Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
Synopsis from GoodReads:
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 love Seanan McGuire’s InCryptid series, but I went in knowing that these were written first (and, therefore, would likely consist of earlier writing issues – this isn’t meant as an insult or anything like that, but I’ve noticed that authors tend to develop the more they write. Shocker, am I right?).
First of all, let me just say that I love, love, loved her depictions of fae. She gave me everything I ever wanted to see from the fair folk – awesome and awful, terrifying and beautiful, whimsical and unchanging, with morality so far outside our own. It was perfect. So as a book about fae, I was completely satisfied.
But Rosemary and Rue is, of course, about more than just the fae.
I’m not sure that I’m sold on Toby. I feel for her, really I do, but I’m not sure I like her. I simply didn’t get a good feel for her in this book. She felt very flat and almost everything she did was a reaction. She didn’t stop to think other than a few times, and a person who’s too busy reacting is a victim, not a main character. I’m hoping to get a better feel for her in the next book.
My main complaint about Toby has to be ‘everybody wants her’. I counted at least three characters outright plus at least one more implied, and that’s a minimum. I hate that trope, and I hope to see it disappear. It’s also not even justified – the fae that I know, the fae that McGuire gives us, would want someone either super beautiful or absolutely ugly as well as someone with either a lot of power or absolutely no power. Toby is described as plain and not particularly powerful – these are not qualities that attract the attention of the fair folk. Although I’m taking ‘plain’ with a grain of salt since the POV is first-person Toby.
Speaking of romance, however, there are some pretty obvious clues about who Toby’s Love Interest is meant to ultimately be. But that’s not something that particularly bothered me because I’m used to this kind of thing in other urban fantasy series. And, like always, it’s the journey that’s important, not the cliche.
Jumping back to plot, I liked the twists that kept coming. I feel that the ultimate bad guy was a little obvious and I’m disappointed by his motivations, but I’ve read worse. And at least it made some sense instead of coming out of nowhere. It’s not very original, I suppose, but I liked what we found out along the way.
I’m not sure I liked how Julie’s subplot was handled, however. It was played too straight for my tastes, and, since parts of it were left dangling for future installments, I’m not sure I’m going to enjoy how it eventually plays out. We’ll see, because I can always be surprised, but right now it looks like cliche-city when there was a chance to do something different. (Sorry I’m being vague but I’m trying to keep out all spoilers)
Finally in regards to plot, I feel like the stakes exploded all over the place a little too soon. Toby ends up in really rough shape early on and then it just doesn’t stop. Yes, she’s part-Fae with advanced healing (compared to a human), but that’s only part of it. There was so much set up for future installments and I get that some of them were being used as red herrings (that didn’t really work as such for me), but overall it feels like the fae politics are getting too intense too quickly. We’ll see if they get dialed back – or put on the back burner – in book two.
And to everyone else who’s read this book – am I the only one left disappointed we only meet Evening post-mortem? Because she sounds so awesome but everything about her is told instead of shown because she starts off the main story deceased. We get maybe one flashback of her, but that’s it.
Wow, this is a very negative review for something I enjoyed! Because I did really like it! I guess I just also had a few problems with it that I wanted to air…
I’m still giving it 3.5 stars and I will read more eagerly as soon as I get my hands on book 2.
(Also, the pronunciation guide at the front… whoever wrote it doesn’t know how to pronounce Japanese words. I’ve heard that McGuire pronounces kitsune correctly, so I’m not blaming her for this, but it still almost made me drop the book the instant I opened it, so be warned of its existence.)