Once Broken Faith: Kings, Queens, and Murder at a Political Convention


Image: DAW via Seanan McGuire, Cover Artist: Chris McGarth

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Synopsis: Toby Daye is a changeling, half-fae and half-human. She started off the series disconnected and aimless, a result of the years she lost due to a spell cast on her by her enemies. She’s come a long way since then, becoming a hero of the realm, someone people count on. She’s amassed a dedicated group of friends, and lost others.

In her previous adventure, one of her friends created a cure for elf-shot, a weapon that would put its victims to sleep for a hundred years. It was developed as a way to get around the Law that forbade the killing of purebloods–and it’s fatal to changelings like Toby, not that the purebloods care. Putting this cure out into the world would change it irrevocably. Toby herself knows several people affected by elf-shot, some of which she wants woken up and some of which she put to sleep herself.

And so she’s roped into going to a political conference–that no one like her normally has the right to attend–where the nobles discuss whether to use the cure or suppress it, with many of them having their own personal reasons to be invested. But when you have a bunch of powerful people full of their own importance trying to come to an agreement, someone’s bound to get hurt–and someone does. Someone dies under mysterious circumstances. And of course, Toby is the one who has to stop it before it happens again.

Series: This is the 10th book in a series that’s still going strong.

POV: First person.

Preview: Here for Once Broken Faith, here for the first in the series, Rosemary and Rue.

I’m really invested in this series. I’ve loved watching Toby grow from her isolation into having a solid sphere of friends, loved watching her realize how different the world around her is from what she thought it was.

The tension between Toby and Sylvester–the man she swore her allegiance to and the closest thing she has to a father figures–enriches the story, as does the completely different tension between him and his wife, Luna. Toby hasn’t forgiven Sylvester for lying to her about something incredibly important, something she needed to know. Luna hasn’t forgiven Toby for failing to save her daughter. It’s such a complex dynamic.

And then there’s the dynamic between Toby and all these pureblood nobles who are used to things being done a certain way, used to changelings like Toby being far beneath them. But Toby’s made a name for herself as a hero of the realm. Two of the presiding monarchs at the conclave owe her their thrones. The High King and Queen listen to her. She’s on conversational terms with the Luidaeg–a Firstborn who outranks everyone just by virtue of being who and what she is– when the rest of them are afraid of any and all Firstborn. It doesn’t help that Toby herself tends to talk back.

Watching her conduct an investigation where she needs to question all these assorted nobles without mortally offending them, watching where she can press her advantages and where she has to back off, is interesting. There’s a lot of social dynamic going on here, with the rules tailored for a long-lived, feudal society. Toby’s relatively young, with human heritage and more experience with the human world than court intrigues. But human blood or not, she’s powerful because she’s the daughter of a Firstborn, and she has a lot of social capital in this part of the world.

The murder mystery itself creates this huge threat and a sense of urgency–or it does for Toby, who has a hard time getting the nobles to take anything seriously. At first, the manner of the killings is completely unknown and seemingly impossible to stop. But as the investigation goes on, and as Toby tries to force the nobility to let her conduct the investigation, pieces of information start to fall into place. 

I’m really happy about the novella at the end as well, because it tackles something that our protagonist shouldn’t be present for–but something that would have been disappointing not to see, after the buildup to it with this and previous books. Adding in a novella that picks up immediately after the book, from another character’s perspective, to give us this additional bit of the story solves that problem.

Once Broken Faith deals with the consequences of the last book. The new cure for something that’s so ingrained in fae society threatens to change the makeup of the world. It’s about the different ways that people respond to change. It’s about how people struggle to gain control over the world around them. It’s about putting those you consider family first. And as ever, it’s a strong story building up on everything the previous books have already established. This remains one of my favorite series.

Favorite Quotes:

“Never invite a death omen to a murder party.”