ARC Review: One Salt Sea

Seanan McGuire
One Salt Sea (October Daye #5)
ISBN-10: 0756406838
ISBN-13: 978- 0756406837
Urban fantasy
September 6, 2011

Blurb via Goodreads:

October “Toby” Daye is settling into her new role as Countess of Goldengreen. She’s actually dating again, and she’s taken on Quentin as her squire. So, of course, it’s time for things to take a turn for the worse.

Someone has kidnapped the sons of the regent of the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist. To prevent a war between land and sea, Toby must find the missing boys and prove the Queen of the Mists was not behind their abduction. 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…

My reviews for previous books: book one is here, book two is here, book three, here and book four, here. Read an interview with the author here, and yet another interview here. See how she advises one survive Faerie here. Whew! If you have any energy left after that, maybe read this here book review, too.

Geeze, how do you keep doing reviews for a series that consistently gets better and better? The books are anything but the same ole this and that, but it makes it progressively harder to pimp the things. Yes, this one was so fracking good – like the last one. Yes, it engaged me emotionally and made me cry – like the last one. YES, IT WAS AWESOME, OKAY? How often do I have to say it?

Every time, apparently.

I have a confession: when I heard what this book was going to be about – and who exactly Toby’s love interest was for sure sure (if you’ve been reading the series, you’ll remember that there’s been some back-and-forthness romance-wise between Toby and more than one fella) (also, dudes, Tybalt FOREVAH, regardless), I felt a little let down. More on that later. Fortunately when the book arrived in the mail, that wonderful feeling at seeing a new addition to the series came rushing back. It was like it was aaaaalllll coming back to me…now. So I dove in, to make a mild pun. Sorry, it’s Bad Joke Tuesday at the office and bad jokes will be told on Tuesdays whether we want them or not. Moving on!

I used to be a little flabbergasted as to why Toby has to solve everyone’s issues in this series. On one hand, yes, she’s the main character. Of course she has to solve the mysteries, rescue some people and so forth. But it just seemed that everyone else was so helpless and passive aggressive about it all, especially when they were directly part of the overall issue. It’s like something breaks in Faerie and, as a collective, they all look up at her with expressions of what are you gonna do now? I’ve felt as if Toby lacks a certain necessary support system earlier in the series, but that this also gets progressively better as the series matures. While each new tragedy or complication or challenge is no less desperate a mystery for her to solve, it’s nice that she’s not all alone when trouble comes calling. In a way, Faerie itself has developed in the series and realized that it can’t sit back and let one person handle all its problems anymore.

Now, that’s not to say everyone is cheering for Toby. Far from it. She has plenty of enemies and political entanglements to work around. There’s the ever present problem of Duke Sylvester Torquill’s daughter, Rayseline, and her crazed, hell-bent vendetta against Toby. The Queen of Mists has never bothered to hide her disdain for the changeling – and while we’re at it, who’s all for a t-shirt with those women’s head pierced by a spike on it? When you factor in all the thrice-damned ancient rules and protocols that Faerie insists its denizens adhere to, no, Toby never has an easy time of it. She has to work ten times harder than anyone else. And she does, so that’s why she’s continually one of the most compelling urban fantasy characters today.

I ended  up fiercely enjoying this book’s plot, when at first I thought I might mope my way through it. For one thing, we get to visit a new section of the Faerie map (Hey, wouldn’t it be cool if DAW got a map made of Faerie?), the undersea Duchy of one Dianda Lorden, the Duchess of Saltmist. Artist Chris McGrath once again illustrates a lovely part of the book for the cover. Yes – Toby as a mermaid! I, ur, feel that wasn’t a spoiler since it was on the cover and all (although it’s darn hard to talk about anything else without being spoilery arrrgg). This installment deals once again with the impact of the harm of Faerie’s children. Toby’s been put in charge of diffusing a possible war between The Queen of Mists and Saltmist when Duchess Lorden’s sons go missing. Since the fae folk are, essentially, a dying breed, their children are more important to them than ever, and it’s truly reprehensible that anyone would harm them. But Toby knows of an old rivalry and a certain kidnapping of long ago that may be affecting current circumstances. She just has to prove it. She sets out in what can only be defined now as True Toby Style to fix what’s been wronged, no matter the cost she takes on personally.

