Damn but I've been waiting a long time to write that sentence. In the interest of full disclosure, I should make it clear (in case anyone who doesn't actually know me reads this) that I've known Seanan for years through filk (though sadly, only casually, because San Francisco is too darn far away and I only see her once in an average year), and that I've been a rather besotted fanboy of her blogging for years. She writes poetry, she writes songs, she writes fan fiction for non-existent TV shows, and she writes dangerously amusing chronicles of her own daily life. She also writes novels, and she is just beginning her career as a professional writer; this is her first published novel, and I really want it to succeed. I can't pretend to be unbiased.
This is the first book in a series. It is a complete episode, no horrible cliffhanger, but it's clear that there's more to come.
There is a fine, fast, violent adventure plot here. There are characters that grab my heart. There's some delightful whimsy and snark. There's some meaningful insight into mortality. But what's really important about this book is the setting and world-building. I've never been to the mundane San Francisco, but McGuire guides me through her fantasy-enhanced version so that it feels wonderfully real. There's a remarkable profusion of faerie lineages, legends, and histories briefly hinted at in ways that make me sure that she really understands how all these pieces go together. Although there are plenty of elements that could be found in books of folk tales or in other contemporary novels, there is a special flavor to this world that is truly compelling. I think the biggest weakness of this book is that, having finished it, I feel that I've just scratched the surface of this world, and I want to explore it in full detail and get answers to lots of questions I wasn't asking at all until I'd finished the book and started thinking about a review.
9 out of 10.
I'm too tired to concentrate on a plot summary; I need to go to bed. Maybe I will actually add one tomorrow.