Friday, September 16, 2011
One Salt Sea
The arrival of a new Seanan Mcguire book, specifically a Toby Daye book, has become a very big deal for me. Because Seanan McGuire has set the bar so high with the 4 previous Toby books, you expect a lot when a new instalment arrives. So far the author has delivered on that count and One Salt Sea does not spoil her perfect record.
For once things are going in Toby’s favour. She’s adjusting to being the Countess of Goldengreen, and providing a useful fae social service at the same time (her county is kind of like a drop in house for disaffected fae of all kinds), she’s started to date (no properly, and I was very approving of her choice of partner, and I know I’m in a minority with my like of the character) and she even takes on Quentin as a squire. This is of course all too good to last. Sure enough, before long the children of Dionda; a fae Duchess in service to the Queen of Mist (hiss!), have been kidnapped and unless they’re located alive and kicking quickly then the fae of the Undersea and the fae of the Land will go to war. This is a war that according to Toby’s uneasy ally; the Luideag, the fae of the Land, of which Toby is one, have no hope of winning. So it’s up to Toby to find the boys and avert war. To make matters worse it becomes personal when the kidnapper also takes Toby’s daughter; Gilly, hostage.
I don’t know how Seanan does it, but she keeps making these books better and better. To help her complete her task Toby is joined by her ‘posse’, this includes crowd favourites like her squire Quentin, the selkie Connor, Toby’s fetch May Daye, Tybalt the King of Cats (and leading the hit parade of exactly who Toby should date), Bridge Troll cum cab driver Danny, Tybalt’s protégé Raj, the Luidaeg, and there’s even a cameo from cyber dryad April O’Leary. Although there’s little doubt that Toby will successfully find the missing boys and rescue her daughter, thus averting a tragic war, this is a Seanan McGuire book, so there has to be tragedy and tragedy there is, heartbreaking deaths and separations…I cried.
There are so many great touches along the way. The exploration of the Undersea kingdom was awesome. I love the way folklorist McGuire has taken creatures of myth and legend, then tweaked them to fit in her world and delight her readers, her imagination was given full reign with Undersea. Considering that Toby spent 14 years of her life as a fish (see the prologue to Rosemary and Rue) I felt making her half fish (it’s on the cover, it can’t be a spoiler!) to allow her to explore Undersea was just a tad cruel, although at the same time it was rather cool. The revelation that Danny can speak to rocks was also highly amusing. The exploration of Rayseline Torquill’s room was devastating and made this reader feel sympathy for one of the series’ uber villains (what exactly was done to her during her captivity? No, on second thought don’t answer that. I don’t want to know!). Another highlight was the interaction between the two teenage boys Quentin and Raj. Toby’s exchange with them in the car ('I swear I will turn this car around!') was priceless and is a hallmark of Seanan McGuire’s easy to read and relate to style.
Although the driving force behind the book is the mystery at the heart of each of them, readers get other little nuggets about the characters and their histories. I’m quite taken with May Daye, she was relegated to the backseat for most of One Salt Sea (actually with her lack of driving skills the backseat may be the best place for her), but there was still a revelation about the character and her origins that left me gobsmacked.
I haven’t spoke much about the covers of the books, cover artist Chris McGrath always does a good job, but he outdid himself with One Salt Sea, it is a thing of beauty. You could frame this one and hang it proudly on your wall. I’m not recommending this, although it would be a good way for the author to make more money, you buy one copy to read and one copy to frame.
There are still some issues to be resolved at the end of One Salt Sea (I guess we need to give Toby something to do in Ashes of Honor, although I’d be quite happy reading about her hanging out with Tybalt, May and Quentin), and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the twin issues of Rayselline (she’s going to be a problem as long as she draws breath) and the Queen of Mist, who is only a few twists of the crazy meter away from the Torquill’s certifiable daughter, are dealt with. The second one is actually a bigger problem, because of her position, and could very well send all of faery straight to hell on a whim.
Seanan McGuire keeps upping the ante with each successive Toby adventure, and One Salt Sea is no exception. I’d say it’s the best yet, at least until Ashes of Honor comes along some time in 2012 and tops it. With One Salt Sea, Toby has climbed to the top of the heap and is seriously challenging Jim Butcher’s wise cracking wizard Harry Dresden for the title of best Urban Fantasy protagonist ever!