What is Past is Prologue: Seanan McGuire’s The Brightest Fell

Happy Book Day to Seanan McGuire and all of the fans of her October Daye series! I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy of The Brightest Fell from NetGalley, but that doesn’t mean I’m not impatiently waiting for my shiny new hardcover to arrive today. That’s right! This volume marks Toby’s hardcover debut! I’m so excited to see that this series has flourished enough to level up to the hardcover playing field. Now, DAW, what do you think about going back and giving the earlier books a facelift? A girl can dream. Recently I wrote about the merits of this series in relation to its Hugo nomination. While it didn’t take home the rocket, I stand by my opinion that it is deserving of recognition. This newest volume is excellent, but you absolutely should not read it unless you have read the other books first. Join me below the cut to find out why.

The Brightest Fell (2017) 
Written by: Seanan McGuire
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 368 (Kindle)
Series: Book Eleven of October Daye
Publisher: DAW

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Why I Chose It: This is my current favorite series. I’ve read most of the previous volumes several times, and when I got the chance to snag a review copy, I pounced.

The premise:

Things are slow, and October “Toby” Daye couldn’t be happier about that. The elf-shot cure has been approved, Arden Windermere is settling into her position as Queen in the Mists, and Toby doesn’t have anything demanding her attention except for wedding planning and spending time with her family.

Maybe she should have realized that it was too good to last.

When Toby’s mother, Amandine, appears on her doorstep with a demand for help, refusing her seems like the right thing to do…until Amandine starts taking hostages, and everything changes. Now Toby doesn’t have a choice about whether or not she does as her mother asks. Not with Jazz and Tybalt’s lives hanging in the balance. But who could possibly help her find a pureblood she’s never met, one who’s been missing for over a hundred years?

Enter Simon Torquill, elf-shot enemy turned awakened, uneasy ally. Together, the two of them must try to solve one of the greatest mysteries in the Mists: what happened to Amandine’s oldest daughter, August, who disappeared in 1906.

This is one missing person case Toby can’t afford to get wrong.


No spoilers.

As I said before, you absolutely should not read this book unless you are caught up on the series. Why? The individual books all have their own, self-contained stories, but those stories have created the foundation upon which the next book always rests. By now, with ten books behind it, The Brightest Fell is standing on quite the tall stack. Things that happened all the way back in book three, An Artificial Night, are referenced in the context of this story. Most of the expanded cast makes at least one appearance. Things that were hinted at a few books ago are finally, fully explained.

Familiar territory is explored here, both literally and figuratively. We see Toby return to places that she visited in past stories, including at least one locale that she thought to never see again. She meets up with characters that she hasn’t spoken to in far too long. She realizes that the things she overlooked and forgot have all come home to roost, and she is burdened by the thought that she could have done better. How human, this feeling of obligation and guilt over the things that seemed inconsequential in the face of other, seemingly bigger problems. Watching Toby struggle with this while in the midst of an extremely difficult and upsetting task is only one of several painful moments peppered throughout the story.

We meet October’s mother, Amandine, up close and personal. And Amandine is the worst. This is something that has been hinted at before by other characters who knew her, but seeing her in all of her terrible glory is chilling.

Happily, there are truly joyful moments as well. I won’t spoil it for you, but the opening chapter of the book had me grinning from ear to ear. It was absolutely perfect, and when you’ve read it, come back and squee at me because there’s no way that you will not agree with me that this was an awesome way to start our story. There are other moments of happiness, some quiet, some bright. The interaction between Toby and Simon was frequently touching as Toby learned that the erstwhile villain willingly followed the darkness for reasons that I will not spoil for you.

Bonus discussion!

The novel includes a brand new novella, Of Things Unknown. This story places April O’Leary, an occasional character since her debut in book two, A Local Habitation, in the role of narrator. I solemnly swear that I will not spoil a single thing in this novella, but the events of A Local Habitation led to quite a bit of unfinished business. Of Things Unknown takes us back to the county of Tamed Lightning and takes a peek into how April is dealing with running the county she never wanted, and the guilt that she feels after she was an unwitting accomplice to the tragedies that occurred in book two. Not lying, I cried happy tears at the end.

In conclusion: Folks, The Brightest Fell may be my new favorite novel of the series. The story moves at a lightning quick pace, but still manages to hold on to the hallmarks that make this an excellent series: witty dialogue, layered characters, gorgeous settings, and heart stopping moments of true pain. Everything in this world has consequences that must be dealt with, and it’s hard to see our beloved October go through so many difficult things. The book ends on a bittersweet note, and I’m already counting down to next year and volume twelve. It’s going to be a very, very long year.


  • Weasel of Doom September 5, 2017 at 8:58 am

    I am soooo tempted to read it at work today! Be good, Olya, be good….

    • Casey Price September 5, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      No, Olya, be baaaad! 😉

      • Weasel of Doom September 5, 2017 at 2:53 pm

        I want to be, so much!!!

  • Shara White September 5, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    I’m so looking forward to this! I plan on devouring it once I finish Bannerless, and then I really, REALLY need to get to my Resolution Project!

    • Casey Price September 5, 2017 at 2:51 pm

      IT’S SO GOOD

  • Weasel of Doom September 7, 2017 at 8:58 am

    Ok, so Amandine has to die. Slowly and painfully.

    • Casey Price September 7, 2017 at 1:31 pm


      • Weasel of Doom September 7, 2017 at 1:41 pm

        She totally is!

  • Shara White January 13, 2018 at 11:39 pm


    Sheesh, Amandine AND August are the worst. August is marginally better, because once she understood better what Amandine had done, she made Amandine keep her promise, but damn. But I don’t trust August, not a bit. It’ll be interesting to see how that relationship builds.

    Oh, Simon. Poor, poor Simon, and who ever thought we’d be saying that? This was a wonderful arc for him, and I want October to bring Oberon back NOW. Unfortunately, I think Simon is going to raise some hell before that happens. :-/

    Yeah, great installment. Though I wish Toby had turned herself full faerie so that August can’t pull that shitty trick again.

    • Casey Price January 13, 2018 at 11:56 pm

      I believe that at or near the series conclusion that Toby will shift her blood (or someone else will), because I am stubbornly holding out for a happy ending with Tybalt. I don’t fully trust August either, but I feel like she’s more apt to change, and may be a possible ally in the future. If there is one thing that I took away from this book it’s that no character is an accident. Everyone has their part to play, and I am sure that we will see more of August before series end. If Simon can be redeemed, then almost anything is possible.

      What did you think of the novella??

      • Shara White January 14, 2018 at 12:31 am

        That I’m saving for tomorrow. Well, it’s already tomorrow but I haven’t gone to bed yet, so I’m saving it for when I wake up.

        Yes, I do think the sisters will learn to work together. I can’t wait to see August knocked down a peg or two.

      • Shara White January 16, 2018 at 8:55 am

        Okay, the novella was good! I’d forgotten a LOT about A Local Habitation (I almost stopped reading the series after that one, but people encouraged me to keep going), so it took a while to get my brain in the right frame of mind. Looking forward to seeing what the consequences are for this, though…. with the luck bending and all.


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