Rosemary and Rue
by Seanan McGuire
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.
I don’t read urban fantasy often, but when I do it’s the kind of genre that I gorge on like it’s candy. In the past I’ve loved Tanya Huff’s Blood Books and Diana Rowland’s White Trash Zombie books (both series I need to continue/finish, actually!) and recently I finished Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, which reads like an urban fantasy meets fantasy of manners.
Needless to say, finishing that series had me craving more urban fantasy and the October Daye series has been on my TBR for years. I love Seanan McGuire’s work – Feed is one of my favourite novels – so it’s ridiculous it’s taken me so long to get to Rosemary and Rue, and I still might not have picked it up if I hadn’t seen Lisa @ Bookshelf Fantasies raving about the series this year.
I’m not the biggest fan of books involving faeries. Angels and faeries are the two creatures I tend to avoid in fiction, but recently faeries and the fae have begun to claw their way into my brain which is probably another reason why it’s taken me a while to get to this series which involves the fae. Our heroine, October ‘Toby’ Daye, is a changeling, the daughter of a fae and a mortal man, and is forced to straddle the line between the mortal and the immortal on a daily basis.
Unlike a lot of the urban fantasy I’ve read (and I haven’t read a huge amount, so I’m sure urban fantasy aficionados will know of some others) Toby’s older than your average urban fantasy heroine. Rosemary and Rue takes place in 2009 and Toby was born in 1952, but age doesn’t work quite the same for the fae as it does for us mere mortals. By 2009 Toby also has a 16 year old daughter, which definitely isn’t something I’ve come across in urban fantasy before; I don’t think I’ve ever seen another urban fantasy where the leading heroine is already a mother at the beginning of the series, unlike many other series which often end with the heroine becoming a mother herself.
Unfortunately, Toby doesn’t have the kind of relationship with her family that she’d like. She’s the only changeling to ever become a knight and serves her lord, Sylvester, whose wife and daughter were once kidnapped. When trying to rescue them, Toby herself was caught up in the danger and ended up spending 14 years trapped in the body of a fish, unable to tell anyone where she was and unable to watch her daughter grow up. Rosemary and Rue picks up six months after she was able to escape as she tries to pick up the pieces of the life she used to have and is forced into investigating the murder of an old friend.
I liked Toby a lot. Urban fantasy so often balances murder with light humour, and while there are some sections that prove Toby does have a sense of humour somewhere she never makes a joke for the sake of it. This book is rather gloomy at times, but I wouldn’t expect anything else when I’m following a woman who’s lost everything. She doesn’t understand how the latest technology works, she’s embarrassed that she ended up getting caught up in the mess that she did, and her ex-fiance and their daughter have moved on without her. I wouldn’t be laughing either.
My favourite thing about this book, though, was the way McGuire built the world with its various lords and ladies and other fae royals, and all the creatures that inhabit that world. We learn about the significance of cats to the fae folk and the different kinds of creatures, such as kelpies and doppelgangers, that can cause havoc. For me it’s clear that McGuire has put a lot of thought into this world and even from book one it feels like Toby and the other characters are characters she treasures, and I love that.
Even so, the focus on the world is also what made this book nothing more than a 3 star read for me. 3 stars isn’t bad at all – if I give a book 3 stars it still means that I liked it – but for me this whole book felt like the prologue to the rest of the series. Not only that but I was a little disappointed with who the villain turned out to be, and I wasn’t sure how Toby couldn’t have figured that out sooner.
That being said, I’m confident that this is one of those series that’s going to get stronger and stronger with each book, and I don’t mind reading through a fun, easy, info dump kind of book if it means I get to enjoy the rest of the series with the knowledge I need to understand everything. In fact I can’t wait to read the next book!