Our 1st League Guest Review: Rosemary & Rue by Seanan McGuire
A while back, JD entered our Rosemary and Rue ARC contest, but this was a contest with a catch, she'd have to review the book and become our very 1st guest reviewer. We plan to do this as often as we can, so if you're an author who wants in, let Mark know. And here it is...
I have to be honest, straight up – knowing I was reviewing ‘Rosemary and Rue’ made me read it with more of a critical eye than normal. My reading habits are exclusively for escapism so rather than reading this book for the sake of a good story (which is why I put my hand up for it in the first place), I was constantly thinking, asking myself and the book questions like ‘What does that character mean by that?’; ‘Why did that happen?’; ‘Where is the story headed because of this event?’ As a consequence, I figured out who was behind the mystery before the protagonist did. While the motive eluded me for a bit longer, I still worked it out before the protagonist. I finished the book feeling rather ambivalent about it and, therefore, a bit disappointed.
Then I started thinking about the novel for this review and realised it is a good, solid story.
A half-Fey trying to live in a human world, October ‘Toby’ Daye has tried to deny her Faerie heritage by creating a semblance of a normal human life. She has a husband and a daughter, her own private investigations business, even her own mobile phone which, in 1995, was a fairly new thing.
While she’s on the trail of a person she suspects has kidnapped the wife and daughter of a close friend, she finds her life changed forever.
Cut to 14 years later and Toby has lost her business and her own family. Just scraping by with a series of dead-end jobs, Toby has secluded herself from all that is Fey and refuses to have anything more to do with that world, even if it means removing herself from all of her friends, “[Faerie has] taken me away from the mortal world twice now. It doesn’t get a third try.” (pg 45)
But the Faerie world is a tenacious beast and Toby is thrust back into the life she left behind when she bears silent witness to the death of a friend, the Countess Evening Winterrose. In her dying moments, the Winterrose binds Toby, cursing her to find those responsible for her murder.
As her investigations continue, Toby tries to determine who is good, who is evil. Soon, she realises that much more is at stake than her own life if she is unable to find the killers. Understandably, the Winterrose’s charge becomes a very heavy weight to bear. There’s a line at this point in the narrative which stuck with me throughout the book and I’m still thinking about it - “I’ve never really left the pond. I still can’t breathe.” (pg 46) As soon as you finish the Prologue, you’ll understand why I found this so powerful.
The pacing of the story isn’t too frenetic and the breathing room between the action sequences aren’t at all tiresome. There’s enough going on to hold your attention and keep the story moving. The story itself is tight, never meanders, and there’s not too much exposition. McGuire’s writing itself borders on the poetic without it being boring poetry. One of my favourite lines is, “If there was ever a Cinderella, her glass slippers shattered under her weight and she limped home bleeding from the ball.” (pg 30) I won’t quote you all the lines I liked, there are too many.
The characters are good. Toby is a character I wouldn’t mind knowing. Yes, she’s stubbornly independent almost to the point of detriment, but from the get go I understood why. I was invested in her tale before the end of the Prologue. She’s judgemental and it takes a lot for her to change her mind. She’s also honourable, loyal, her quips humourous and she has just enough layers to make her a character I want to know better but not so many as to make her too hard to relate to. She kicks ass, but not literally – she’s very aware of her limitations and works with and around them. This is a refreshing change from the martial-art-expert-with-omnipotent-munitions-knowledge-and-has-untapped-supernatural-power I’ve begun to get tired of. In short, Toby is believably Good People.
Even the secondary characters have layers. I think I have a girl-crush on the Winterrose and I’m sad I won’t get to know her better. She sounded like a top chick. How can you not love someone who admits, “I prefer San Francisco... The lies are different here. When you’ve lived as long as I have, you start appreciating new approaches to dishonesty”? The story of Duke Sylvester and Duchess Luna I’d like to hear more of. And I want my own Tybalt. I have no idea if The King of the Cait Sidhe was intended as a sexy immortal, but I certainly read him as one. He can mock me any day...
McGuire’s mortals act like mortals. All their actions are typical of our race. The semi- and immortals act just alien enough to separate them from mortals but not so alien that their actions don’t make sense. I understand the motives of the ‘bad guy’. While I might not like the methods they employed, I sympathised with their cause. Too often, the ‘bad guy’ is just megalomaniacal and hopes for world chaos and destruction. Not so here and they are made all the more intriguing and their cause poignant because of it.
The world building was solid. I think even if I had never been to San Francisco, I would know what it looked and felt like just from this book. Her Faerie world is based around familiar Celtic ideas and I was indifferent to this side of the story at first although that was through no fault of the author. Had I not saturated myself with Celtic-based high fantasy fiction 12 years ago (to the point of near abhorrence), my opinion would be vastly different. If I had read this book 10 years ago, I’d be 10 years further along in my love for Urban Fantasy.
‘Rosemary and Rue’ is a good, solid novel and a fantastic debut. I look forward to reading more about Toby and her world. It really did almost make me believe again in Faeries.
So there you have it, straight from J.D. to you. Who's interested? Well you can pick up Rosemary and Rue at the bookstore tomorrow or at any online retailer. Go!