I Do Beguile the Thing that I Am / Shannon Dean


To say that Seanan McGuire's Toby Daye books are about a faerie P. I. is technically true, but does nothing to justify how awesomely the story actually reads.

Be that as it may, October Daye is a private investigator—and she's the only licensed private investigator in all of faerie land, which makes her a precious commodity when something wicked that way comes.

The Fair Folk don't talk about death, and prefer to live in denial that it happens at all. Which is all well and good when you're immortal, but that means that whenever someone does die it's either the most freak accident ever, or, murder. That's where Toby comes in—and what's more is that her specialty is blood magic. Pretty handy when someone's been stabbed and the detective can read memories in the victim's blood. So long as it hasn't been too tampered with magic to hide the crime, that is.

The first adventure on which the reader follows Toby is a stakeout. Toby is a faerie knight sworn to Duke Sylvester Torquill, and his wife and daughter have been kidnapped by his twin brother and infamously deadly sister-in-law. Toby has yet to have seen the missing persons in question, but her number one suspect is in sight, and she follows him all the way into the a San Francisco park—land that is supposed to be neutral ground, and also the home of Toby's river spirit friend, Lily.

No allies to be seen, not even Lily or her subjects, Toby is caught and Simon Torquill turns her into a fish. A human tourist plops her helpless-koi-self into the pond where she swims around in muddled thoughts and memories for fourteen years. 

Unlike most of faerie world, Toby is not immortal. Toby is a Changeling, which is a prejudiced group in faerie because their human parts make them imperfect and prone to dying. Instead of having an eternity, Toby's lifespan is only a few centuries thanks to her human father. 

Fourteen years may not be a long time for the fae, but Toby had a human husband and a mostly-human daughter. Emphasis on ‘had.' When Toby left, Gilly was a toddler, and fourteen years later , Gilly and her father want nothing to do with the mom who left them.

Maslow's hierarchy of human need goes as follows: '1- Physiological: breathing, sustenance, sleep, etc.; 2- Security: health, job, home/family; 3- Love and Belonging; 4- Esteem; and 5- Self-Actualization: morality, creativity, basically brainwork. We need these things to be whole and comfortable with ourselves. When Toby has her security ripped from her, the other three steps on the hierarchy fall away. She survives, but is broken and lost. She tries to rebuild her health with a new job and a new home, but a real home is around family. Toby cuts faerie out of her life because she blames it for her misery, and in doing so cuts off all the family she has left. Without it, she becomes lost of love, belonging, has little esteem, but also tries to skip ahead in the hierarchy to self-actualization. The fifth step cannot exist well without the previous steps, and it throws Toby off. 

It makes her a suicidal hero; she doesn't subconsciously care if she makes it out of situations alive since that would mean her life had worth—fulfilling esteem and belonging through self-sacrificing love. Her biggest failure is thinking danger is something she must take on by herself. Toby may be the main character, but she is never the only hero. '

McGuire puts a lot of stock in Toby's friends who are there to save Toby from herself and make her understand that they will always be there, and willing to help whether she wants it or not. Faerie is their home, too, and they won't let Toby sacrifice herself while they look the other way.

Toby must confront finding out where she belongs in the liminal space between two identities, and understand that the loss of one family does not mean that she's alone; her friends are her family, too, and in that knowledge she finds a home, and her "wholeness" in the hierarchy gradually becomes complete throughout the series. 

We all want these things—need these things according to Maslow—so even though we can't totally sympathize with the realm of magic that is prevalent in Toby Daye's life, the heart of her character is relatable. We understand loss, we understand pain, and at some points in our lives, we also understand her peace when she, once lost, is found again. 

Shannon M. Dean is a Theatre and English double major at Ohio Wesleyan University, with a minor in Renaissance Studies, hence her draw to Seanan McGuire's use of Shakespeare references in her urban fantasy series. Shannon will graduate in December of 2014, and aims to pursue publishing and editing as soon as she is able.   She is currently interning at DAW Books (Penguin).