September 28, 2012 by Heidi
Title: Rosemary and Rue [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Seanan McGuire [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: First in the October Daye series.
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Published: September 1st, 2009 by DAW Books Inc.
Format: Paperback; 346 pages
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
October “Toby” Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas…
The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant and renew old alliances. As she steps back into fae society, dealing with a cast of characters not entirely good or evil, she realizes that more than her own life will be forfeited if she cannot find Evening’s killer.
Going in, I didn’t realize just how different an Urban Fantasy the October Daye series was going to be. In a genre flooded with witches, vampires, werewolves and other paranormal creatures, one doesn’t necessarily expect to find a UF take on the fey. This unexpected realization was what at first made me hesitate, but at last made me fall into Rosemary and Rue, which should be no surprise to those of you who know my love of the YA UF fey series, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr.
As I neared that point where I would be caught up with Kate Daniels, everyone’s favorite UF series, I debated where to turn next. I considered Mercy Thompson, The Iron Druid Chornicles, Downside Ghosts, and of course, October Daye. I knew quite a few people who loved Seanan McGuire’s series, and also a few who were fairly ambivalent. But then I at some point mentioned to bookish friend Janice that I loved Selkies, and she mentioned there was a very likable one in October Daye. That pretty much sealed the deal for me, I was sold on Rosemary and Rue being my next UF read. I do, of course, plan to give all of the other series mentioned a go, but I’m going to stick to one at a time as I catch up.
As stated, it took me a bit of time to get into Rosemary and Rue…we’re talking 200 or so pages of time. The pacing seemed to stop and start, the introduction to the world was slow, and I honestly just didn’t feel all that invested in this plot line. In her search for her friend Evening’s killer, it constantly felt as if Toby was gaining no ground. She was supposed to be an experienced P.I., and yet with all of the information she was gathering, she seemed more like a layman in a bind. She’d look for clues, find nothing, get hurt. One can only take so many times of the lead character being convinced that this is the time when she is surely dying before they stop hearing ‘wolf’ and start thinking ‘naptime’.
I didn’t love Toby, but I did like her. She just seemed less clever, snarky and pig headed than I’ve come to expect, but my hopes are high that as I get to know her that opinion will grow. She’s not an idiot, and I appreciate that while she doesn’t love all the rules of the game, she’s willing to stretch her limits without completely crossing lines, which makes her a bit ballsy in the fey community. Physically, and power-wise, she’s mid-range, and it’s admittedly nice to have a heroine who can get her butt kicked, knows it, and is willing to back off and call in help if needed. I just hope we don’t spend the next 5 books watching her pass out near death and having different men scoop her up and save her repeatedly–’cause that can get old fast no matter how Adonis-like they may be. There was one particular scene in a glass garden that pretty much guaranteed Toby and I could have a future together:
I looked around. “I’ve never understood why people don’t come here more often.”
Connor gestured to my bloody fingers, saying, “The roses are too sharp for most people. They want to pick flowers for their lovers and write bad poetry comparing the two–‘my love is like a red, red rose,’ and all that mess.” He leaned back on his hands. “Who wants to compare their lover to a flower that’s so sharp it cuts everything it touches?”
“A flower that blooms no matter what the weather or season is like and can actually defend itself when it needs to? I don’t see the problem.” I shrugged. “If someone wanted to call me a glass rose, I shouldn’t complain.”
While I wasn’t overly invested in Rosemary and Rue’s plot, the story took a back seat to the world building, which set up the promising faerie underground of San Francisco. It was gritty, political, and full of illusion and lies. In most of the fey stories I’ve read to date, they cannot tell strait up lies–in October Daye’s world, lies are their trade. Still, many of the other traditions are there–a strong dislike of debts to the point that one never says “thank you”, a fondness of games and trickery, and a haughty habit of looking down on humans or half-breeds like Changelings (part-human-part-fey children like Toby). Toby has worked hard to gain her station among the fey, but remains low enough in the pecking order to require some creative bargaining on her part. Toby is that classic character with a foot in both worlds that truly belongs in neither, but her understanding of both human and fey gives us a window through which to see their world.
There were aspects of the plot I appreciated, and I greatly enjoyed being introduced to a fantastic set of support characters I’m looking forward to seeing more of in the future. Sylvester, Luna, Connor, Lily, Quentin, and especially Tybalt, I love you all! I liked that I didn’t figure out who Evening’s killer had been until shortly before Toby knew for certain herself, and I loved that there were only the most subtle hints at a romance to come in future books (so subtle, I’m certain Toby herself has no idea it’s coming–I’m certainly championing it though). I like that we come into Toby’s life when she’s at rock bottom, but first we get to see her fall. Toby may not have been interested in clawing her way out of her hole, but given no choice, I look forward to see where she goes once she’s out.
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: Not only have I already requested the next October Daye novel from the library, I very much want to make time to read the Newsflash trilogy that she wrote as Mira Grant, because I’ve only heard awesome things about it.
Recommended for: Fans of Urban Fantasy, Celtic mythology–particularly faerie lore, and Wicked Lovely.
Get a second opinion:
The Book Smugglers – Ana’s take -“a truly Excellent novel and the series has the potential to be one of the Great Ones.” Thea’s take – “Though it’s not without its flaws, it’s a beautiful foray into the world of the fae, where humans live side by side with unspeakable creatures of monstrous beauty and magic.”
Fantasy Cafe – “Rosemary and Rue was a solidly entertaining debut novel, although it did not get me involved in the story immediately.”
Janicu’s Book Blog – “The world building was very strong (LOVED it!!!), but the plot isn’t without it’s flaws which made the second half weaker than the first.”