One Salt Sea opens with Toby getting schooled in swordsmanship by her liege lord Sylvester. While Toby gets run ragged, we get caught up on what’s been happening since just after the ending of the previous book. Toby is trying to settle into her new role as Countess of Goldengreen. She is also talked into taking Quentin on as her squire. (She is extremely reluctant to do this. She does not feel that she has what it takes to be a mentor and given her track record, she is understandably worried she might accidentally get him killed. Everyone else feels the exact opposite, which is to say that she will be able to teach Quentin how to not get himself killed.)
Things take a turn for the worse when a kidnapping occurs. (Yes, another kidnapping; this should not surprise anyone who is up on their fairy folklore.) This time the children who have been kidnapped are the sons of the Duchess of Saltmist, a Undersea duchy. Dianda Lorden and her husband have come to the surface to demand action and lay blame on the Queen of the Mists. Their grievance could lead to a war, so Toby takes the case. She has three days to find the boys, so no pressure or anything.)
While Toby is investigating, she has to deal with her new responsibilities. She also has to do deal with her issues concerning her past. (It’s a very long laundry list that mostly centers around the case she wasn’t able to solve that resulted in her being turned into a fish and losing more than a decade of her life.) Toby being Toby, she is not able to do this very well. (Not that anyone could really blame her.)
One of the things that I find appealing about the October Daye books is that Toby’s reactions and demeanor never seems forced or fake. (Which is something I’ve noted among the “bad ass babe warrior” subgenre of urban fantasy. You have these aggressive female characters that turn out to be “aggressive” as some kind of defense mechanism. Or you find out that the aggressive female character is aggressive because she was abused or has some other ugly traumatic background that causes her to strike out at everyone.) Toby has a few of those “aggressive” traits, and her background is not exactly amazingly happy, but she isn’t just aggressive or dangerous or whatever. She has friends and insecure moments and has feelings and reactions beyond “hot headed and strong willed.” (The “bad ass babes” I am thinking about never manage to be believably strong willed–they come of more as “kind of stupid and reckless” which is kind of frustrating because the writer seems to think the character is “doing it right” when in fact the character is “doing it so very wrong.”)
Over all, One Salt Sea was an entertaining book with a lot of suspense and twists and turns of plot. There were some interesting hints about Tybalt’s actual feelings for Toby, and some equally interesting revelations concerning the Luidaeg. I also liked some of the themes concerning family, but I’m not entirely happy about the way the book ended.