I have come to a conclusion: I have to stop reading. I've made up a best-of list, and I've been putting off publishing it, mostly because I'm a completest, and the year's not technically over. [Update: but then I accidentally went and published my list today. Bleh. That's what I get for blogging with a 20-month-old on my lap.] But, I've stumbled on to one of those blessed runs where every book I read is so good, my list keeps changing. Take this book, for example. It's the first novel from the woman who made this (which I still covet):
Magpie is a faerie, but an unusual one. She's the granddaughter of the West Wind. Her clan is a group of crows. She's a devil hunter, capturing the ones that humans (mannies) accidentally let out of their bottles. But when she comes across one that leaves nothing in its wake -- swallowing its victims whole -- she knows she's a bit out of her league. She heads back to the place of her birth, Dreamdark, to find and wake up the Magruwen -- the head djinn, the creator of this world -- in hopes of saving the world from the evil that is hunting the faeries.
Usually, when a world is so developed as this one is, the rest of the book suffers. But in this case, Taylor has developed a strong and remarkable heroine in Magpie. She's feisty and determined, at time fragile, yet there's no doubt that she won't succeed in what she does. And Magpie makes the book work. That, and there's myriads of secondary characters, who captured my imagination: Talon, the Prince of the faerie guardian band; Poppy Manygreen, who can speak to plants; Vesper, the impostor queen; Bellatrix, the heroine of old; and various imps and other faeries that are too numerous to name. It also helps that Taylor has a knack for writing adventure. There was more than one time when I was biting my nails, wondering how Magpie was going to get out of the mess she'd gotten herself into. And because of all this, the world of faeries and mannies and the history Taylor infuses into the book comes together almost seamlessly. It's a perfect meld between world-creating and plot and characterization.
I can't ask for anything better from a fantasy novel.