“What happened?” she asked.
“The same thing that always happens,” I said. “We were having a perfectly nice evening until it got ruined by a corpse.”
Her smile was full of teeth. “Oh good,” she said. “I was worried that it was something serious.”
The High King and Queen of the Westlands (basically North America), called a conclave in the Kingdom of Mists to discuss the major alchemical breakthrough that Toby brought forward with her friends at the end of Book 9. (I’m trying to avoid spoilers.) Before we got to the actual conclave, we learned a lot more about the over-monarchs and some more about Quentin, one of Toby’s trusty sidekicks. And then the high and mighty arrived and started arguing about the vast implications of the change in magic, and then things got messy and bloody. Toby was appointed to find the killer and of course keep other people from falling victim, too.
Oddly, Toby’s role in this story ended up feeling smaller than it was on paper. She was the melody line through the whole plot, but there were a lot of strong secondary characters to understand and include in the conversations. The Luidaeg played a strong part as magician, aide, and general intimidation/muscle on behalf of the FirstBorn. Tybalt was an off-note for the first half of the story, though that awkwardness was deliberate and a part of the plot. Quentin was back to being a sidekick, and Raj was basically wallpaper for a handful of pages.
This was a fast murder mystery, given that the action really didn’t start until the conclave began on page 65. The bad guy’s magic trick of the book was intriguing, given that it sounded like tearing aluminum foil and didn’t smell of anything. And of course Toby was a bloody mess before the story ended. The surprising part for me was that this was an oddly uplifting book. Problems were solved. Tragedy was averted. Arden settled down about being a queen. And I haven’t laughed so often, so unexpectedly at a book in quite a while. The only thing wrong was not enough Raj.
There is obviously more story still to go in this series. There were at least five specific notable references and any number of inferences to some combination of the Luidaeg’s history with the Roane, the Luidaeg’s decision coming on the selkies, and Toby’s favor owed to the Luidaeg (which was going to be something to do with the selkies).
I definitely recommend this book to fans of McGuire’s writing and — of course — for Toby Daye series followers. This was fast, fun, and ended up on solid ground.
Footnote about inter-series references: I recommend that casual readers go back and spend time and money on the short stories that fill in the gaps within the Toby Daye book series. “In Sea Salt Tears” will explain the line about “Broken any young girl’s hearts recently?” from Elizabeth to The Luidaeg. “Full of Briars” will keep the oblique references to Quentin’s parents and his current romance far less annoying. “Heaps of Pearl” is useful background for Patrick and Dianda (as well as the book One Salt Sea for information on their sons).