October Daye, better known as "Toby", is a Changeling knight in the court of Shadowed Hills of Faerie, out in San Francisco, California. Up until two years ago, she spent fourteen years as a fish in the ornamental Tea Gardens in Golden Gate Park. Restored to human form, Toby tried to put the pieces of her life back together, knowing that somewhere out there, her husband and daughter believe she left them with no word. But as both of them are human, she can't explain where she was for all that time, or how she was transformed into a fish by magic, because both of them are ignorant of Faerie.
Now, things seem to finally be looking up for Toby. She is having feelings for Tybalt, the King of the Cats, and has solved several cases for her old lord Sylvester Torquil, not the least of which was the one she was on when she got transformed: where his wife and daughter had been kidnapped to, and she has rescued him. But that case wasn't without sadness, as both had gone a little mad during their imprisonment, and the Duke's daughter, Rayseline, had gone very mad indeed, and blamed Toby for not rescuing her and her mother immediately.
Now, even though the Duke and Duchess are grateful for Toby's actions, Rayseline spends her time hating Toby and attempting to bring her down. Now, Toby is living with her new roommate, May, her fetch. A fetch only shows up when a fae or changeling is close to death, but Toby isn't afraid of May, and has actually had the fetch move in with her. They are shopping for food at the local Safeway, where Toby once worked when she was barely out of fish-dom when Toby is summoned to the court of the Mists by its Queen, who has no love for her. But when Toby gets there, aside from Tybalt distracting attention by kissing her, the Queen does a complete turnaround and gifts Toby with her own holding, making her the Countess of Goldengreen, since the former Countess was killed under Toby's watch.
Toby feels that this is a gift with strings, but she can't see why the Queen would give her the Duchy. Before long, though, she is summoned to the Tea Garden by the Fae living under the protection of Lily, a Kelpie, who is deathly ill and becoming the water that makes her up. The members of Lily's court beg Toby to find out what is wrong with Lily before she can die, and hopefully, they can save her. Toby, who knows Lily is the one Good Fae she actually knows, promises to do her best, and has another Fae who is a member of Lily's court, a Tylwyth Teg who is also a chemistry professor at a local college, to analyze the water in the ponds for toxins.
But Lily isn't the only Fae who is dying. When Toby attends a ball at the court of her liege, Torquil, she detects the personal scent of Oleander, a fae poisoner, and shortly thereafter, the Duchess collapses, but Toby can't find Oleander in the crowd. With the collapse of his wife, Torquil becomes a little unhinged himself, and withdraws to look after his wife. Which means that Toby has little time to save the Duchess. Rayseline, the Duke's daughter, blames Toby for the collapse of the Duchess, implying that Toby seeks the throne and is attempting to poison her way to the top. For now, the Duke is still in charge, so Rayseline can't accuse Toby and make it stick, but if the Countess continues in her sickness, who knows what could happen?
And when members of Tybalt's court are also poisoned, Toby knows she has to act before someone else dies. But when Rayseline and the Queen of the Court of the Mists team up to get Toby sentenced to burn to death for killing the Countess, Lily and Blind Michael, Toby is shot with Elfshot and imprisoned in an iron cell. But can Toby's allies rescue and free her before she is killed, and what will she learn about herself and her heritage in the process? And can she save those she loves before she loses them for good?
I love the Toby Daye books. Toby is a character who is constantly being forced to change and grow, and she finds out that she is better at the whole change part than many other fae, even other changelings. In fact, you could say that this is a part of her very nature as a fae, which she is still learning. Nor does she react in ways that other fae do, such as how she actually ends up befriending her fetch and living with her, despite her fetch being a sign that she will soon die. But what happens to a fetch if Toby doesn't actually die?
I loved this book. Once again, Toby comes close to death, twice this time, and manages to pull it out in the end. In fact, I wonder if her opponents will end up seeing that being opposed to Toby is actually a very bad thing. So far, everyone who has gone up against her and dared put themselves in opposition to her is either dead or banished, so things aren't looking so good for the Queen of the Mists. But I guess that's where "undying hatred" comes in. And I don't see Rayseline suddenly not hating Toby any more just because her scheme failed badly.
I love this book because I love faeries, and I don't love the "Kinder, kiddy-friendly" faeries that have become so popular. Faeries are fearsome for a reason, and they were quite rightly feared in olden times. I am sure that there are non-malicious faeries, but that doesn't mean they can't screw you over unwittingly because they don't understand human lives, emotions or time frames. I love this series because that lies at the heart of it, and even the non-malicious faeries are still a risk to not only humans, but half-human changelings like Toby. Highly recommended.