Friday, August 24, 2012
Bastard Reaction: One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire
The October Daye series and I have had a love and hate relationship since early on. More love than hate, but it's been an up-and-down roller-coaster for me reading this series. The real constant has been how good of a writer Seanan McGuire is, which is why I've kept recommending this series to anyone who would listen. It wasn't until the 4th installment Late Eclipses that the series really broke-through for me though. It's followed by One Salt Sea and more than any other novel in the series, it had a lot to live up to and it didn't disappoint.
October Daye's life has undergone drastic changes recently, both physically and socially. She's now a countess, which gives her privilege and status she's never been afforded, along with additional responsibilities, yet she still remains a thorn on the side for certain nobility circles. She's been dating a certain selkie with one very unstable baggage. Further complicating things, children from an undersea duchy have been kidnapped, and as the Queen of the Mists is being accused of the kidnapping, those from the undersea and land are on the verge of war. Toby needs to figure out the truth before all hell breaks loose in a war that could be more disastrous and costly than anyone anticipates.
Whenever I start reading an October Daye novel, I can't help being reminded of Sophie's Choice. The easy parallel is to the Changeling Choice event by which certain adolescents need to choose between fae and the human world, and the consequences of that choice. But more than that, Toby is constantly faced with impossible situations that no matter what she chooses, someone is going to end up paying dearly for it; usually herself. One Salt Sea was no different, and this time around the stakes have never been higher.
One thing I'd like to point out is how much I've hated the character of Connor. From the very first book, I've felt he kept ruining the novels for me. The more he was around, the least I liked them. I wanted him gone from the series. Interestingly enough, One Salt Sea was the first novel that his presence didn't bother me. I think this was more of a reflection about how Toby was developing as a character and how recent changes have reformed her outlook on life than anything to do with Connor himself. Toby seems more confident and comfortable with herself and with those around her, and it shows when she's interacting with him, so that was a big plus for me going forward. And I thought that was important for me as a reader, since I think Tybalt is a much better and interesting character, but who knows what role he'll play with the recent developments.
I thought this novel took a lot of time to get things in motion, particularly since it seemed like the first half of the novel was a bit slow and seemed to consist majorly on mere preparations from Toby and her team just to begin the investigation. That said, I barely noticed this since I thought that the character interaction was at its best. Could be that it's further reflection on October as a character, but I think part of it is that I think Seanan McGuire has found a good groove and comfort with the characters and this world which is making each scene more entertaining than previously.
We get introduced to new characters and a whole new world underseas, and I thought that was a blast to experience. Particularly loved how much exposure the Luidaeg has in this novel, and how much we learned from her past and her connection to the undersea knowes.
One thing I didn't like about this one is that at some point it became quite predictable, particularly as far as the perpetrators were concerned, and some aspects during the deliberation of the novel felt a bit anti-climatic. By the same token, this novel was incredibly emotionally charged in the second half which culminated with some very awesome turn of events during the climax. Turn of events that will change the course of the series in a substantive manner I feel, and will leave readers stunned in some regards. One Salt Sea feels like the culmination of a subplot arc which began early in the series, which explains why some aspects became a bit transparent, but it also fueled some of the most pivotal and incredible scenes in the series so far. Certainly the next novel can't come soon enough.
It's no coincidence that Seanan McGuire has won the John W. Campbell Award and has been a Hugo nominated author twice now. She's really that good of an author and writer. I don't think this flavor of urban fantasy allows her to distinguish herself as such, but I'm glad she's writing in this genre. She does standout as a writer among her peers, and I think any who read her prose can appreciate the skill of her craft.
Seanan has found a good balance between action and drama and has really surrounded this world with a multitude of memorable characters. She's not afraid to get her hands dirty though, so be prepared for a series that will take you on a journey through the complete length of the emotional spectrum. There be joyous moments as well as heart breaking ones, and when the story demands it, someone will go on a permanent date with the reaper.
One Salt Sea is another strong novel in what's becoming one of the best urban fantasy series around. An urban fantasy series that I recommend to every fan of the genre with no real hesitation. Ashes of Honor is set to be released soon, so it's the perfect time to catch up.
Buy a copy of One Salt Sea from The Book Depository.
Please visit Seanan McGuire's website for more information on this series and her other projects.