One Salt Sea is the fifth book in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire, the winner of last year’s John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.  The first four books in this urban fantasy series, available both as ebooks and in mass market paperback, are as follows: Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, An Artificial Night, and Late EclipsesOne Salt Sea is available in the same formats today.  There are two more books scheduled for release with Ashes of Honor coming in September 2012 and The Chimes at Midnight in September 2013, and more are planned but not yet contracted.

Toby has many new adjustments to make following the events of Late Eclipses.  The one thing that hasn’t changed is that there’s always trouble in Faerie and Toby always ends up in its midst.

This time, the Luideag decides that its time she has Toby repay her some of the favors she owes for all the help she’s provided. All she asks is that Toby prevent a war.  The Duchess of Saltmist, a Merrow, married a Daoine Sidhe many years ago, which caused some strife with the land courts. Many fae don’t approve of mixing blood, such as that of a fae from the sea and one from the land, since their children may end up mentally unbalanced. The Queen of the Mists in particular has never been sympathetic to Saltmist, and it certainly doesn’t help matters when the lives of the Duchess and Duke’s children are threatened by someone claiming to have the Queen’s approval.  It really doesn’t help matters when the two boys actually disappear. The Luidaeg informs Toby that the Duke and Duchess will be going to court the next day and that this may be her last chance to stop many fae from dying in the resulting war.

Toby attends the event where she ends up saving the Duke of Saltmist from an arrow in the chest. In spite of that, the meeting between the Duchess and the Queen did not end well and the two are going to war. The only chance Toby has of keeping the war from happening is to find the missing children and prove that the Queen had nothing to do with their abduction – and it has to be within the next three days or it will be too late.

This was one of my top three favorite urban fantasy series, and it’s moved its way up into the top two with the latest two books. Both of these were the strongest installments yet, although I did prefer book four to this one just because it revealed so much that I’d been waiting for. It had more of what I’ve come to expect from this series: a strong narrative voice through Toby, a great sense of humor, a memorable cast of characters, good pacing, some interesting new information about the world and characters, and a fun storyline.  Furthermore, Toby was much more competent when investigating this case than in some of the earlier books. It made sense for the Luideag to look to her when it came to finding the missing children because I’m starting to be able to believe in her as someone capable, unlike earlier books where she seemed to be missing the obvious a lot of the time.

There’s not as many big revelations as the previous book, but we do still get some tantalizing hints of things to come for Toby. However, mostly the new information we get in this book doesn’t relate to Toby.  The new knowledge in this one is mostly about the sea fae as Toby tries to find the missing children of a Merrow. We also get a few interesting tidbits about the Luideag, as well as a couple of other things I don’t even want to vaguely mention.

One of the other things I love about this series is that nothing is ever too easy. Hard choices are made, there are consequences, and they are heartbreaking. Even though the end was emotionally harrowing, I applaud this. One problem I’m starting to have with another series I read is that I always know everything will turn out fine in the end – so when something bad happens, there’s just not a lot of tension. I know that things may not turn out perfectly, but nothing that awful is going to happen. With this series, there’s a lot of tension because something awful can and will happen, even if it’s not expected – sometimes even if there’s already been a reason set up for things to turn out well.

October Daye is one of the few urban fantasy series I actually keep up with regularly, and it’s one of the few that I get really excited about reading when I get a hold of the next book. It’s one of only a few series that has me so into it that I’ve gotten into passionate discussions with others about wanting certain things to happen. I’m not usually a shipper, but I will be DEVASTATED if Toby and Tybalt don’t get together. DEVASTATED. And I will also be devastated if the whole series doesn’t get to be completed.

Speaking of which, I’d feel like I was letting you down if I didn’t mention Tybalt because I know there are so many readers of the series who also love him. This particular book is Tybalt level medium. He’s in it a decent amount and there are some good scenes with him (one in particular that is made of awesome), but for a lot of it he’s also a bit distanced from Toby.

While it’s not as much of a game changer as the previous book, there’s plenty to love about One Salt Sea. It moves at a decent pace and I found myself saying I’d read “just one more chapter” before going to bed for about 5 chapters in a row because I couldn’t put it down. Yet it’s also more than just a forgettable, fast-paced book since the characters are very alive and ones you can care about, root for, and mourn with. Once again, I can’t wait for the next installment.

My Rating: 8.5/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from the publisher at the author’s request.

Other reviews of One Salt Sea:

Reviews of other books in this series:

  1. Rosemary and Rue
  2. A Local Habitation
  3. An Artificial Night
  4. Late Eclipses