What’s amazing to me about this series at times is that it deals with a lot of issues that are often deal breakers for me in other books. Things like cruelty to women and children. Especially the children. This series shows that there really are – for me – books that can engage me with these themes without making me feel manipulated or coerced falsely, somehow, into caring for those that are harmed. I think this is because, not only is McGuire just a master at crafting an enthralling story, but she isn’t gratuitous with the cruelty elements. Yes, she shows how merciless Faerie can be, but she does so in a way that makes me believe it’s a part of that world, and that Toby won’t stand for it. If it wasn’t for Toby, some of the things that happen in this series would be almost unbearable. That being said, through her, I often go through a whole bag load of emotional highs and lows, and I love every minute of it. I’ve hated some of these characters, loved some of them to death, been thinly veiled in my dislike of others, yet sad when they met their ends. This series is a testament to just how deeply one can – and likes – to be drawn down, deep into a book.

Readers who’ve become invested in the character growth of the individuals in the series should be pretty happy with things this go around. Again with the support system growing around Toby, I feel as if one of my favorite characters is no longer alone. Well, and it wasn’t so much that she was alone before, but that she just had to carry so much when no one else was willing to find a solution. It’s been nice to see more and more coming to her side. Yes, that side is where a lot of people get hurt, including those aiding Toby and Toby herself, but they help so many more stay safe. It’s like we’ve got this wall of good guys finally coming together and some I’ve felt in past books were pretty wimpy and sorry people really come through for not just Toby, but that greater good as well.

The writing and worldbuilding almost need not be addressed, except perhaps to note that it is as excellent as ever. There’s a rare confidence within this series at this point, that those details will be kept and maintained and, if necessary, improved upon – aka, an established series. While I’ve come to expect that those things will be maintained in each book, I also know that they will improve and not simply depend on what went before to ensure I enjoy the current book. Getting to see new things, places and folk that populate Faerie is one way. Another is the blunt fact that Toby must go through trial after trial to continue to earn her place as a main character/hero. It goes back to the idea that we love to sink into a book, and we need interesting scenarios and challenges for Toby to go through to achieve that. There’s no doubt whatsoever that McGuire ups the ante in this regard every time. There is literally never a dull moment.

There are some truly heartbreaking things in this installment. If you’ve been with the series from the beginning, you’ll know exactly where Toby’s coming from. You’ll feel her pain as she has to make some hard decisions and face some tough losses. Thanks to that support system she’s gained over the course of the books, there are good times, too, some downright hilarious ones as well. But the most important thing is that there is Toby, and as long as this is so, there is hope.

Before I go, I’ve got to quote the ARC – a no no of monumental proportions. Since I’m feeling a little rebel-y, I’m going for it.

A little context: Tybalt, the mofo kind of the fae cats, the cait sidhe, is basically sniffing some things out for Toby in his cat form:

Tybalt stalked over to the bureau, letting out an earsplitting yowl. I stood, turning in his direction. “What’s that, Lassie? Timmy’s down the well?”

The look he gave me could have peeled paint. I snickered as I walked over to him, motioning for Grianne to step aside.

I love these books.

Rating: Five Scoops

Visit the author’s site here.

Series order:

  • Rosemary and Rue
  • A Local Habitation
  • An Artificial Night
  • Late Eclipses
  • One Salt Sea
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  1. You have me looking forward to this book very much. My only frisson of nervousness is that while it is a standard writerly maxim to throw eveyrthing at your h/h and make them suffer. I am not sure that I want to read book after book of a suffering Tobey. So I am glad to read that there is more connection and support for her.

    • The urban fantasy hero or heroine does seem to suffer a particularly large amount, whether physically or emotionally, to themselves or through the loss of family and friends. I think this doesn’t work when there seems to be no purpose to all of it in some stories, as if that’s just what’s expected for the genre, so let’s make them suffer. In this series, it’s all tied together. There is a strong reach back to the beginnings of the series, when Toby comes out of her fish state and everything is connected from then on out. I think that gives everything that happens, even the suffering parts, more reason to even be in the books. It’s not for shock value, but story value.

      But yes – definitely more support for our beloved Toby as the series progresses!

  2. Oooh, I’m DYING to read this book! The last one was amazing! Plus Tybalt feeding Toby soup so reminded me of Curran :)
    Thank you for the tantalising review which made the wait even more unbearable :)

    • “…which made the wait even more unbearable”

      YES! My job here is done. :D Muaha!

  3. Oh man I’m so jealous! I can’t wait to read this. I’m so glad to hear that this one keeps up the momentum of the series.

  4. Great review. I love this series (1 & 4 were my favs). I’m looking forward to reading this book, though if I’m honest I was a bit annoyed that it seems like another kid-ridden plot. I have preodered it and will drop all to read it as soon as I get my hands on it.

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