"Wow. Your ego has grown since we've known each other, hasn't it?"
"Ah, but, you see, I have wooed and won the woman of my dreams. Admittedly, some of those dreams would be more properly termed 'nightmares,' but I don't believe we get to be that picky when talking about such things . . . If my ego had not grown, it would surely be a sign that I was no true cat, and you would leave me for another."
And that, folks, is why half of McGuire's readers want to be Tybalt and the other have want to have a Tybalt in their lives. A Red-Rose Chain is chock-full of these kind of moments sprinkled between espionage, intrigue and peril.
Queen Windermere is still trying to figure out the whole Queen of the Mists thing, getting her howe and her kingdom running the way they should, and what not when a message is delivered: the Kingdom of Silences has declared war and in three days will begin attacking. King Rhys of Silences (which is in Portland, OR) was put on his throne by the bogus Queen of the Mists that Windermere recently overthrew, and he seems to be getting nervous about his position.
Who else would Windermere appoint as her ambassador to negotiate peace in the three days than Toby? Pretty much anyone in her kingdom. Which seems to be the conventional wisdom -- and Toby agrees -- but for her own reasons (some of which Toby eventually guesses) the Queen insists. She also doesn't have a lot of options (see previous paragraph). So Toby and her fiance head off to stop a war instead of instigating one -- and they take along Quentin, May, and Walther (the alchemist/Chemistry professor) to lend a helping hand.
Now, he's no Blind Michael, but Rhys is one of the more despicable people in this series so far. And while he observes all the necessary formalities and whatnot, it's pretty clear that his heart isn't ion the whole negotiating thing, and he's just biding his time until he can attack. The last time these two kingdoms battled was a century or so earlier, and while they prevailed, it didn't go well for the Kingdom of the Mists -- this time, it's sure to be worse. A perception strengthened once we see how Shadows treats a diplomatic party. So Toby can't fail.
Toby's got her friends with her, but in many ways, she's more on her own that usual -- she doesn't have all the resources to call upon in Portland that she does in SF, but she makes the most out of what she has. At the end of the day, it's Toby's series and she's the one that carries the weight of the plot and the weight of the weight of the mission on her shoulders. McGuire pushes her in ways that she hasn't been pushed before. I wasn't thrilled with a couple of the moves McGuire made in the final couple of chapters -- not bad writing/plotting, I just didn't like what Toby had to go through. She prevails, naturally -- though, not unscathed, but through grit, determination and the loyalty she commands (and returns) from her allies.
As a small break from the diplomatic tension, we spend a little time with Tybalt's Portland counterpart. The two are very different from each other, (which is nice to see the variations in personality), but clearly have a a good deal of respect for each other. There's an interesting shared past for either of them that we're teased with, too. Would've been nice to get more, maybe one day. For the present, it's nice just to get a little bit more of Tybalt's pre-Toby history.
Looking ahead to #10 and beyond, I'm a little worried that things are going too well for Toby -- particularly where Tybalt is involved. Will McGuire let her be that happy for long? At all?
That's a worry for another day, for now, I'm going to say that this is one of my favorite reads of the year and leave it at that.