Review: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

Book: Rosemary and Rue

Author: Seanan McGuire

Pages: 346

Source: Owned, TBR

Publisher: DAW

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Fae

Publication Date: September 1, 2009

Goodreads Summary:

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.

My Review:

Regular readers of my blog will already know this, but I am a huge fan of Seanan McGuire.  I’ve decided that 2023 is the year I’m diving into her backlist, and I started with a re-read of the first book in her October Daye series, Rosemary and Rue.

Rosemary and Rue takes place in San Francisco, California in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.  The book follows events in the life of a changeling – part fae, part human – named October Daye, and it is told from her perspective.  October, or Toby as she is called by friends and family, is a private investigator, but being a changeling means she doesn’t just take on mundane human jobs.  In fact, October is a knight in one of the fairy courts, and most of her jobs involve investigating fae matters and problems. 

Naturally, when the wife and daughter of her liege go missing, Toby is called upon to investigate the disappearance.  Toby follows her suspects into the Golden Gate Park only to realize too late she’s in over her head.  The result is she gets transformed and stuck in the park, away from her boyfriend and daughter and everyone else she knows, for the next fourteen years.

When Toby finally manages to break the spell cast on her, she emerges into a world totally different from the one she left.  Her daughter and boyfriend want nothing to do with her.  They are human and didn’t know she was fae, so they think she disappeared and abandoned them for no reason.  This is a blow to Toby, and she decides to lead as human a life as possible and ignores anything to do with the fae.

Then, the fae woman that helped her integrate back into society after Toby’s disappearance is murdered.  Not only that, the fae woman cast a curse on Toby forcing her to investigate the murder.  This fae was hiding something.  Something powerful enough to drive those seeking it to murder.  Now, if Toby wants to survive, she has to find out who the murderer is, and she has to dodge assassins sent by the murderer along the way.  For all Toby tried to stay out of the fae world, the fae world just dragged her right back in.

I really enjoyed this book both times I read it.  The book being written from Toby’s perspective really helps the reader understand how she thinks and feels and what motivates her.  Being a changeling isn’t easy.  Every changeling has to make a choice to be part of the human or the fae world.  When this choice occurs is different for every changeling depending on how powerful their fae blood becomes.  If the changeling chooses the fae world, they are sent to be raised in the Summerlands.  Leaving isn’t easy, but Toby managed it anyway.

Even choosing to live in the human world isn’t a solution, though.  Being a changeling is like being from two different worlds but not belonging fully to either one no matter how hard she tries.  Toby belongs more to the fae world than the human world, though, in the end.  Her pretending to be human and having a child by a human (something the fae call playing at being a “Faerie Bride”) ended up hurting her, and she wound up back in the fae world anyway. 

Speaking of the fae world, this book manages to give the reader enough information to navigate the fae world as Toby needs it.  We learn about fae affairs and culture as they are encountered, and I thought the pace of the world building was just right.  I can definitely appreciate how the information about the fae in this book sets up a world that can be used for a long-running series such as this one.  I enjoyed reading about the different types of fae, what powers they have, and how interbreeding between different kinds of fae and between fae and humans can cause problems or interesting combinations of those powers.  It definitely piqued my interest enough to want to read more about it.

The mystery at the heart of the story also served as a framework for world building.  As Toby navigates the different fae locations and encounters people from her past, the reader is introduced to these people and places as well.  It helps build both Toby’s character and the characters of those she meets.  I particularly want to read more about the Court of Cats.  However, the resolution to the mystery was a bit predictable, and the number of times Toby is attacked and saved from the brink of death during the course of her investigations became a little repetitive. 

Overall, this was a great start to an urban fantasy series.  The book managed to introduce a main character with depth and strength, and the fae world is interesting enough to make me want to read more.  The details in the story also managed to emphasize how much had changed for Toby in the years she was enchanted without making the details feel dated.  The mystery and investigation were a bit lacking, but as a framework for introducing the world and characters, I think it served its purpose.  I just hope Toby manages to hold her own against her foes in future installments.

My Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I gave Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire four out of five stars.  If you like urban fantasy, but you’re tired of reading about vampires and werewolves, this may be the series for you.  The fae world is complex and detailed, and October Daye is a flawed heroine that manages to be believable.  I’m definitely going to continue this series.  I may even get caught up by the end of the year!

Have you read any of the October Daye series? What about Seanan McGuire’s other books? Let me know in the comments!

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