Eugenie Markham is a shaman, which means that she has powers to banish faeries, spirits, ghosts and other otherworldly beings to either the Underworld or the Otherworld. The faeries, or gentry, live in the Otherworld, where there are a number of different kingdoms. Eugenie has been trained for this since she was a teenager, by her stepfather, another powerful shaman. She uses the name Odile Dark Swan when she communicates with the non-human beings. But lately, more and more of the otherworldly beings know her true name, and a lot of them seem to be making really creepy come-ons to her.
She is hired by a rather mentally unstable young man to find his sister, who he claims was abducted by a powerful gentry. Since human girls captured by faeries are coveted for their fertility, and the girl is only a teenager, Eugenie reluctantly agrees to help the guy, even though he seems like a bit of a whack-job. She then finds out that the gentry that kidnapped the girl is a gentry king, and that her best chance to rescue the kid is by forming an alliance with Dorian, King of the Oak Lands. She is reluctant to trust anyone non-human, even more so when she finds herself really attracted to him. She also has to figure out the identity of the mysterious man she met in a bar and had a hot night with, and why the scratches he left on her back won't heal.
With the first book of the Dark Swan series, I have now tried all three of Richelle Mead's paranormal fantasy series. Her Vampire Academy books are a half-guilty pleasure of mine, and there's still enough that I enjoy about her Succubus books that I keep reading them, even when a couple have been a bit underwhelming. One of the things she does very well, is world-building, and the world she describes in this series is fascinating. Some of the story is set in the "real world", but it's the parts in the Otherworld that are particularly well done. With a number of different Fairy kingdoms, all with very different rulers, and a geography that seems to constantly change, not to mention the many interesting types of gentry there appear to be - this was a good read.
Eugenie is a strong and capable heroine, like so many others in paranormal fantasy. She is very good at her job, and not afraid to do unpopular things if it gets the job done. She has been raised with a very strong work-ethic by her stepfather, and feels very ambivalent about the gentry, especially after she spends more time in the Otherworld and gets to know more of them.
The supporting cast are all well done, as well. I especially liked Dorian, King of the Oak Lands, although Eugenie's room mate, who pretends to be a Native American, and Kiyo, the half-Hispanic/half-Japanese mystery guy she runs into, are also cool. I really enjoyed, but was not very surprised by, some of the revelations and developments in the books and will absolutely be picking up the second book in the series.