This review is pretty much going to be ALL SPOILERS for THE ENTIRE SERIES because AAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!!!
It’s been six months, so my fellow changelings have had enough time to read A Killing Frost, amirite? 😉
Anyhoo, this is going to be partly a Killing Frost review and partly a discussion of my biggest Toby conspiracy theories — characters and events from the beginning of the series that suddenly make sense in a mind-blowing new way. Feel free to gasp at, contradict, or build on my ideas in the comments!
Also, I’m counting this as a combo response to both today’s and next week’s Fae Friday questions: what are your favorite books written by women and who are your favorite female characters? Which, of course, I’m narrowing down to mean Fae-related books about badass Fae women!
So. Buckle up, Bookwyrms.
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Seanan McGuire. A Killing Frost. New York: DAW Books, 2020.
Rating: 5 out of 5 times Toby comments on the purebloods’ habit of wearing the weather.
- “Uninvited,” by Alanis Morissette.
- “Lost and Found,” by Lost & Found Music Studios.
- “The Return of the King,” by Howard Shore (feat. Viggo Mortensen, Renée Fleming, and James Galway). From the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King soundtrack.
- “Heroes,” by David Bowie. The Stage (Live) version. Because it’s my favorite.
- “Eric’s Song,” by Vienna Teng. I was going to save this one for when Toby and Tybalt actually get married (yeahhh, McGuire’s still stretching that arc), but then decided it’s worth using twice. Plus, it fits the Simon/Patrick/Dianda arc nicely as well.
Vienna Teng challenged herself to write a love song that never actually uses the word “love,” and the result is a deeply gorgeous song about two people who “fit into” each other so intimately that even the setbacks and mistakes become essential to their story.
TOBY FINDS OBERON SHE BRINGS OBERON HOME WE FINALLY MEET OBERON (AND MAEVE, KIND OF) AND HE’S BEEN THERE THIS WHOLE TIME!!!!!!!1!!!@!!!!#!!!!$!!!!!!!!
*complete out-breath, then calming in-breath*
Didn’t see that coming, did we? I mean, I kiiiiiind of sensed there was something big coming? Because the story kept making these call-backs to the first book and/or wrapping up all these old threads.
Toby and Tybalt remember their initial distrust of each other. Rayseline Torquill seems to finally overcome her PTSD-induced anger and asks to join Toby’s crew. Toby finally discovers the place where Rayseline and her mother were imprisoned for twelve years. Then she has to face her deep fear of water-related transformation in order to rescue Dean Lorden from danger. A random kelpie makes a cameo appearance…
But until the Big Reveal, I really thought this was going to be about Toby and Tybalt finally getting married.
Oh, right — quick summary:
Toby and Tybalt are finally almost ready to tie the enchanted knot. There’s just one snag Tybalt’s apparently been putting off telling Toby about. By Faerie law, she’s technically not allowed to get married unless she invites Simon Torquill – her legal father, who’s still technically married to Toby’s estranged mother – to the wedding. Which sucks on several levels, but most immediately because no one knows where Simon is right now. He’s gotten himself literally and figuratively Lost, and there’s no simple way to track him down.
If you’re as deep into the Tobyverse as I am, you were probably able to at least guess where this was going. The whole reason Simon is Lost is that, at the end of The Brightest Fell (review here), he transfered his biological daughter August’s curse/quest onto himself — he can’t remember any of the progress he’s made or the relationships he’s semi-repaired until he finds the missing King of Faerie and brings him home to his children.
So, if Toby wants to get Simon’s full blessing on her marriage, she kind of has to do something about that curse.
To be fair, this was the point where I started to see the general trajectory of the book. I could tell this was going to be a major turning point in the series — Toby was either going to take her biggest step yet toward finding the Big Three or experience her biggest setback.
As I neared the home stretch, I got the deeply sinking feeling that it was going to be the latter — Toby was going to fall back on her Book 1 habit of not trusting her support system to back her up when she needs them most. She basically pulls a Harry-in-The-Cursed-Child and takes a prophecy too literally.
She obeys not only the letter of her niece’s warning/prophecy by leaving Tybalt out of the search for Simon, but the poorly-interpreted spirit by leaving Tybalt out of the metaphorical loop entirely, making a huge self-sacrifice without warning him.
And this is where I thought the book was going to end. I thought we were getting a cliffhanger with Toby sacrificing her own memory and progress to take on Simon’s curse.
Except that McGuire had something much more cataclysmic in mind.
Unlike in her early days as a hero, Toby takes a very calculated risk. She has a very specific plan with a more than fair chance of breaking the curse once and for all.
You see, a verbal slip-up by Evening Winterrose (yeah, she’s still in a coma from The Winter Long, but she can somehow still be obnoxious and evil through shared dreams?) reminds Toby that the Luidaeg has an unwilling and unwitting guest in her apartment, who’s been trapped in a state of delirium since Ashes of Honor.
Officer Thornton had gotten trapped in one of the deeper realms of Faerie while trying to investigate Toby’s involvement in a missing child case. Then Toby broke him out in The Brightest Fell, and convinced the Luidaeg to look after his semi-comatose form until they figured out a way to heal his magic-addled mind.
Because humans, right? They can’t handle exposure to pure Faerie.
Except that Officer Thornton isn’t human. And this is where I mentally facepalmed myself for not realizing, at the VERY least, that a character with such a wood-themed last name was part of Faerie. If I’d been paying closer attention, I would have also noted that his name references one of the four most sacred woods of Faerie, so he clearly wasn’t just any Faerie denizen.
