It’s always something, when it comes to life in Faerie... and for a knight who’s only recently added “Countess” to her growing list of names and titles, truer words were never spoken.
Sir October Daye is still getting used to all the changes that have taken place since she unravelled the nefarious plot against her liege, Duke Sylvester Torquill of Shadowed Hills, and his wife, Luna. Their daughter--the insane, angry, and unhappy Rayseline--has fled to parts unknown. Sylvester has seemingly aged overnight, and Luna now wears a mantle of sadness instead of her former kitsune disguise.
Things have altered for Toby, as well. After being hit with deadly elfshot during the last skirmish, she underwent some major (magical) resuscitation efforts--courtesy of her freaky-powerful (but rarely-seen) mother, Amandine--which left her... well, rather different than she was before... and she’s still trying to come to grips with what all of that means.
Not everything’s doom, gloom, and thirty-nine shades of awful, though (thank Oberon). Toby has the running of her newly-acquired knowe, Goldengreen, to keep her busy. Sylvester insisted she learn how to use a sword (which, let’s be honest, is a pretty savvy move, given how often she ends up staring down some Big Bad), so she’s (okay, grudgingly) taken up training like an Olympic hopeful and is in the best shape of her life. There’s also the squire that she’s finally been persuaded to take on (much to everyone’s delight). Oh, and a love life. She (woo-hoo!) even has one of those now, too.
This is where that “it’s always something” comes in, though... the point where Toby’s world turns upside down once more, in the fifth of author Seanan McGuire’s continuing tales of Toby and company, One Salt Sea.
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Upon receiving a summons to an official to-do by her perpetual nemesis, the Queen of the Mists, Toby--along with the rest of the queen’s subjects--learns some very troubling news. The sons of the queen’s undersea counterparts, Duchess Dianda Lorden and her husband Patrick of the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist, have been kidnapped... and the Lordens believe the Queen of the Mists is behind it. They’re so sure of that, in fact, that they’ve sworn to go to war against the kingdom of the Mists unless their sons are returned, unharmed.
The promised war will commence in just three days’ time... and if it does, the land fae will almost certainly lose, because they’re ridiculously outnumbered (not to mention out-prepared) by the undersea fae.
Toby, naturally, is the obvious choice for the sorts of sleuthing and saving-of-everyone’s-magical-butts that this type of hellish situation requires. Fortunately, she has her trusty, go-to crew to aid her in yet another seemingly-impossible mission, including Sylvester and all of Shadowed Hills; her own subjects at Goldengreen; her sidekick Quentin; her former-fetch-cum-roommate-and-friend, May; her very old friend (and Raysel’s ex), Connor; The King of Cats, Tybalt, plus his nephew Raj; reliable bridge troll (and capable cabbie) Danny; and, last but never least, her kinda-sorta aunt, the sea witch monster known as The Luidaeg. If Toby has a chance in Hades of somehow preventing the impending war, she’s going to need every single one of them.
Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against her but good (or bad, which is actually a lot more accurate). For one thing, it means that Toby--who already spent fourteen miserable years living as a fish in a koi pond (thanks to a really nasty enchantment by Sylvester’s evil brother, Simon)--will somehow have to figure out a way to get herself down to the deep-undersea realm of Saltmist in order to conduct the investigations which only she is qualified to do. (Yay, fun.)
There’s another problem, too, of course. Someone is prepared to do just about anything to stop her from succeeding in her mission--the person (or persons) who abducted the children, knowing full well such a horrible act would be the catalyst for major war between the two realms. Whoever it is can pass easily between the worlds of land and sea... and clearly will go to any means necessary to see the goal through to the bitter end.
When members of Toby’s little group of friends and family become targets, too, well, that's when the glove--or in her case, the leather jacket--comes off. Sir Daye is willing to go to any lengths and do anything to protect those she holds dear... anything at all.
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Once again, McGuire graces us with a completely unputdownable book in the continuing (and rather delightfully, Shakespearean-titled) saga of Toby Daye. (Okay, I lied; technically I did put it down. I’m not a speed reader, so 368 pages at one sitting--especially with so much pesky, real-life stuff constantly intruding--isn’t actually possible for me. But, it was just a little white lie so you’d get the idea, capiche?)
McGuire’s Faerie is a complex and endlessly-fascinating place, full of countless species of fae, all of whose actions are governed by complicated (and to us, sometimes a tad nonsensical) practices, laws, and rules of etiquette. To really get it, be prepared to immerse yourself in the lore... and yes, a la Tinkerbell, to believe.
As fabulous as the world she’s created is, though, the characters remain an even-bigger draw for me. Toby is very, very real--heartbreakingly-so, oftentimes--and feels, by now, like an old friend. Her joy (not that there’s overmuch of that, mind you), her anger, her confusion, and her fears all come across pitch-perfectly, lending the stories a gut-level emotional punch. Her relationships with the others are likewise well-expressed... particularly those with The Luidaeg, Sylvester, Quentin, and Tybalt.
Like each previous entry in what has thus far proven to be an almost-impossibly brilliant storyline--vast in scope as well as heart, One Salt Sea delivers the goods, big-time. There’s suspense and action galore, friendship and love (of so many awesome varieties), knowledge and understanding gained, and loss--always so much loss--as we watch the worlds of Faerie struggle to remain relevant and to survive.
It’s nice to think that love and the forces of good might someday overcome all the evil out there. If it eventually works in Faerie (which still remains to be seen), then maybe--just maybe--it might one day work for us, too.
GlamKitty Catnip Mousie Rating: 5 (Exceedingly-Potent) Catnip Mousies out of 5!!
[Note: One Salt Sea will be released on September 6, 2011.]