power has been locked away; this would explain the odd moment in the Late Eclipses sample chapter where May gets Toby to release extra magic in order to transfigure the gown. If Toby's father wasn't human after all, he probably wasn't Daoine Sidhe. Toby would then be half-something else, which would explain why the Luidaeg calls her Child of Oberon.

(In that case, I submit the possibility that Toby is the Luidaeg's great-to-the-umpteenth-power granddaughter. The Luidaeg has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep Toby alive, after all. She's, in folkloric terms, a donor figure, a fairy godmother whose gifts are equally necessary and cruel; and the donor figure is often a grandmother.)

Why would Sylvester (and presumably Amandine, by omission) lie about Toby's ancestry? I don't know, but it might be because he's secretly evil. It's very strange, we are told, for a pureblood Daoine Sidhe family to have three children. Two of these children, Sylvester and Simon, are identical twins. What if there are only two children in the family? Has Toby ever seen Sylvester and Simon at the same place at the same time? Imagine if Sylvester is Simon. In his Sylvester persona, he has a wife Luna, a daughter Rayseline, a comfortable knowe, plenty of power, a heroic reputation. In his Simon persona, he has a lover Oleander, a desire for further power, a corrupt personality. As Simon he kidnaps and tortures Luna and Raysel. As Sylvester he assigns Toby to find them again. As Simon he turns Toby into a fish and makes her job a failure.

I really like that idea, but the major problem with it is that in the beginning of Rosemary and Rue, right before Toby gets turned into a fish, she recognizes Simon by the smell of his magic. Presumably Toby also knows what Sylvester's magic smells like. It only works to make the two brothers into one brother if we posit some sort of geas which changes the smell of the possessor's magic: a Jekyll-and-Hyde spell, if you will.

Even if Sylvester is not Simon, I believe that Sylvester is evil and has something to do with Luna and Raysel's imprisonment, and with the underlying troubles in Faerie, about which we still don't know enough yet. (I doubt that Sylvester and Simon, in their--or his--first twenty years of life, could really have gotten rid of Oberon, Titania and Maeve, but who knows?) What can we do with that?

Let's move to the problem of madness in Faerie. Acacia tells Toby that Faerie breeds insanity, but I still think there are too many insane characters. Blind Michael and Gordan are dead, so we know that they were mad and there's nothing left to resolve in their plotlines. We don't have nearly enough information to figure out what's going on with the Queen of the Mists. But what about Amandine and Rayseline, both of whom are still in the middle of their plotlines?

Amandine's madness may have something to do with her inability to protect her daughter Toby. I imagine, from the sample chapter, that Late Eclipses will be the book where we learn about what Amandine knows, and why Amandine made her choices. I wonder whether Amandine played fairy bride to a human man to disguise Toby's actual ancestry. Perhaps Amandine was pregnant when she married Toby's father. Perhaps Amandine was trying to hide her child from the fae, and when Sylvester came to force Toby and Amandine back into the faerie world, it meant that Amandine lost one battle. I could see Amandine gradually ground down, as Toby entered into greater and greater danger. That would make some sense of Toby's cryptic dream in the Late Eclipses sample chapter, anyway.

That leaves Rayseline. When Raysel was a child, she loved Toby and Toby loved her. Toby tried, and failed, to protect her. Then Raysel was imprisoned by Simon (who may also have been Sylvester, or who may have been in connivance with Sylvester). She grew up in some sort of prison, and she emerged changed: bitter, angry, threatening violence, unwarrantedly rude to her family and to her family's guests, including Toby. Raysel's husband Connor is terrified of her. What drove Raysel mad?

I submit that nothing drove Rayseline mad. I suggest that Raysel is sane. Look at her life again from her own perspective: she is kidnapped along with her mother. She is sure her hero Toby will save them. Toby doesn't come. Raysel learns that her uncle is evil and may or may not be her father; she learns that her father may or may not be evil; she learns that no one can save her. At last Raysel and Luna emerge from prison, where Sylvester and Luna continue their apparently idyllic marriage in their apparently idyllic knowe. Raysel, however, knows something is rotten in the state of Shadowed Hills. She's the rebel daughter who won't play along with the game any more. She refuses to behave. Oh, even worse: she is forced to enter an alliance marriage with a hot selkie boy. That might not be so bad, but Connor doesn't love Raysel, and is still carrying a torch for the very same Toby Daye who failed to rescue her! Is it any wonder Raysel acts out when Toby returns to Shadowed Hills?

I know that posting this on Christmas Eve probably limits my readers, but I encourage everyone who's read the series to join the conversation in the comments, both on LJ and Dreamwidth.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-12-24 09:51 pm (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thistleingrey
Skimming this post was more interesting than reading the second or third books is likely to be, for me. :/ Might get there eventually.

I don't suppose anyone here could tell me whether those subsequent titles are more or less likely than #1 to push distracting SCA-echo buttons? It gave me some trouble for the first book.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-12-25 05:51 am (UTC)
thistleingrey: (Default)
From: [personal profile] thistleingrey
hmm, thanks. I didn't bounce so much as suffer from too many overlays. It's only right and good that McGuire's diegetic Bay Area geography differ somewhat from both SCA and mundane geographies, but for me the multiplicity is (too?) distracting. And I have the sneaking sense that I once knew the individuals on whom a few characters/key traits are based. I dunno.

Better this as an emanation of SCA culture than Katherine Kurtz's Deryni, anyway, and not only because the Deryni setting is supposed to be secondary-world fantasy (though Le Guin is quite right in "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie" about its mundanity).


rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)

January 2017


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