Friday, August 28, 2009

Review – “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.
Rosemary and Rue is the debut novel from Seanan McGuire, the first in the October Day urban fantasy series. Except for the opening, the story is set in contemporary San Francisco, a reality in which the fae are real but hidden. The main character October “Toby” Daye is a Changeling whose life straddles both worlds. She is married to a human with a young daughter and earns her living as a Private Investigator doing work for clients on both sides. We join Toby in the mid-1990’s as she investigates the kidnapping of the wife and daughter of a fae lord who is a friend and ally. Waylaid in a trap by the conspirators, Toby is bespelled and transformed in an action that robs her of the next 14 years of her life before the spell finally fails, releasing her into a world wrought with tremendous change including the loss of her family who have moved on thinking her dead.

Toby is shell-shocked and depressed and retreats from all former associations which some readers may find makes Toby hard to like but it is a fall from grace that is absolutely essential for the person that Toby grows to be in the course of the novel. I found the opening portions of the book particularly intense, dark and tragic and I must say it truly grabbed me. I was horrified at Toby’s loss. But if that isn’t enough, a geas is placed on Toby that forces her to re-enter fae affairs to investigate a murder, a murder that she must solve or she will die – literally.
The key was the last piece I needed to make the situation perfectly frustrating: a murder without a motive, a curse without a cure, and now a key without a lock. If I could fit them together somehow, I would be in business.
Rosemary and Rue has a rich undercurrent of menace and constant threat of implied violence in its’ portrayal of the fae creatures and customs that creates an atmosphere ripe with tension that perfectly complements the action. The fae world is a harsh one and the life of the Changelings even more so. Toby’s pursuit of the truth is relentless and I can’t remember the last time a main character was put to the test with such fervour. The central mystery and final outcome has enough surprises and twists and turns to satisfy serious mystery buffs.
It's just that sometimes my cases were more Brothers Grimm than "Magnum PI."
Rosemary and Rue also has a delightfully fresh narrative voice. Every page has interesting turns of phrase and observations. It would have been easy to select dozens of quotations to share. The writing style alone would have been enough to keep me turning pages.
One of the valets pulled up in a sleek-lined sports car painted that particular shade of red peculiar to expensive vehicles and hookers' lipstick.
Despite its often dark tone, Rosemary and Rue often injects some light hearted moments such as Toby’s observation when casing an office -
The work spaces were almost all decorated with some small, personal touch—a photograph. a selection of small toys, a child's drawing. One of the desks was practically a shrine to Tinker Bell, decorated with a half dozen ceramic representations of the world's most famous pixie. I paused, looking at a picture of the little blonde bitch posed coyly atop a thimble. Every changeling in the world would love to shove her into a microwave, but Disney, alas, is more powerful than most of us could ever hope to be.
Even in the middle of an action scene, Rosemary and Rue manages to achieve a balance between the dark and the light -
I couldn't move; all I could do was stare, openmouthed. I'd never seen the King of Cats fight before. He was suddenly everywhere, made of nothing but fangs and claws and fury, snarling like a chainsaw trying to sing opera. Our witless assassin never stood a chance.
Rosemary and Rue is a startling good debut novel and destined for my top 10 list for 2009. October Daye the character and the series is one to be watched and savoured. Seanan McGuire has already completed the next two books and they are in the hands of the publisher and scheduled for release next year. I must also say that the series is also blessed with a winning combination of titles and cover art. With a dark, edgy mystery, plenty of magic and mayhem, humour and horror, Rosemary and Rue has something for everyone.

Official Seanan McGuire Website
Official Seanan McGuire Blog

Penguin Group/DAW
Published: September 1, 2009
ISBN #: 978075640571
Format: Paperback
Pages: 346

Read an excerpt.

October Daye Series:

  1. Rosemary and Rue
  2. A Local Habitation (March 2nd 2010)
  3. An Artificial Night (September 2010)
  4. Late Eclipses (TBD)
  5. The Brightest Fell (TBD)
  6. Ashes of Honor (TBD)

Newsflesh Trilogy (as Mira Grant)

  1. Feed
  2. Blackout
  3. Deadline


  1. Thanks for this great review. I loved the excerpt I read on her site and you've made me incredibly excited to get my hands on the book itself.

  2. Okay great, at least we don't have vampires, since I am on a reading diet and avoid them, so this one is on my radar.

    The excerpts really won me over.

  3. I've been looking forward to this one for a while. I think the author is somewhere along the lines of uh...hyper-genius. She sings, writes stories, poems, novels, songs, makes records, and comic books. This woman is busy.

  4. Doug,

    I have Rosemary and Rue on the way. Glad to know you enjoyed it. :)

    Great review.


  5. Angiegirl I am going to be a fan of this series. I love Holly Black and Melissa Marr and other fae stories and this series is seriously good.

    Harry not a vamp in sight. This is stylish and a great read.

    Mardel Seanan does seem to be a renaissance woman but then I think her roots are on scifi. Nudge nudge. Nuff said.

    Michelle I look forward to hearing what you think of it.


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