The Innocent Sleep by Seanan McGuire (October Daye #18)

For one bright, shining moment, Tybalt, King of Cats, had everything he had ever wanted. He was soon to set his crown aside; he had married the woman he loved; he was going to be a father. After centuries of searching for a family of his own, he had finally found a way to construct the life of his dreams, and was looking forward to a period of peace—or at least as much peace as is ever in the offing for the husband of a hero.

Alas for Tybalt and his domestic aspirations, fate—and Titania—had other ideas. His perfect world had been complete for only a moment when it was ripped away, to be replaced by hers. Titania, Faerie’s Summer Queen, Mother of Illusions and enemy of so many he holds dear, has seized control of the Kingdom, remaking it in her own image. An image which does not include meddlesome shapeshifters getting in her way. Tybalt quickly finds himself banished from her reality, along with the Undersea and the rest of the Court of Cats.

To protect his people and his future, Tybalt must find the woman he loves in a world designed to keep her from him, convince her that he’s not a stranger trying to ruin her life for no apparent reason, and get her to unmake the illusion she’s been firmly enmeshed in. And he’ll have to do it all while she doesn’t know him, and every unrecognizing look is a knife to his heart.

For Tybalt, King of Cats, the happily ever after was just the beginning.

YEAR: 2023
LENGTH: 384 pages
AGE: Adult
GENRE: Fantasy

Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Secondary Character(s), Gay/Achillean Main Character(s), Bi/Pan Main Character(s), Trans Minor Character(s).

*I received a free review copy in exchange for an honest review of this book. 

THE INNOCENT SLEEP, best read after SLEEP NO MORE, is Tybalt’s perspective on the time after Titania’s actions at the end of BE THE SERPENT. Because Tybalt has a radically different perspective than October (even more so than usual), trying to read this book first would spoil some mysteries out of turn. By necessity, as the books are a pair covering much of the time and even a few of the same scenes, some of the resolution is present in both. I love them singly and together, and am working on a long, spoiler-filled essay analyzing some of the key elements in both books.

As a sequel, this explains some things which either just happened in SLEEP NO MORE, or were only briefly explained but turn out to have quite a bit more behind them. In particular, I note that towards the end there are several sections which are only lightly narrated in SLEEP NO MORE, but which are described in THE INNOCENT SLEEP in much more detail, and vice versa, allowing each to wrap up hanging plot threads for the other. There’s a new storyline concerning several months which weren’t of note for October, but which are extremely important to Tybalt. Additionally, even once they’re mutually aware of each other, they’re not in the same place most of the time, which means almost everything Tybalt does is new information even for a reader who comes to this book after SLEEP NO MORE.

One of the challenges in parallel novels where the resolution of one by necessity spoils some elements of the other is that the story needs to still have stakes, even if the reader knows whether things will or won’t work out in a general sense. Part of how THE INNOCENT SLEEP maintains narrative tension is by addressing the perils of the Cait Sidhe in great detail, as well as Tybalt’s emotional state (much of which October only could guess at in SLEEP NO MORE). Tybalt also has contact with many more of those who retained their memories, lending an entirely different (often anxious) feeling to the story. 

This is far from the end of the story, and it leaves open the details of what will happen next for the characters (and most of the coastal inhabitants) in the wake of such traumatic events for so many. Some of them may have had their lives upended without ever knowing who was responsible or why it happened, especially the cats with mere drops of fae heritage who were nevertheless swept up in the mass removal of the Cait Sidhe to the lost places. 

With long-running series it can be tricky to figure out where new readers could jump in with minimal confusion if they didn't want to go all the way back to the beginning. As this is part of a pair of books which apparently were what the whole series is building towards (or just the beginning of the arc the series was trying to reach which had been planned from the start), answering where a reader could jump in to avoid confusion is tricky. Supposing that the answer isn't "start with the first book", someone could understand the most important parts of what is happening and have a pretty good experience if they started with WHEN SORROWS COME and proceeded from there. Everything from then proceeds pretty directly to this very traumatic time for Tybalt and everyone he loves, and skipping any steps in that final sequence would make this emotionally incomprehensible. A story about how things were suddenly changed can't make much sense without knowledge of how it was before, after all. 

I love how seamlessly this works with SLEEP NO MORE while being its own story. It manages to be unabashedly focused on Tybalt's need to get October restored, all while still having so much more going on in terms of the actual narrative. Ginevra, in particular, is shown very well here. I thought most of her relevance was in SLEEP NO MORE, but in THE INNOCENT SLEEP she's a major presence, more than just the regent for Raj.

It's taken a long time to get here, and I'm so excited for what this series holds next!

Graphic/Explicit CW for grief, confinement.

Moderate CW for xenophobia, pregnancy, violence, blood, injury detail, self harm, genocide, war, death.

Minor CW for emotional abuse, vomit, torture.

“Doubtless and Secure” - CW for pregnancy, blood, murder, child death, death. Minor CW for emotional abuse, physical abuse, war.

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