Full of Briars is a novella set in the world of October Daye featuring Toby’s squire Quentin Sollys. It’s a quick, fun, light peak into the world building that McGuire has done for these novels and for that I appreciate it. However, there’s not much to it beyond that.
This short novella is set between Chimes at Midnight and The Winter Long (books 7 and 8 of the series) and thus will contain spoilers for just about everything previous. It concerns the revelation of Quentin’s parentage as revealed in Chimes at Midnight, he was on a anonymous fosterage but due to events in Chimes at Midnight he had to reveal who his parents were. His parents, who had kept him anonymous for rather important reasons, would like to take him home and of course there is disagreement about that. Nothing is revealed in this novel, there are no major plot points for the series here. A major character is not written out in a novella, but it is a fun look at why Quentin would stay in San Francisco after the events in Chimes at Midnight.
To be perfectly honest I didn’t really sympathize with Toby in this book. I know my sympathies were supposed to be with Toby and crew, who wanted to keep Quentin in San Francisco, but I’m afraid I was on team Quentin’s parents. Quentin is sixteen, if the reasons for his fosterage are no longer relevant then maybe he should go home with his parents. McGuire hews pretty true to the ‘found family’ philosophy of Whedon though so I rather expected how the arguments would go and where the sympathies of the novella would lie.
The other odd thing about the story is that there is a scene at the end, after the initial issue is resolved, which has nothing to do with the story. I don’t mind it, and I think it offers a good look into the world building that McGuire has done, but I think it really displays McGuire’s weaknesses as a short story writer. McGuire doesn’t really write short stories, she writes snippets of her worlds featuring her characters. For those who are familiar with those worlds and characters, those snippets are awesome but it’s hard to say that these snippets can really stand on their own. This is fine, McGuire is a serial writer and her greatest strength is the ability to tell long stories in snippets, but I’m not sure it makes her short stories and novellas like this one very accessible to outside readers.
If I may be a bit contradictory for a moment, one thing the novella does establish is the fluid sexuality of McGuire’s fae. Or rather, this novella reinforces this fact as it has been established in previous short stories. I suspect the only modern term that would fit McGuire’s fae is pan-sexual as gay/straight/bi are too binary for what they are. I kind of wish that McGuire could work that into the novels a bit more openly as it’s all over the short stories but not really present in the actual novels.
I liked the story though. I’m a fan of this series and I enjoyed this snapshot into a less chaotic period in these characters’ lives. I think if you are a fan, and have read up to at least book 7 you’ll enjoy the novella. Please don’t start here though, there are some major spoilers and the revelations are much stronger if you get them in the books where they are originally revealed.