Why did I get it: I’ve been curious about this series for awhile because I keep hearing it’s great, and I enjoyed reading Seanan McGuire’s Sparrow Hill Road stories.
How I would rate it: 4 out of 5 stars – Very good but there’s some kinks to be ironed out.
My Summary: I’m going with what it says on GoodReads. This book is too hard for me to sum up.
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: The book started off strong and honestly I still think beginning was probably the best part. I really liked the characters and what was going on. Then, you know, it ends up that’s not where the book really is going to take place. I didn’t mind completely although I still feel a little cheated because I liked and still like how things were for Toby originally.
Anyway, the setting and the world were both wonderful throughout. The writing is really great over all too. McGuire really understands how to blend Urban with Fantasy in a very artful way. There was a lot of darkness to this world too, which gave it a noir feel and a lot of edge. McGuire has a lot of new ideas coming together with a lot of old stories, which was really, really awesome.
As a fan of minor characters, I also liked being introduced to a plethora of them even though I’m worried I’m not going to remember all of these names. But still how often does a person get to read a book featuring undines, roanes, kitsune, bridge trolls, and rose goblins?*
In terms of the main protagonist, I liked Toby pretty much instantly. It would have been hard not to considering the cards fate dealt her. I really enjoyed reading of her hopeful former life and then her bleak present, but in the present I think it became harder for me to like Toby. I did appreciate that she became so complicated with so many layers and defenses up though. As a reader I really want to be there to watch the layers peel away and the walls get stripped down slowly.
But I can’t lie. I had a couple of problems with the book. These problems weren’t enough incentive for me to give this book a horrible rating, of course, but still I think they’re worth pointing out.
First person is well and good, but I really didn’t like the endless internal monologing or talking clever to cats.** Sometimes it works to make your character a loner, but in a book full of people aching to be a part of Toby’s life… It made no sense to me. I get that she’s experienced something no one can fully understand, but she never even gives people a change and there’s a lot of love for her and some of it was wonderfully platonic. I wish she’d taken a second to appreciate what she had.
Anyway, Toby had no one to bounce ideas off of. In fact, Toby just kept shutting down and not letting caring people in on her problems. Granted it was for their own protection, but I question her logic even in that regard since instead of letting them know, she goes to ask for help from a guy she even acknowledges as abusive and dangerous.
I get that it’s hard for her to make connections and I don’t expect her to make new friends over night, but really it’s hard to deal with pages and pages of characters talking to pets who don’t talk back or themselves. A sidekick or something would have been great. Or she should just make Tybalt hang out with her. Clearly he likes her and at least he’s genuinely cool. Or Sylvester who was absolutely awesome and so sweet. Or Lily who really cared about her. I mean seriously. She had such great people to be around and she chose stupid Devin.
Also if guys have to like Toby en masse, can they at least not be lame or sketchy or married? Having nearly every guy that liked her being lousy in some way drove me nuts. I also didn’t find it particularly great that women who liked Toby were either maternal towards her or younger sisters in need of guidance. And when they didn’t like her, they had a few screws loose.
To make matters worse it is eventually pointed out that one of the women who didn’t like Toby had been through a really traumatic experience just like Toby had and… Well, to me it seemed like that would be useful. Surely they could build a connection over time, but no. McGuire decided to have the woman’s husband, Connor, be all into Toby and the woman just be regarded as a pain in the ass because she can’t cope with her pain or issues in an attractive, friendly way. Ugh. It was a minor subplot and yet I still have no idea why any of this actually needed to be in the book. At all. It added nothing, and just left a bad taste in my mouth.
(End of Problems)
Ultimately though there’s just too much good going on in Rosemary and Rue for me to dislike it or to give it a very bad rating. Even the worst aspects of this book could have been much worse in the hands of a less-skilled writer. Besides, Seanan McGuire has really added to Urban Fantasy and to books on Faerie in a way that I did enjoy and do appreciate.
So in conclusion and in spite of its flaws, I am glad I read this book. Rosemary and Rue is unique, it’s something different, and the world was awesome. And on the whole it was pretty darn good. I definitely think Seanan McGuire is a good writer and only likely to get much, much better.
* Answer: Not very.
** Not Tybalt. Her pet cats. And somehow this monologing and talking to cats reminds me too much of the awful Frank Miller film of The Spirit. Also not a good sign or comparison to be able to make.