This was my first book by Elizabeth Bear. It is intended to be the first book in (I quote from Bear's website) "a sprawling same-world fantasy cycle beginning in Summer 2006 with Blood & Iron, followed in 2007 by Whiskey & Water. These books deal with the five-century-old silent war between Faerie and the iron world, and the lives altered and destroyed on either side."
I really wanted to like this book a lot, but I found it hard to get into. It was very similar, I thought, to many other books that deal with the interaction of Faerie with modern-day American life. I was reminded at many points, strongly, of Charles DeLint, and at a few points of Laurell Hamilton (no explicit sex, though, just soap-opera-esque choosing between lovers).
Basically, our protagonist, Elaine, is the Seeker of the Seelie court. It's her job to track down part-Fae in the human world, and to bring them back to Annwyn. She's got a complicated thing going on with her ex- (and father of her child), who happens to be a werewolf. She's also got a Sidhe water-horse called Whiskey bound to her, who keeps trying to seduce her. Meanwhile, a coven of human mages is trying to cut the human world off from Faerie permantly, possibly destroying it completely in the process. But there're also alliances and conflicts to consider with Hell, Heaven, the Unseelie Court, the Merlin (not who you'd expect), Arthur (who you'd expect), the Dragon of Britain, Medb (the Faerie Queen), the werewolf pack, Morgan le Fay, talking trees (a sly homage to Tolkien in there), and lots more.
Possibly too much more. I felt that the book lost focus, because it started out seeming like it was going to mostly be about the Merlin and her loyalites/decisions, but she wound up being only a small part of what eventually happened. There were too many complex characters and relationships jammed in, without time to really get to know many of the characters - althought I have to say that I did really like both Whiskey and the Merlin.
I also really liked Bear's take on the veracity of mythology... "yes, it was true, now.