Carolyn Cushman Reviews The Unkindest Tide by Seanan McGuire and Witch Hat Atelier 2 by Kamome Shirahama

Seanan McGuire, The Unkindest Tide (DAW 978-0-7564-1507-5, $26.00, 354pp, hc) Septem­ber 2019. Cover by Chris McGrath.

Toby’s all at sea in this uneven 13th novel in the October Daye series, which centers on an old bargain the Luidaeg (sea witch) made to undo a great wrong. Her children and descendants, the Roane, were mostly slaughtered by people who stole their magic skins. The Luidaeg turned the murderers’ children into Selkies, one for each skin, which they could wear as near immortals or pass along when they couldn’t stand to see their children die of old age. Now that Toby has come fully into her blood magic, she has the potential to change the current Selkies into Roane forever – and the Luidaeg is calling in a debt from Toby – but this will involve Toby’s daughter Gillian, who was changed into a Selkie to save her life, and some of the Selkies and their children have issues with who gets changed. Some very inter­esting new Firstborn turn up, and new aspects of Undersea life are explored (with a long sub-plot about an attempt to take over the Undersea near San Francisco), but mostly Toby’s just facing a big, tense, and unpleasantly emotional mess, because it’s ultimately all about family, which the fae really don’t do well. For more family trials, an added novella, “Hope Is Swift” takes a look at Raj, the Prince of Cats, nephew and heir to Tybalt, Toby’s fiancé. Raj is training to take over the Court of Cats in San Francisco, but gets in trouble when trying to help a friend, and, in a scary turn, ends up injured and in the hands of a vet with strong opinions on neutering cats.

Kamome Shirahama, Witch Hat Atelier 2 (Kodan­sha Comics 978-1-63236-804-1, $12.99, 191pp, tp) June 2019. Cover by Kamome Shirahama.

The art is what really makes this charming manga series work, with its echoes of Art Nouveau and John R. Neil’s Oz illustrations, though still clearly manga (pretty boys, chibis, pages read right to left, etc.). The series, translated from the Japanese Tongari Boshi no Atorie, follows the girl Coco, who as a child loved magic but was given a book of forbidden spells by a witch with ulterior motives. In the first volume, Coco accidentally bespells her mother and ends up apprenticed to the male witch Qifrey. In this volume, Coco and the other three girl apprentices have gotten trapped in a maze guarded by a dragon and must overcome their differences to escape. In the background, the witch who gave Coco her spellbook lurks, clearly up to no good – and get­ting Coco noticed by the relentless agents who fight forbidden magic. These stories of girls learning to trust themselves and work together are pretty basic in outline, but quite innovative in the details of the magic, and delightfully illuminated.

Carolyn F. Cushman, Senior Editor, has worked for Locus since 1985, the longest of any of the current staff, and handles our in-house books database, writes our New and Notable section, and does the monthly Books Received column. She is a graduate of Western Washington University with a degree in English. She published a fantasy novel, Witch and Wombat, in 1994.

This review and more like it in the August 2019 issue of Locus.

Locus Magazine, Science Fiction FantasyWhile you are here, please take a moment to support Locus with a one-time or recurring donation. We rely on reader donations to keep the magazine and site going, and would like to keep the site paywall free, but WE NEED YOUR FINANCIAL SUPPORT to continue quality coverage of the science fiction and fantasy field.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *