4 out of 5 Eclipsed Stars
This is the 4th book in the Toby Daye series
The hits just keep coming. Things between Toby and her friends in Shadowed Hills are becoming a little strained, what with Luna having shown her true colors and all (she’s not actually a Kitsune, but daughter of a firstborn, and oh yeah, she sent Toby off to die rather than reveal that secret), and her daughter Rayseline is still nuttier than squirrel crap. Then, just about everyone near and dear to Toby starts getting poisoned. Toby swears she smells the distinct magic of, and occasionally sees, Oleander de Merlands, the psychotic assassin that helped Simon Torquill put her in the pond. The problem is that only Toby can smell magic in such small amounts – and now everyone thinks she’s going nuts. The Queen, herself batshit crazy, first gives Toby a title and Duchy she doesn’t want and then imprisons her. I mean everything is topsy turvy!
At the center of this story is the plight of changelings. The undercurrent of race runs through this whole series. Toby is only half fae, and part human, which makes her the lowest of the low. Mixed blood fae (meaning fae of different races but without human blood) are also discriminated against. The simple fact is some of the concern over changelings and mixed blood is legit – the mix of their blood can drive them insane. This is a great loophole for the purebloods to leap through whenever they want to punish their lesser kin. I mean, they MADE the changelings, and so many of the courts take no responsibility for them. Some are better than others but even then the mixed bloods are only tolerated. Which is seriously fucked up because it’s not like they can go live in the human world. This whole theme is really driven home by the poisoning of the Lady o the Tea Gardens – Lily, longtime friend and Undine. Her duchy is small and she had a tendency to take in those with nowhere else to go – mostly mixed bloods, outsiders and changelings. With her future in danger, so is theirs. If she dies, so will her knowe, and so will their safe haven.
We have our usual cast of characters – Quentin the squire, Connor the ex-boyfriend who is moving into place to be the boyfriend again, the Luidaeg, but now we also have May, who is a fetch who turned out to maybe not be the portent of death she’s supposed to be? I mean, spoiler alert, the main character is still alive. And then there is Walther Davies, a Tylwyth Teg with unnatural blue eyes and a penchant for alchemy. Good thing to have on your side if you’ve got a poisoner running around. Toby has her own personal cabbie who is both transportation in a pinch and a mountain of muscle in the form of a bridge troll named Danny. Karen, the little dreamer from the last book is in the background. She’s an oneirmancer, a person who can see the future in her dreams.
The blurb of the books focuses on the danger to Lily, but the poisoner is striking at everyone –Shadowed Hills, even the Cait Sidhe. And everyone is taking political advantage. The batshit crazy Queen thinks this is her chance to get rid of Toby. Rayseline accuses her of poisoning her mother and tries to have her arrested. It’s a clusterfuck. And in trying to straighten all this out, Toby unleashes a bunch more secrets, both her own and others. Just a rollicking good installment to this series.
Regarding the diversity quotient in this series – it takes place in San Francisco – we’re a very diverse place. I believe Dare and Manuel (their half human side) are Latinx, Luna, the Duchess of Shadowed Hills is Kitsune, which is an Asian fox-fae, and Lily of the Japanese Tea Gardens is from Japan. There are also raven maids, who are Indian. There is a Chinese fae who can alter luck. Anyway. This series does have pretty good representation throughout. Also – lots of gay rep through the whole series, including a trans character in later books.
UPDATE: Sadly, Seanan McGuire has received some bad news. One of her beloved kitty’s, Alice, has been diagnosed with cancer. There is hope, but she is in a bad way and the vet bills are piling up. A few months ago, Thomas, her other Maine Coon had an intestinal blockage. So she could really use some help and support. Please buy her books, promote and review her books or, if you’re a big fan and would like to support her financially, she has a Patreon at: Seanan’s Patreon . This is a really hard time for her, and she asked that we don’t ask her what is going on – if you want to know, please check out her twitter page and she will update when and as she is emotionally able to do so. You can follow her here @seananmcguire