Rosemary and Rue, by Seanan McGuire
August 31, 2009
Rosemary and Rue comes out tomorrow, but I got an ARC of this one so I was able to check it out a bit early.
It’s about October Daye, a changeling who rejected Faerie after her attempt to lead a partially human life was shattered by a curse. Toby does her best to get by quietly in San Francisco, but a desperate message from a murder victim forces her out of her self-imposed isolation. To hunt the killer, she has to rejoin fae society and navigate a dangerous world of politics and power. Toby will have to rely on old friends, and occasionally old enemies, to solve the murder and save herself.
Toby is a refreshing urban fantasy heroine, because she’s not too powerful or perfect. She has some interesting abilities (including one that makes her uniquely suited to a murder investigation), but she’s weak compared to the full-blooded fae. I like that because it means that she has to rely on her wits, it also makes her a little more dependent on her allies than some of the laughably overpowered protagonists that have been showing up these days. I also like that she doesn’t seem about to fall into that other heroine stereotype, the Mary Sue that all the guys want and most of the women are jealous over. (Can you tell that I’ve been reading a lot of cookie-cutter fiction lately?)
In addition to her moderate power level, Toby is characterized in a way that I found easy to sympathize with. She has tragedies in her past that she hasn’t fully dealt with. She’s smart and resourceful, but she has some pretty big blind spots when it comes to the people she thinks that she knows well. Many of these become obvious to her during the course of the book, but there’s at least one more character that I’m pretty sure will surprise her soon.
The story is a good mix of intrigue and action, and there are a few twists that took me by surprise. The setting is detailed and has a lot of potential. Toby visits the courts and domains of various fae, and she also spends time in a changeling dive that feels a little like a sleazy imitation of the full-blood courts. Each place has a distinct, solid feel, and makes me want to see more of the world than we’ve been exposed to so far.
If I had one minor complaint, it’s that Toby seems to spend a lot of time getting beaten up and/or falling unconscious. It’s hardly surprising given the danger she’s facing, and I wouldn’t necessarily call it excessive or say it doesn’t fit in. It’s just that I’m hoping that all of Toby’s future adventures don’t end up with her being quite so battered, because for some reason I tend to get bored with a series when the protagonist always seems injured.
I’d recommend this especially for fans of Illona Andrews or Patricia Briggs. Not so much because of similarities of character or style, but because there’s a level of uniqueness that makes this book stand out from the pack in the same way that theirs do.