Monday, December 12, 2011

Review: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire, Book 1 of the October Daye series

October Daye, fae Changeling, has a mystery to solve.

Of course, her last time investigating for the fae didn’t end well. In fact it ended with her spending 14 years as a fish. 14 years in which she lost everything, her mortal partner, her daughter, her job, her friends, her life – everything. She’s not eager to jump back in there.

But her friend, Evening Winterrose one of the few, if not only, friends she has managed to keep and the one who helped her put her life back together has been murdered. Horrifically, and brutally murdered with cold iron, the worst possible death of a fae. If that were not enough to inspire her to act, Evening called a curse on October before she died – a curse that demanded she find Evening’s killer or be destroyed by the curse. 

October must make contact with her old liege, her old friends and her enemies, juggle her old issues and handle one of the most powerful magical artefacts of legend all with the limited magic of a Changeling.

October Daye is an interesting character, despite some issues I have with her that I’ll go into later. She’s very much the bottom rung of fae society being a changeling and surrounded by forces that are much more powerful than her and always will be. She has her own place but isn’t comfortable with it and it’s clear throughout this book that she really doesn’t want to be here, doesn’t want to be dragged back into the fae world and isn’t comfortable navigating its murky currents

The world heavily involves the fae – which is always a favourite of mine. And it has an extremely diverse range of fae both shown and referred to, pointing to a lot of knowledge on the author’s part and a dedication to include more than the usual well trodden ground. I’m certainly eager to read more about it and I think I’d be tempted to read the next book simply for greater elaboration on the world.

Plotwise it’s a murder mystery. Detective mysteries are exceedingly common in the genre. Usually if it’s not a romance, it’s a mystery (and often both) which can make it hard for a mystery story to stand out. And, I have to admit, this book didn’t really stand out to me – but it didn’t stand out to me as awful either. The plot was interesting, it kept me wondering, the culprit wasn’t instantly obvious and the protagonist was intelligent and reasonable and lacked the sudden magical flashes of inspiration that so dogs many mysteries

It wasn’t super exciting and it did get tiresome that October spent as much time flat on her back healing from injuries than she did any actual investigating

Ok, my issue. I felt constantly that I’d missed a book, like there was a prequel I needed to fill in the gaps. Her being an investigator and a knight before, her interactions with the fae around her – it’s all missing. And because of that I feel like we’ve been catapulted into the middle of several ongoing relationships without the backstory that would explain them. Why does she go to Devin first and foremost when he acts like an arsehat, while keeping Sylvester at bay who is nothing but kindness? 

Why was she wary of going to Sylvester, afraid of being judged, when he accepted her back with joy and glee? Why and how is she running around all these fae, demanding their help and getting it while at the same time insisting that she can’t explain? Why can’t she explain? Why is she keeping secrets from them when they’re showing her such trust? I’m not sure why Dare suddenly decided to hero-worship October because, again, we haven’t really seen the side of her that would merit such worship (I also don’t really see the point of Dare and Manuel except to be fuel for October’s angst-engines).

I’m not saying all of this couldn’t be explained or is unrealistic – but none of it was explained in the book. I was missing a piece in the puzzle that would make all of these reactions more understood. Similarly there’s a lot of hints about how Simon and Oleander turned her into a fish – a whole plot there – but I’m not seeing any of it. I actually ran to google to double check that I’d really got the first book in the series. I’m hopeful more will be revealed in a later book

There’s also a few things she does that isn’t explained too much – most extreme of which is her deliberately annoying the Liudaeg, this uber powerful witch of extreme power. And I have no idea why – why would she do this? Again, I’m wary of calling it Spunky Agency because it feels more like I’m missing pieces of the puzzle.

Lastly, the protagonist is not very proactive. She’s reluctant to re-enter the faerie world and it shows – but she spends most of the book being injured, recovering from injury or fleeing danger rather than actually investigating and I’d rather have a character driven plot in my investigative murder mystery.
These books were pretty lacking in any real form of diversity that I saw, but nor did any tropes or –isms leap out at me and spork my eyes.

On the whole it was a nice read, but the chunks that were missing made it hard for me to be fully immersed. The story was interesting albeit not super tense and amazing and could have done with more pro-active participation from the investigator. I didn’t bore me however, nor was I ever tempted to stop reading or skip ahead – it was fun

Though this book could have been better for me, I will be approaching the next book with optimistic interest. Now the world has been introduced and October is finally back in it, I’d like to see more gap filling, more development and more October pushing the plot rather than being dragged by it. I have high hopes this series.