Review: One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire


March 6, 2013 by Heidi

One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuireTitle: One Salt Sea [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Seanan McGuire  [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: October Daye Book 5
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Published: September 6th, 2011 by DAW
Format: Paperback; 354 pages
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Spoilers!: This review contains spoilers for the previous books in the series.

One Salt Sea is, without surprise, the strongest installment of the October Daye series to date.  Toby is drawn into a desperate effort to stop an impending war from taking place between land and sea when the children of the Duchess of Saltmist go missing and the Mists appear to be of blame.  Her debts to the Luidaeg have been called in, and it doesn’t take long to realize that if the battle occurs, the land will be at the greatest loss.  As a new Countess, Toby must work to protect her own subjects along with those of her liege, while tracking down a kidnapper with the desperate hope that the children are alive.  As war looms, Toby’s mission becomes increasingly personal, lending One Salt Sea the highest stakes yet.

“I’m just a changeling,” I cautioned. “I’m not in her league.”

“I’ve heard the stories–Connor alone tells enough to give your skills away, and you invoke the Luidaeg when you give your references.  Even my wife likes you, as much as she likes anyone.” He smiles slightly. “You’re a lot of things, but ‘just a changeling’ isn’t one of them.”

What McGuire has managed to do in the fifth installment of her October Daye series can only be described as awesome.  We are given a protagonist who is struggling to find her footing after immense bodily changes, a conflict that is deeply personal in addition to encompassing every character we have come to know and love, along with new rich and fascinating settings and species to observe.

Remember when I read Late Eclipses and got a tad bit annoyed with all the crazies?  Turns out there’s a reason for that.  Within the first chapters of One Salt Sea it is revealed that changelings aren’t the only fae subject to changeling madness–it is a situation that can also occur through mixings of different pure blood lineages, with particularly potent mixtures causing particularly vulnerable minds.  Certainly explains a bit about Rayseline, no?

My other complaint to this regard is that the fae in this series don’t seem quite like the classic fae we are used to, which is why I have to say the Luidaeg has become my absolute favorite character.  She of any character we see regularly is most what fae are supposed to be.  She is by choice a being of comfort or of nightmares, she makes bargains but requires much in return, she is very rarely what she appears to be, but also plays by a strict set of rules.  I would love to read a story from the Luidaeg’s perspective.  I like that she isn’t our protagonist, she’s too powerful, but at the same time I’d love to see what she does when Toby’s not around (I’m totally going to rock out In Sea Salt Tears when I’m depressed that the next new Toby is too far off).

I have very much enjoyed watching Toby’s attempts to become accustomed to her new limits of power and body since Late Eclipses.  She’s gained so much confidence since Rosemary and Rue, yet now we have to see her uncertain about her own abilities with no one around to teach her.  She tests herself throughout One Salt Sea, and hints at what we will see in the future from a Dóchas Sidhe, which is equal parts frightening and fascinating.

This installment also brings more on the romance front than we have seen thus far.  Both Tybalt and Connor play incredibly important roles in Toby’s lives, but also provide very different methods of support.  Connor is so sweet, attentive, and loving, but it is also clear that he is unable to stand beside Toby in the same ways that Tybalt is.  I really appreciate that even though there is a love triangle dynamic here, there is an obvious respect between Tybalt and Connor.  They respect each other’s feelings for Toby, and do not fight over her, but let her decide who she will have in her romantic life–neither of them will leave her regardless (but let’s face it, she’s totally in love with Tybalt whether she’s ready to admit it or not).

Underneath all of this character development lies a driving plot and a captivating new world. For the first time we are able to glimpse the sea fae and learn about the extremely different world of Salt Mist.  A world that is as new to Toby as it is to us brings about new species, magics, and arrangements that are counter intuitive to what we know of the land.  One Salt Sea is by far the most political installment of the series, which also ensures a complex and fast paced plot.  There are by necessity layers of complications, delicate balances that need to be upheld or torn through as we encounter them.  It is by far the most complex and involved story yet; personal to Toby and readers, but with massive implications, One Salt Sea marks a crescendo that will be hard to outdo in future books.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more:  Really sad that I only have one book left till I’m caught up with this series, but I’m pretty much dying to see what comes of what Mary had to say in One Salt Sea.  Will be devouring Ashes of Honor soon.

Get a second opinion:
Janicu’s Book Blog – “the way these books build upon each other is extremely gratifying and long running story arcs are cleverly integrated with each self contained mystery.”
Fantasy Cafe – “While it’s not as much of a game changer as the previous book, there’s plenty to love about One Salt Sea.”
Lurv a la Mode – “There is literally never a dull moment.”

I’ve also reviewed:
Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire (October Daye 1)
A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire (October Daye 2)
An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire (October Daye 3)
Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire (October Daye 4)
Through This House by Seanan McGuire (October Daye 4.5)


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  1. I skimmed through this, as I do with all your reviews for this series because of the spoiler warning, but this is the first time you’ve mentioned the romance! I don’t know whether to be thrilled or terrified that it takes so long for the romance to become a forefront in this series, but it’s definitely so refreshing! :) Gosh, I need to start this series soon, don’t I?

    • Heidi says:

      Yes! The romance has been really quiet up till this point, but it gets good in the last two books (I mean really, she drug it out FOREVER).

  2. I am a HUGE, obsessive fan of the Newsflesh Trilogy, and the day I realized that Mira Grant was a pen name and that she has a bunch of other books was a good day. I’m sort of holding them there, knowing they exist. I’m afraid that I won’t love them as much. However, you really like them, so yay! Also, finding time for them could be tricky. But I will. Someday.

    • Heidi says:

      Yes! She has this series, as well as the In Cryptid series which just released its second book. I know I’ll get to her Mira Grant work at some point–excited about her new one!

  3. VeganYANerds says:

    I always recognise your reviews of this series when you mention October (Toby) and it’s really cool to know that there are series like this where books keep on improving and adding more info and layers and explaining things in previous books

  4. Li says:

    “In Sea Salt Tears” gave me a very different perspective on the Luidaeg – definitely read it!

    Also, I’d forgotten how much I loved the cover of ONE SALT SEA – so fitting.

    • Heidi says:

      Yes! This is definitely my favorite cover in the series. In Sea Salt Tears is probably going to be saved for a day when I have a huge Toby craving, since I’m now all caught up. I wish the Tybalt short story was easier to get a hold of (I’m not buying the collection it’s in for only it).

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