I enjoyed Seanan McGuire's ghost stories so much that I couldn't wait to see what else she has written. This series caught my eye. The main character, October "Toby" Daye, is a changeling. From her faerie mother she has inherited certain skills that help her run her own detective agency, where she works with both humans and fae to pay the bills. (I'm not sure what if anything she carries from her human father.) This story opens on a stakeout: she is following someone who could lead her to the kidnapped wife and daughter of a high-ranking fae, one to whom Toby is pledged as her liege lord. A mother herself, Toby is all the more anxious to find the missing mother and daughter.
But then, just a few pages into the first chapter, the tables are turned. The man Toby is tracking leads her into a park and attacks her - turning her into a fish and trapping her in a pond. The story then jumps fourteen years and six months ahead. Toby has lost everything in those years, starting with her human family, who gave her up for dead. She is working any job she can find, just trying to find her way again after all those years. She wants nothing to do with the faerie world. But then an old friend binds a duty on her, one that Toby must complete or she will die. Recognizing that she can't do this on her own, she reluctantly turns back to the fae community for help.
I came late to the urban fantasy genre, through Patricia Briggs's books. Though I've tried quite a few authors since, I haven't found other series that work for me. This book certainly did, and I'm looking forward to the next. Toby is an interesting and sympathetic character, who doesn't fit fully into either the human or fae worlds. One of the things that sets her apart is that she is a knight of her liege's court, a rank she earned by service but one rarely granted to changelings. We learn a little of her backstory, and I'm guessing that we will meet her fae mother Amandine at some point. She sounds like a formidable character herself.
Seanan McGuire has created a complex faerie world around Toby, one which exists alongside (outside) San Francisco. I like those kinds of stories, where other worlds overlap with a recognizably human one. While the fae world is complex, with different types of creatures and various communities (courts), as well as Toby's allies and enemies, I had no trouble keeping them straight. It was interesting meeting fae and learning about their abilities and habits. I recognized some of the types from folklore. I think Ms. McGuire draws mainly on Celtic myths and lore. Thankfully, she doesn't overwhelm with details. Toby's task makes for quite a story, one that turns dark and violent at times (though not in gruesome detail). This is "fae noir," if there is such a category. Looking at the other books in the series (now up to twelve), I see they feature more cases and quests for Toby. I like detective stories almost as much as police procedurals.This is just the first I've read that includes faeries.