Sunday, August 23, 2009

Review of Rosemary and Rue

Rosemary and Rue is the first book in the October Daye urban fantasy series by Seanan McGuire. It is scheduled for release on September 1, although I did see several copies both in the new paperback section and in the SFF section at my local Borders yesterday. According to McGuire's FAQs page, the number of books in the series is uncertain, although she says "several" is a safe answer and currently has plans for at least eight books (two of which are done, one which is being revised, and one which is being written). The second and third books are entitled A Local Habitation and An Artificial Night and will be released on March 2, 2010 and September 2010, respectively. All the titles are taken from Shakespeare plays, which I thought was very cool (being the dork that I am).

October (Toby) Daye is a half-fae PI specializing in cases that tend more toward the Brothers Grimm than Magnum PI, in her own words. Unknown to her human fiance and little girl, Toby is looking for the missing wife and daughter of Duke Sylvester Torquill, her liege lord. While tracking her lead suspect, Toby is discovered by him and turned into a fish. She remains a fish for fourteen years and returns to a world much changed - and a former fiance and daughter who no longer want anything to do with her.

No longer a PI, Toby now works at a Safeway in her home city of San Francisco. It's a quiet existence and she tries to avoid most of the people she knew, including Duke Torquill, who must despise her for failing to find his family all those years ago. One day Toby checks her answering machine messages and has three desperate calls from Countess Evening Winterrose, each more desperate than the last. In the final message, Evening says she wishes to hire Toby to find a murderer and says the words of binding to force her to do so. Afterward, Evening leaves the phone off the hook and Toby hears gunshots and screaming, and knows it is Evening's own killer she has been charged to find.

At first, I did find Rosemary and Rue a little difficult to get into, although there were enough interesting parts to keep me reading until it did pick up. It did get very enjoyable once the main mystery became clear, but until that point there had been a lot of setup with not much happening once the prologue, which told what had happened to Toby fourteen years earlier, was over. There was a lot about Toby's new everyday life with a lot of exposition about the world she inhabited that halted the narrative flow. The story was all told from Toby's perspective, so every time she thought about somebody or experienced something normal for fae but strange to the reader, she'd explain it. This technique is often used, especially in the first book in a series when the ways in which the world operates is being conveyed, but I always find it a bit awkward when the main character starts explaining something to themselves that is as natural to them as breathing. Further into the book there was less of this, and I found it a lot easier to read once there was more flow to the story and less halting to explain who people were and their role in court or how Fae magic worked.

Even though it was a fun read, this novel did not strike me as anything that unusual for the urban fantasy genre - it was basically a mystery involving fae with a brave female heroine who could be kind of mouthy. In spite of her outward appearance, there were some moments that showed she was more caring than she acted and was not always good at expressing her softer side. Those parts seemed rather typical, but Toby's position as a changeling gave her some uniqueness. Since she is not clearly compartmentalized as a witch, were, or fae, she has a bit of a dual nature and isn't quite sure where she fits in. Toby is not fully human nor is she fully fae so by being part of both worlds she really seems to feel that she belongs to neither. Since she was not a pureblood fae, Toby was not even close to invincible or even that powerful. She had only minor magical powers and using them tired her out pretty quickly. Our heroine actually got hurt quite a bit instead of always managing to come away unscathed.

This book was plenty dark with murder most foul and kelpies on the streetcorners, but even though many of the fae were not particularly good, many of them did not seem particularly amoral (which is how I tend to think of the fae). Some of them could not be trusted, but some of them seemed to truly care for Toby without having an ulterior motives or expecting anything in return. The fae seemed somewhat human in that regard with some tending more toward good and others more toward evil.

There was one character I absolutely loved by the time I was finished with the book - Tybalt, King of the Court of Cats. I really liked what I read about him and suspect there is a lot to him that has yet to be revealed. Fortunately, when I said I hoped there would be more of him in the next books on Twitter, Seanan McGuire responded and said there would be. (I confess that I am partial to kitties and also loved the cat-like rose goblins and the fae connection to cats in this book.)

Though this is the first book in a series, there was a satisfying conclusion without any major cliffhangers. However, there were definite hints of things to come that made me eager to read the next book (especially after hearing confirmation that there would definitely be more Tybalt).

Rosemary and Rue was a solidly entertaining debut novel, although it did not get me involved in the story immediately. However, I liked the characters and world well enough that I reached the end wishing I had the next book available.


Read an Excerpt

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orannia said...

Oh, thank you Kristen! I read KMont's review and you've both got me keen on reading this book.

...with a brave female heroine who could be kind of mouthy.

Why, why, why do UF heroines all (I'm generalizing) end up being mouthy? It would be so nice to read about a character who knew that it was easier to catch flies with honey :)

*gets off soapbox*

Kristen said...

Orannia - Thanks, I hope you like it!

I know, UF heroines do tend to be that way. The only one I can think of who isn't mouthy is Anna from Cry Wolf.

Angiegirl said...

Nice review, Kristen. I'm looking forward to this one. I'm glad to hear you want to continue on with the series and that you feel attached to certain characters. That's all I ask. :)

Kristen said...

Angiegirl - Thanks for stopping by! I'm definitely looking forward to reading more of this series and am glad there is not a long wait for the next book.

orannia said...

Kristen - yes, Anna from Cry Wolf. That may be why I like her so much :)

Kristen said...

Orannia - Can you think of any other non-mouthy UF heroines? I haven't read a huge amount but other than Anna, I can't think of any.

orannia said...

Hmmmm..not really, and that's the problem. They are all (to a greater or lesser extent) mouthy (and I'm most definitely not) and something I just wish that authors would pick other way of causing confrontation than having a mouthy heroine.

Mercy Thompson does speak her mind, but she also knows when to keep it shut :) IIRC the heroine of Kat Richardson's Greywalker books isn't too mouthy... Will keep thinking :)

Kristen said...

Orannia - I was conflicted about whether or not to consider Mercy a mouthy heroine. She definitely can be but she's not always mouthing off. Plus she's not the type of character who has a big mouth and acts coldhearted. Mercy does truly care about her friends and even though she can be a bit mouthy she doesn't come across as a tough snarky bitch.

Anna is definitely not at all a mouthy heroine, though. I wish I picked up Hunting Ground the other day; I ended up getting a couple of Briggs' older books instead. The end of Cry Wolf picked up enough that I'm curious about what happens.

Other urban fantasy I've read so far... Kim Harrison, Corine Solomon and Sylvie (from Sins & Shadows) were all rather mouthy. I still have the first books from Rachel Caine's Weather Warden series, Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series and Ilona Andrews' Kate Daniels series on the TBR pile.

hwm said...

I don't mind a big mouth as long as the heroine can back it up, isn't stupid or alienating and knows when it's better to stay mum.
Those heroines are a rare commodity.

Rose in "On the Edge" by Ilona Andrews has a good head on her shoulders. She isn't shy saying her piece, but isn't purposefully alienating.

Kara Gillian in "Mark of the Demon" comes to my mind as well. A sensible detective by day and a necromancer by night.

Jane Yellowrock in "Skinwalker" comes on strong sometimes, but she knows it and if she needs to she can hold herself in check. She also can back up her occasional mouthiness.

Chachic said...

some moments that showed she was more caring than she acted and was not always good at expressing her softer side

That description makes the main character in this one sound like Kate Daniels! Okay, I've added this to my wish list because you mentioned that the third book in the series is a really good one.

Kristen said...

hwm - I still need to read On the Edge. It sounds interesting, and I do really like Ilona Andrews.

Chachic - I hope you like these! The second book is even better, and I just finished the third one last night. I think it is the best one yet.