Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Review of Seanan McGuire's One Salt Sea

Title: One Salt Sea (October Daye #5)
Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW Books         
Formats: Print & eBook
Source: Purchased
Publication Date: September 6, 2011
Rating: 5 out of 5

I hit the bookstore lottery when I made a trip to Barnes & Noble this weekend. I found an early copy of Seanan McGuire’s One Salt Sea, which I promptly devoured and have spent way too much time re-reading ever since. If you haven’t read any of the October Daye series, you are seriously missing out, as Toby Daye is my all-time favorite Urban Fantasy heroine! I don’t say that lightly, as I like a lot of Urban Fantasy. But McGuire’s books set in San Francisco and the world of Faerie stand out among the UF crowd because of her taut writing, fascinating characters, and complex plots. Toby is one of the most compelling heroines I’ve read, mainly because she’s an intriguing mix of vulnerability and toughness. Toby is a changeling, and despite getting the stuffing beat out of her on a regular basis in previous books, she always manages to rise to the challenge set before her. If you’re looking for a Happy Ever After, you won’t find one in these books, as the fae are a dangerous lot, but the changeling private detective copes with the intricacies of the two worlds remarkably well, allowing for a Happy For Now.
One Salt Sea begins with everything right in Toby’s world, so you know that something truly horrible has to be on its way. As the novel begins, Toby’s sparring with Sylvester, the Duke of Shadowed Hills and her liege. He convinces her to take on a teenaged squire, Quentin, whom we’ve met in previous books. She’s also dating Connor, her childhood sweetheart who’s a selkie. Unfortunately for Toby’s peace of mind, someone has kidnapped the children of the Duchess of Saltmist, an undersea duchy, and unless Toby can find the two boys within three days, Saltmist will begin an all out war on the Queen of Mist’s territories, threatening everyone and everything Toby cares for. To add to the tension, the search for the kidnapped boys becomes frighteningly personal for Toby when her own daughter is taken.
One of the reasons I love this series is that the books are always intense, because no one character is truly safe. Even though the fae want to believe that they are immortal, they can be killed, and despite Toby’s best efforts, sometimes the innocent suffer unintended consequences of her actions. This particular book is all the more poignant, because we witness Toby’s pain over her damaged relationship with her daughter. Since there are no guarantees that any character is safe, the tension remains high throughout the book, especially when Toby’s daughter is kidnapped. We’ve learned in previous books that even if Toby can save her daughter, there’s a good chance that Gillian will be changed forever.
While you can read this book as a stand alone novel, I think you would be better off beginning the series from the beginning, as you need some background information in order to understand Toby’s circumstances. Her relationship with her daughter is complicated because of events explained in the first book that are not elaborated on here. Reading the scene when Toby discovers her daughter’s been taken and visits Gillin’s father is difficult because of its intensity, and I had to put the book down and come back to it, because it’s so powerful. We haven’t seen Gillian since the first book in the series, Rosemary and Rue, and her reappearance in One Salt Sea reminds us of Toby’s heartbreaking situation with her daughter, made all the more painful because Toby’s existence as a changeling prevents her from explaining to her mostly human daughter the truth about her disappearance more than fourteen years before. Once again Toby finds herself forced to make difficult decisions about the daughter she loves, and you feel her despair at her helplessness when faced with what she must do.
The book is a heart pounding adventure, as McGuire skillfully maintains the tension throughout the novel with non-stop action. In previous novels Toby has finally accepted her role as a hero, and here we see that she has definitely grown more skilled in dealing with the world of Faerie, although she never feels as competent as her friends and enemies believe her to be. McGuire’s deft plotting will keep you turning the pages, wondering what could possibly happen next and how Toby will deal with it.
Also, what I’ve always loved about these books is that the mythology is both complex and consistent. You never see characters suddenly displaying powers that appear out of nowhere, and the chaotic world of Faerie, while as confusing at times to Toby as it is to us, is gradually revealed as the plot unfolds. Even though there are many types of creatures within this world, you’ll never find yourself confused about names or powers, which is impressive.
I don’t know that I would call the October Daye books romances, although they have strong romantic elements. I’ll confess that I was disappointed to see that Connor was the boyfriend referenced in the blurb on the back of the book, because I’ve always been a big fan of Tybalt, the king of the Cait Sidhe. Connor’s always struck me as eager and uncomplicated despite his messy marriage to Rayseline Torquill, while Tybalt is more of a bad boy type – Rawr! Despite Toby’s relationship with Connor, Tybalt figures heavily in the book, and there are definitely sparks with Toby, suggesting that we’ll see more of him. We also see an easy friendship developing between Toby and Tybalt, which in the past has been a more contentious relationship than it is here. I can’t wait to see future books in the series to see how the tension between them is resolved.  
This book made my weekend! It was such a pleasure to read, as are all the books in the series, and I am thrilled that it more than exceeded my high expectations. I definitely recommend this one as a must read!

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