The first in the urban fantasy series about changeling October Daye.

Publication year: 2009
Format: Audio
Narrator: Mary Robinette Kowal
Running Time: 11 hours, 10 minutes

October “Toby” Daye is a half-human, half-faerie woman; her father was a human and her mother is a Daoine Sidhe. She lives with her fiance and young daughter in San Francisco. In the mortal world she’s a private investigator and in the faerie world she’s a Knight on her own right which is almost unheard of for a half blood. Then her liege lord’s wife and daughter are kidnapped and Toby is given the task to find them. She follows a suspect but unfortunately, he knows about her and changes her into a fish. For fourteen years.

When she finally gets back to her human form, the world around her has changed. It’s very difficult to find a job which doesn’t require knowledge about computers and she can only work at nights. Also, she can’t explain her disappearance to her now teenaged daughter and former fiance, so they don’t want anything to do with her. However, some friends from the faerie world try to contact her. But for now, Toby doesn’t want anything to do with them. She feels like her life is over.

One of Toby’s few remaining friends is one of the really high born fae, Evening, the Countess of Goldengreen. She has been brutally murdered with iron but before that, she phoned to Toby and cursed her to find the murderer. Even though Toby would have do it anyway, she has now no choice. So, she has to return to the world of fae to beg for help from her former friends and to find the one who killed Evening.

At the start of the book, Toby is depressed and doesn’t want anything to do with the fae. A former friend comes to shop to the store where she’s a cashier, and she pointedly ignores him. Toby seems to blame the whole fae world for her misfortune. But after the curse is put on her, she has no choice but to impose on old friends. She visits the current ruling Queen but as soon as she hears that Evening is dead, she refuses to help Toby. I got the impression that Toby and the Queen didn’t have a cordial relationship to start with and some of her courtiers were even hostile to Toby, because she’s a changeling.

Toby returns to her liege lord, too. Here, she does have old friends. Her lord Sylvester welcomes her warmly and does his wife Luna. She and her daughter returned on their own but haven’t said anything where they had been. However, their daughter Raceleen (spelling?) was apparently deeply changed by the experience and is now bitter and mean, perhaps even evil. She’s married to a man Toby had a crush on as a teenager.

Sylvester’s family is interesting, even if they aren’t shown much in this book. The other characters are very good, too. There’s Home, where the unwanted half blood children go to when they can’t or don’t want to stay anymore in their previous place. Home is run by Toby’s former lover and boss Devon. He’s a real piece of work. He exploits the kids who run away to come to him. He doesn’t really teach them. Instead he seems to abuse them until they realize that the only one who can give Devon power over them is the kids themselves. They are free to leave at any time. We get to see a few of his kids who carry weapons and bad attitudes. They’re really fun!

The world-building is great. The fae live in their own worlds but many of them live in the mortal world, too. There are lot of unsolved mysteries in the world, too. The fae King Oberon has vanished and the current Queen rules in his absence. (I’m reminded of Roger Zelazny’s Amber where the king of Amber, Oberon, is also missing at the start of the story.) Each of the Dukes and Countesses rule their own land which is inviolate no matter how small it is. The land is called the ruler’s “now”. The fae world seem to be full of half blood of various kinds but maybe that’s because as a half blood Toby knows more other half bloods than full blooded people.

The story is told in the first person so we never get into the heads of the other characters. I was interested to know more about the motivations of some of them, such as the antagonist. Many of the mysteries surrounding Toby and her world are left unsolved and I’m hoping that they will be explored in the books to come. What happened to Luna and her daughter? Oberon, the king of faery is still missing. What happened to him and his Queens? Will Toby get her revenge on the man who changed her to a fish? Will her daughter ever accept her? What if her daughter develops fae powers?

Kowal’s narration is okay. She uses slightly different voices for some characters. For the king of the cats, for example, she uses a bit slower reading speed which was a good way to distinguish him and suitable for the character. However, it sounds to me that she has slight speech impediment or unfamiliar accent which sometimes makes it a bit difficult to listen to her.

There’s a sample chapter at the author’s website.