Review: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire


September 28, 2012 by Heidi

Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire book coverTitle: 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.”


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  1. VeganYANerds says:

    I am compiling a list of UF books so that I can finally take a break from YA and get into UF so this series is going on the list!

    It’s a shame about the slow start but it does sound like a promising series.

    Also, I really like the name October and the nickname Toby 😉

    • Heidi says:

      Oh, great! Yeah, UF has really been my ‘escape’ this year. I’d never read any before, but I’ve found myself increasingly turning to the genre when I need something that’s going to make me happy or I’m burnt out on YA. I’m told this series does get stronger as it goes, and I’m hoping to really get into it.

      I really like the name October and Toby too! 😀

  2. Nafiza says:

    It took a while for me to fall for October Daye and her books and even now, it is a somewhat reluctant love but still, I’m glad you have given her books a chance. Have you read Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series? Vastly superior to her YA series, I can tell you that. There are elves, vampires, the most awesome pixie ever and Rachel. I totally push that series on anyone who wants a gripping UF read. There is also Karen Chance’s Cassandra series. I have these phases where all I will read are UF novels though after more than a fair share of duds, I’m wary of trying out new series.

    • Heidi says:

      I haven’t read Kim Harrison’s series. It’s on my TBR, but not as high as some of the UF series that more of my friends seem to really love, and that one seems fairly hit or miss. I hadn’t even heard of the Cassandra Palmer series though, I’ll have to check it out! Honestly, I just started reading UF this year, and largely I’ve just read Ilona Andrews thus far, so I have a vast amount of options to go through. I totally feel ya on being wary of starting a new series, I’ve based most of mine off of what all of my UF loving friends enjoy. Thanks for the suggestions!

      • Nafiza says:

        Then I must totallllly announce the awesomeness that is The Hollows to you. It’s better than so many others I have read and I sometimes think I have read them all. :\ I started with Anita Blake and that one died a not so wholesome death. Haha.

  3. Li says:

    You already know how much I love these books, so I won’t go on about them again 😉 I will, however, point you towards this post Seanan McGuire wrote about fae naming and the reasons behind October/Toby’s name (though I would suggest you don’t read it until after A LOCAL HABITATION and that comments may be spoilery as it’s a fairly recent post, so you may want to skip them):

    I’m really impressed by how much thought has gone into the smallest details in her world.

    PS: Karen Chance is also an autobuy author for me, though her early Cassandra books have crazy fast pacing with non-stop action IMO.

    • Heidi says:

      Oooh, thanks Li (and thanks for the spoiler warnings)! I’ll definetely read that after A Local Habitation.

      Thanks for the backup suggestion on Karen Chance’s series. I can’t believe I’d never even heard of this one today–it has a lot of good reviews!

  4. Woah, I can’t believe I haven’t heard of this one! It sounds fantastic and I definitely want to give it a shot, especially with your recommendation of it. I love books with rich world-building, so although the plot may be slow, I’ll definitely be picking this one up if you continue to like the rest of the series.

    Downside Ghosts is AMAZING by the way. I haven’t read the latest book yet *hides* but I love them. Also, you NEED to read Karen Marie Moning’s Fever Series. Best. Faerie. UF. Series. EVER! It’s fantastic, so you must give it a try someday Heidi! :) I’m on the fence about Mercy Thompson and Iron Druid as people seemed to have either loved or hated it, so I’ll probably wait for you to pick them up before I decide on them myself, especially since we seem to agree almost exactly on every book we both pick up! 😉 Yet another fabulous review, dear!

    • Heidi says:

      Yes! Both of those are on my lists as well. I know that the rights (TV show I think?) for the Fever Series were sold, so I definitely want to read it before it goes to the screen (assuming it actually does get made). And between you, Catie, and Maja I’m 100% going to read Downside Ghosts. Likely it’ll be my next choice after I catch up with October Daye.

      I hope you do give this one a shot though, Keertana! I’m not in love with it yet, but everyone says it takes a couple of books to find its stride, and it’s certainly fun enough to give it that.

  5. Kristen says:

    I hope you end up loving this series as much as I do! The first book didn’t fully invest me, either, but I liked the second one much better even though I had one big problem with it. I just loved Toby’s narrative voice in the second one so much that I couldn’t be that bothered by the big issue.

    But from book 3 on, I’ve loved it with minimal issues and it’s only gotten better from there.

    • Heidi says:

      Yeah, you’re not the first person to say that book 3 is where this one really finds its stride. I certainly liked the first one enough to want to keep going, even if I don’t love it yet, so I’m hoping it just gets better for me as well!

  6. Whoa. I wasn’t aware this author was also Mira Grant! Pen names are so confusing sometimes! I have been intrigued with this book for a while so I’m glad to see a positive review! I am also intrigued about fae who trade in lies! That is pretty original when, as you said, most fae can’t tell lies in the books I have read.

    I have tried the Mercy Thompson books btw, and I like them. I think I read the first 4 or 5 but haven’t read the latest. They are quick, episodic reads and Mercy is a cool heroine:)

    • Heidi says:

      Right? I hadn’t realized Seanan McGuire and Mira Grant were the same person until I was already reading Rosemary and Rue. These books would likely fall into the same format as Mercy Thompson. They’re quick and episodic, but that’s one of the things that makes me turn to UF for comfort reads. I did like this one, even if I didn’t love it, I think the series has a lot of room to grow!

  7. I’m really hit or miss with urban fantasy titles, and this gives me some ideas of places to start! thanks.

    • Heidi says:

      Yeah, and this series is really hit or miss, even among a lot of urban fantasy fans, so I’m interested to see if you enjoy it! I hope so. :)

  8. […] also reviewed: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire (October Daye 1) A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire (October Daye 2) An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire […]

  9. […] Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire (October Daye 1) A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire (October Daye 2) An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire (October Daye 3) Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire (October Daye 4) […]

  10. […] Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire (October Daye 1) A Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire (October Daye 2) An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire (October Daye 3) Late Eclipses by Seanan McGuire (October Daye 4) Through This House by Seanan McGuire (October Daye 4.5) One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire (October Daye 5) […]

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.