Note: Even tho this is Book 2 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone.
Toby Daye is a PI and a changeling. Her liege lord, Duke Sylvester of the Shadowed Hills, sends her to his niece’s domain to see what is up. Toby and her sidekick Quentin come across far more than they expected, the pile of bodies being a bad sign. Computer tech and fantasy weave in and out of each other in this urban fantasy.
I’m always a bit leery of SF and Fantasy mashups. They have to be done well for me to enjoy them and Seanan McGuire does not disappoint! Toby is sent to the small County of Tamed Lightning to see what January O’Leary needs, if anything. January does her best to dodge questions and her people all seem tense. But then a body is discovered and it’s time for Jan to come clean. Yet there’s something everyone is holding back from telling Toby and Quentin. Toby has to resort to some extreme measures to get answers. The mystery had me guessing up to the last bit of the book.
I really enjoyed having Quentin as Toby’s sidekick. He’s a young changeling, still in high school, and completely untutored in blood magic, which is Toby’s specialty. He was a really minor character in Book 1 (Rosemary and Rue) and it was good to see him have a more prominent role in this book, mostly because Toby needs someone to fuss over.
April the dryad was a pretty fascinating character. She tragically lost her family and January took her in and literally made a home for her within the computer system. So April has all these unexpected abilities because she is the first dryad to ever live within a computer. This is the part I wasn’t sure I would like, but the author did a great job of setting up rules and sticking with them throughout the book making it work well with both the tech and the magic.
The beloved king of cats Tybalt makes several appearances, which is a good thing because Toby really needed a reality check from someone at a certain point. The ALH personnel are quite an eclectic bunch of magical misfits and Toby has a hard time guessing the heritage (and hence the abilities) of some of them. Tybalt shows up on scene and is a help, not a hindrance, without being condescending to Toby.
Over all, it was a very enjoyable read. Toby’s got some interesting history that we get glimpses of. Her life can be a bit complicated at times. She can be a little harsh on herself. Yet she also takes on the hard chores when it’s necessary. All this makes her a captivating lead character.
The Narration: Mary Robinette Kowal is a great voice for Toby, sounding like a grown woman who knows her own mind. I really like her voice for Tybalt, especially when he is tossing out insults or wry observations. Kowal had a great teen kid voice for April that was nearly heart breaking at certain moments. There was this one scene where a Hispanic accent was required and unfortunately that did not come through well at all. Kowal’s Hispanic accent for Book 1 started off a bit rough but smoothed out with use; it seems to have backslid for this one scene in this book.