Genre: Urban fantasy
Mass market paperback: 368 pages
Release date: September 6, 2011
Series: October Daye #5
Source: Personal shelf
October "Toby" Daye is finally doing all right. She's settling into her new role as the Countess of Goldengreen; she's actually dating again; she's even agreed to take on Quentin as her official squire. Life is looking up all around—and that inevitably means it's time for things to take a turn for the worse.
Someone has kidnapped the sons of Duchess Dianda Lorden, regent of the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist. To prevent a war between land and sea, Toby must not only find the missing boys, but also prove that the Queen of the Mists was not behind their abduction. She'll need all her tricks and the help of all her allies if she wants to make it through this in one piece.
Toby's search will take her from the streets of San Francisco to the lands beneath the waves, and her deadline is firm: she must find the boys in three days' time, or all of the Mists will pay the price. But someone is determined to stop her—and whoever it is isn't playing by Oberon's Laws...
As the battle grows more and more personal, one thing is chillingly clear. When Faerie goes to war, not everyone will walk away.
There aren’t enough positive words to express how much I adore Seanan McGuire and her Toby Daye series. It’s one of the best modern urban fantasy series out there and I encourage you all to jump on board if you aren’t already a fan.
Seanan is a brilliant writer and One Salt Sea is the best installment in the series to date. The. Best. It blew my mind on so many different levels. I wasn’t sure where Seanan could go after the dramatic events and revelations of Late Eclipses, which culminated in Toby being named the Countess of Goldengreen and learning about her relationship to the Firsts (the children of Oberon and Titania), but One Salt Sea has all of the drama and action and humour of previous books in the series, plus an introduction to a whole new part of Faerie: the Undersea. I absolutely adore the world Seanan has created: the books are set in the San Francisco area, with the Kingdom of the Mists roughly corresponding to Northern California. The fae are similar to what you’d see in Celtic mythology (though I’m no expert so I could be wrong), and all of the characters are fleshed out and delicious (even the bad guys). With the addition of the Undersea, this version of Faerie just got a lot bigger and I love it. The Undersea is different from the Kingdom of the Mists in many ways, and is inhabited by all sorts of new species, and you get a really strong sense of the region from One Salt Sea. It’s a fantastic bit of world building that really captures the imagination and I hope we get to spend more time there in future books.
The driving plot of the story revolves around the kidnapping of the sons of Duchess Dianda Lorden of Saltmist, ruler of the Undersea. Dianda blames the land fae, specifically the Queen of the Mists, and Toby has three days to find the missing boys and prove her Queen wasn’t behind it, to prevent an all-out war between the two groups and to repay her debts to the Luidaeg, the sea witch. It’s a brilliant idea, not just because we get to learn about the Undersea and its denizens, but because it forces Toby to use both the skills she honed as one of Sylvester’s knights and her new position as Countess of Goldengreen. Plus, she’s also come to rely on her growing circle of friends over the past four novels and some of my favourites, like Tybalt and Raj, get plenty of page time. There are also some fantastic scenes with the Luidaeg, who I always enjoy because she’s just so unpredictable, and the opening chapter with Sylvester teaching (trying to teach?) Toby to use a sword was a delight.
Another character who gets a nice bit of attention is Connor, Toby’s one-time ex and now current flame. Toby hasn’t had a lot of reason to be happy in the past and it was refreshing to see her and Connor together, having a nice, functional relationship. Of course, that’s quickly put in jeopardy since Connor belongs to the Duchy of Seamist but it wouldn’t be a Toby Daye novel if our heroine wasn’t suffering.
Of course, I can’t talk about characters without mentioning how awesome Toby is. She’s a fantastic protagonist because she’s not perfect. She’s damaged, gritty, sarcastic, loyal, practical, and so much more, but she’s definitely not up on a pedestal and I love that. Characters are so much more fun when they have to scramble and get grumpy and have quirks. I love Toby for all of her realness and for the fact that she’s the only character I’ve ever seen who’s taken in and housed their own harbinger of death.
One of the greatest parts about Seanan’s writing is the wit injected throughout her stories. One Salt Sea has some great lines in it, the best, IMHO, being the following:
“See, Quentin, that’s why you should wear a cup before trying to assassinate someone.”
I won’t contextualize it for fear of spoiling things for you but this line made me laugh out loud. Not a full-on guffaw but pretty close. There are so many dry characters whose dialogue makes me smile, plus the narrative tone of the book is an absolute joy because Toby’s personality shines through with every word.
I would encourage you all to run to the nearest bookstore and get yourself a copy of the first book in the series, Rosemary and Rue, because Toby’s story starts off with a bang and only gets better and better. (And events from previous books are mentioned in One Salt Sea--and other books in the series--though Seanan does an admirable job of bringing readers up to speed with just a quick phrase or two.) I have no idea what Toby’s going to go through next but I can’t wait. September is just so far away!
P. S. The books come with a helpful pronunciation guide at the front, which I love as a linguist. =)