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Monday, March 1, 2010

Rosemary and Rue: An October Daye Novel by Seanan McGuire (Also: It's my birthday!)

I decided to give you a book review today.  You could say I'm celebrating my special day by sharing one of my (so far) most exciting reads of 2010!

Title:  Rosemary and Rue: An October Daye Novel
Author:  Seanan McGuire
Reviewed Format:  mass market paperback
Release Date:  September 1, 2009
Pages: 368

October “Toby” Daye--or “Tobes” as I prefer to call her (thank you, Julie!) is in a unique position.  She’s half faerie, half human with little to none of the benefits of either and all of the consequences of each.  Her magical abilities are so limited that any exertion on enchantments and the like makes her ill; unlike pureblood Faeries, Tobes (yes, I’ll be referring to her in the rest of the review with that name.  That’s how much I like it) won’t get to live in immortal boredom.  Sure, she has a longer than average life span compared to regular humans, but what’s a couple of hundred years when she could have eons?  Aside from these two rather annoying side effects of her pedigree, Tobes has other things to consider: the underside of most pureblood noses (or other olfactory organs) who see Changelings like Tobes as less than worthy of the air space, much less their attention.  It’s all Tobes can do to ignore their gross prejudice, cozy up to the more enlightened groups of Faerie-infested San Francisco and the greater Northern California Bay Area (ah, home), and earn her living working as a P.I.--Fae services for hire.

It figures she’d get into trouble on assignment for a dear friend, spend the next 14 years of her life as a fish and come back only to find her human partner and quarter Fae daughter don’t buy her bogus story (not to mention: she can’t exactly tell them the truth).  Now Tobes is working the evening shift at the local Safeway (a grocery store) and on her own in an apartment with two Siamese cats as roommates doing everything in her power to stay out from under the Faerie radar.  Considering where she lives, that’s about as impossible as it is inevitable that the story must go on!  When Tobes comes home from work one morning there’s a strange series of messages on her machine, all from the same person.  Since it’s a Faerie Tobes hasn’t had any dealings with in awhile, she’s wary and hesitant.  Before too late, there’s been a murder and Tobes has more important matters warring for her attention than hungry cats, angry managers, or demanding landlords.

Rosemary and Rue is one of those novels I love and had so much fun with, I almost don’t want to screw those super fantastic feelings of glee with a review.  I could flail and talk so fast with phrases such as, “OH MY GOD I LOVED THIS BOOK YOUGOTTAREADIT,” but really, that’s not too convincing and wouldn’t get me anywhere except (most likely) kicked out of whatever quiet place I’ve seen fit to have an explosive fan moment inside of (church, library, cemetary, etc...).  I’m going to try my best not to devolve this review into my base reactions and give you something I’m a little more proud of.

There are so many things to enjoy about this book.  Seanan McGuire has an amazing (and, as it turns out, educated) perspective on Faeries and folklore.  Rosemary and Rue is peppered, née, doused liberally (dipped and drenching in) the type of Faeries nightmares are made of: selkies staking out San Francisco streets to lure gullible citizens into the murky depths of the bay; piskies with nasty tempers; even the more well-adjusted species have their darker sides.  With so much hierarchy in the still very feudal Fae ruling system, it was almost surprising to see similarities between how the Fae conduct themselves regarding humans, an “interesting diversion” (p. 127), and how the Greek gods did.  References to Titania and Oberon came against phrases like “First-born” (p. 306) to strengthen this connection, making the Fae of McGuire’s world into a pantheon of legends.  Quite naturally, as all larger than life figures, the penultimate Mother and Father of Faerie are spoken of in hushed tones, the realities of their lives having risen into mythological obscurity.  The ambiance of the text reflects this grandeur and finds a sense of rootedness in time as well as place.  It’s in this world of ages that suddenly McGuire lets lose an absolutely amazing cast of likable (albeit sometimes “love to hate”) characters.

The Cait Sidhe--Tybalt and Julie in particular--are my favorite.  I won’t be able to look at another cat again without thinking it’s a secret spy from the Court of Cats.  If you think the Cait Sidhe are the only mercurial rival to their domestic feline counterparts, you’ll need to take another look at McGuire’s Fae.  It seems as if nearly every species is equal parts temper and unpredictability.  Tobes experiences this first hand when she’s not only confronted by a nasty Red Cap with a gun full of iron bullets, but a Doppelganger as well--vicious and wickedly dangerous the moment Tobes drops her guard.  As our narrator points out, “It all came down to blood and roses” (p. 311), a generous reminder that getting injured and regular physical reminders of the importance of her mission are largely what drives Rosemary and Rue forward.  For all that I loved this novel, I almost felt it should have been called “Blood and Roses” instead!

If you want a fresh, exciting, and utterly un-put-downable story of multicultural faeries where the unwritten rules of the Fae are archaic, but elegant and operate on propriety, where Pixies sweat glitter, and where it’s impolite to say “thank you,” where a woman fighting tooth and nail for a chance to be happy only to discover she has friends in more places than she ever imagined, then you absolutely have to read Rosemary and Rue.  I’ll be quite ready to pick up my copy of its sequel (and all subsequent releases), A Local Habitation, on March 2nd.

How many Jawas recommend this book?


Lily Child said...

Alright, I am going to pick this book up TODAY. Both you and TJ have raved over it! I must read it!!!

Anonymous said...

I am SO glad that you enjoyed this series, because I am HOOKED myself. I, too, am really hooked on the cat characters (and indeed it looks like Tybalt is shaping up to be the fan favorite).

Now get A Local Habitation so we can flail together and discuss the most recent happenings in the Toby world. Because ALH is even more awesome than R&R!

Erika said...

@Lily: I agree--you must read it. :) I think you'd like it and now's the best time! A Local Habitation is out tomorrow.

@TJ: I love Cait Sidhe!! I'm going tomorrow to buy a copy of ALH and wil jam it into my reading schedule. Seriously, I loved this book. There shall be much flailing.

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