Turns out, Officer Thornton WAS OBERON IN DISGUISE THIS WHOLE TIME!!!!! And the disguise was so well-applied that he forgot his true identity. So effective that not even his own daughter knew she was keeping her father in the spare room.
So all Toby has to do is take Simon’s curse in the presence of the Luidaeg and her other closest friends, trust them to keep her from bolting when she reverts to her pre-Rosemary and Rue mental state, and wait for the Luidaeg to release Officer Thornton from his room.
As soon as he sees his granddaughter Toby (and hears The Right Words…you always need to say The Right Words), Oberon snaps out of his confusion and transforms back into his original badass Forest Spirit form (srsly, he has giant flowered antlers growing out of his forehead).
I guess it had to be Toby because she has that granddaughterly resemblance to the almighty Janet (Oberon’s extramarital human lover), whose fault it was that Oberon disappeared in the first place?
And THAT’S the situation we’re left with at the end of A Killing Frost. Oberon’s back. Only those who were in the Luidaeg’s apartment know it. Evening is still making sinister plans, even from her comatose state.
There IS a wedding, but it’s to add Simon (who officially divorces Amandine) to Patrick and Dianda Lorden’s marriage. Yep, Faerie is apparently totally cool with a variety of marriage structures…considering Faerie itself was born from a three-way marriage and a human lover.
It’s actually quite beautifully portrayed. Dianda has always known her husband couldn’t give his whole heart to her, and she loved him just the same — and even though she’s not fully a fan of Simon, she loves Patrick enough to want that half of his heart to be fulfilled.
And Amandine is PIIIIIIISSED about losing her metaphorical boy toy AND her favorite daughter (August finally breaks free and says the right words to give Simon full custody, adding herself to the Lorden family as well).
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So. Here are my epic conspiracy theories.
- That insensitive officer who processes Toby after she escapes the pond in book 1? Officer Underwood? He wasn’t just being randomly insensitive. He was terrified. He’s part of Faerie and was somehow involved with Evening, who orchestrated Toby’s disappearance in the first place and was likely going to be ragey when she found out Toby was back.
- The Unnamed Queen whom Toby deposed and who’s now in Faerie jail for kidnapping Toby’s daughter (among other things)? Why is McGuire keeping her available for future mischief? BECAUSE SHE’S ACTUALLY TITANIA IN DISGUISE. Her reaction to Evening’s “death” in Book 1 makes so much sense now, because Evening is her firstborn Firstborn daughter! And she hates Toby because Toby represents everything Titania and Evening are working to destroy — “impure” changelings who dare to reach beyond their station.
- Toby’s biological father was (or is??? She never saw a body…) not as oblivious to Faerie as she remembers. There’s something a little too poetic about the name Jonathan Daye, don’t you think? And the cover artist keeps portraying Toby with dark hair because she’s eventually going to be powerful enough to modify her appearance (a la Tonks from Harry Potter), and she’s going to go back to the hair color that honors her father’s genes.
- Amandine (or Almandine, as Oberon originally named her…”Amandine” is apparently a trout dish? 😆 ) is so furious and humiliated at the end of A Killing Frost that she’s going to join forces with Evening and somehow try to screw up Toby’s marriage plans again.
- Hold on… Amy’s inaccurate name has to do with fish. Toby spent 14 years trapped as a fish. Tybalt lovingly calls her “little fish,” which…might be a more apt nickname than he realizes? Maybe Amy was already involved with Evening in Book 1 and had something to do with Toby’s imprisonment??? Or maybe Simon was just being sentimental when he chose a fish form for Toby…?
- On the optimistic flip side, having read “Strangers in Court” (the prequel novella included with the 10th Anniversary edition of Rosemary and Rue), I’m thinking there might be a sliver of hope for Evening’s eventual redemption. We still don’t know what exactly happened to her sister Dawn, but Evening does seem genuinely devastated by her death.
Something about that whole situation is going to be super important, especially considering it was Dawn’s memorial — the crystal-encased rose that Evening made a point to save from the collapse of the Queen’s original knowe — that led Toby to the discovery of a new knowe for the Queen, which made Toby an officially recognized member of Faerie and started her on the hero’s path.
A few last thoughts:
I finally understand McGuire’s unorthodox use of the word “changeling” to describe the part-human members of Faerie. Every child with a substantial enough dose of magic in their blood is given a Choice when they’re old enough to realize they have magic — either stay with your human parent and die in an “accidental” disaster or follow your Fae parent into the Summerlands (in which case the human parent still dies).
The children who choose the latter option are essentially stolen from their human parents; it’s just that nothing is left in the child’s place.
Finally: awww, Liiiiiz, why’d you go and join the new Roane? You’re essentially Annie’s daughter now! It would be one thing if you’d completely lost your feelings for her, but there’s no evidence of that, so your relationship with her is now depressing AND creepy!
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Soooooo. What do you think, my fellow changelings? Do my theories make sense to you? Do you have other ideas about where this series is going? Anyone want to make a Bingo Board for my Toby review tropes (like the use of CAPS LOCK and extra-emphatic punctuation!?!!#?? Or how I never shut up about Liz and the Luidaeg)?
Be sure to check out Leah’s Fae Friday response, which also includes fantasy novels written by badass women!
“Oh, you’re at that part” comic by TheOdd1sOut.
Popcorn GIF from giphy.
Mind Blown GIF from gfycat.
So Much Has Happened GIF from tenor.
Why Are You Doing This GIF from gifer.
Sweat Drop Emoji from emojis.wiki.