Saturday, May 14, 2011

Girl on Book Action: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
ISBN: 978-0-7564-0571-7


The world of Faerie never disappeared: it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own.  Secrecy is the key to Faerie’s survival – but no secret can be kept forever, and when the fae and mortal worlds collide, changelings are born.  Half-human, half-fae, outsiders from birth, these second-class children of Faerie spend their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations.  Or, in the case of October “Toby” Daye, rejecting it completely.  After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating into a “normal” life.  Unfortunately for her, Faerie has other ideas.

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose, one of the secret regents of the San Francisco Bay Area, pulls Toby back into the fae world.  Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby is forced to resume her old position as knight errant to the Duke of Shadowed Hills and begin renewing old alliances that may prove her only hope of solving the mystery...before the curse catches up with her.


My Thoughts:

If you’ve been following along, you will remember that I reviewed Feed some time ago and that it was written by a woman called Mira Grant, well, dear readers, Seanan McGuire is the same person (gasp! I know! I'm clearly a villain for revealing her secret identity.  You are now shocked! Shocked!).  Why am I telling you something that I’ve mentioned before (in the Feed review, have you read that yet? Why not? Pause and go read it, right now) and that you could easily find on Google?  Well, my snowflakes, it’s so you are prepared for the fact that I am going to be showering praise on yet another book.  While I’m repeating myself (indulge me), I’ll reiterate something I wrote when discussing Elizabeth Bear’s Blood and Iron: the book fills a void in my reading life.  This abyss was created when certain other writers abandoned interesting characters and mystery plots to write paranormal orgies instead.  These books use empty promises of plot to lure in the unsuspecting reader, but then do nothing but parade abnormally handsome men across the pages and the plot, if it is remembered at all, too often happens off-stage while the heroine is conveniently (or inconveniently unconscious).  Needless to say, I've got some issues with that type of book and I felt some trepidation at the outset of Rosemary and Rue.  Happily, my fears were unfounded (always a surprise).

Let me offer you my only piece of criticism up front, so that the gushing can commence in earnest. There was a pacing issue (for me): in the middle of the book Toby goes from one fight to the next to the next with barely a moment to breathe.  Different allies patch her up in between so she can keep moving and then she’s ambushed again.  I understand that it makes sense to show that her enemies are determined to see her dead, but it got to be a touch repetitive.  And then the ending felt a bit rushed – there was a big climax and then a couple of short chapters of summary.  I would have liked to have seen more detail on the aftermath, but since there are further books that wish may still come true (and really, this is a backhanded sort of compliment - I liked the story so much that I wanted to see more of it!).  And that’s it, griping over.  Almost painless when there is so little to address.

October is a believable protagonist.  She has flaws.  She has weaknesses.  She’s relatable.  She isn’t the most beautiful woman ever who just doesn’t realize her own beauty like some others (okay, okay, I promise I won’t use this review to underhandedly criticize other, inferior novels anymore).  You suffer when she suffers and you want her to succeed.  I couldn’t have asked for more in the way of a plucky heroine.

The world building was subtle and well done.  I wasn't lost -  not when it came to elements of Faerie and not in the real-world setting of San Francisco, although I have a tiny bit of knowledge of that area of the world.  The description of the terror that is the Bay Bridge really struck a chord – that place is horrifying.  I never felt like I was reading a big info-dump to get me caught up on the magical elements in the story, while at the same time getting enough background to understand who different people where, why there were important and how this world functions.

And, my dear readers, I like to think that I’m perceptive, that I notice things, that I’m adept at guessing the outcomes of mysteries, but I was truly surprised when the culprit was revealed.  Now, I suppose you could argue that I’ve been reading lazy mysteries (I assure you, I have), but I’m going to posit that it was the author’s skill and not any shortcoming on my part that made this work.  I am impressed.  Another thing that made me love this book is that when people are in danger, they are really in danger and characters you begin to like can and will die (I would add another snide, underhanded judgement of other inferior books here, but I won’t).  Having that sense of urgency in the narrative really drew me into the story more than having everyone be safe and happy in the end.  Life is not like that, why should fiction, especially fiction about mythical creatures and murders, suddenly coddle you?  It shouldn’t (in my not-so-humble opinion).

To make a long review short: I loved this book and I’ll be buying subsequent October Daye books, well, whenever my self-imposed ban on buying more books expires (which is probably soon, as I’m beginning to go a little crazy from lack of new treasures; also, I’ve been filled with awesome recently and deserve all the papery presents).  If you like urban fantasy novels and smart-ass heroines, you should definitely give this a go and if you prefer Mira Grant’s zombie-infested world, you can pick up the follow-up to Feed at the end of May (a fact that elicits a happy “squee” from me whenever I remember that that is very soon indeed).

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