Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rosemary and Rue

I first encountered Seanan McGuire at Aussiecon. She was on a couple of panels that I attended. I found her amusing and entertaining. After seeing her win the John W. Campbell award (and tiara) for best new speculative fiction writer I decided to check out some of her work. I started at the beginning, because I'm odd like that. For Seanan the beginning is Rosemary and Rue, the first of her October Daye Urban Fantasy mysteries.

Aside from Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden books, I haven't read a lot of Urban Fantasy recently. Most of it seems to involve hot, tough, ass kicking female PI's, who spend more time having steamy relationships with vampires and werewolves than they do investigating mysteries.

Seanan's heroine; October 'Toby' Daye, is a changeling, the result of a union between a Daoine Sidhe female and a human male. As such Toby walks a fine line between two worlds; her very mundane human life in modern day San Francisco and that of a knight errant in the hidden and shadowy faery kingdoms.

The prologue to Rosemary and Rue introduces the readers to Toby and sets up the premise, the end of it was like a punch to the guts and left me gasping for breath, mouthing 'What the...?"

Toby has spent most of her life trying to deny her fae half and seems to have been relatively successful, when a cruel and brutal act draws her back in. Charged with finding out who murdered her friend the Countess Evening Winterrose, Toby suddenly finds herself fighting for her own life, renewing old acquaintances and reviving petty rivalries, playing a dangerous game and once again realising that her own actions have very real consequences for people other than herself.

Whilst reading the book I was reminded often of Jim Butcher's wise-cracking wizard Harry Dresden. Seanan McGuire has imbued her book with the same noirish feel as the Dresden Files. Toby moves between San Francisco and the faerylands, and Seanan's descriptions of San Francisco (the city where she lives) are very real and gritty, she displays intimate knowledge of the urban landscape of the southern Californian bay city. There are a couple of things that set Rosemary and Rue apart from most Urban Fantasies on the market today. One is the use of faery as the supernatural, it's refreshing to see nary a fang or claw of vampire or werewolf, not to say that they may not make an appearance in later books, but they were not present in the opening volume. Seanan was also not afraid to move away from the better known celtic faeries, occasionally using lesser known creatures such as Peris and Kitsunes. This was what I expected Laurell K. Hamilton's Merry Gentry series to be when I first picked it up, but as with the same author's Anita Blake books, the sex became more important than the story. There is sex in the October Daye novels, but at least in Rosemary and Rue it wasn't the focus of the story and it was not explicitly described.

The mystery was solved at the end and the book is standalone, but there's plenty more of Toby's story to be told and Seanan McGuire has given herself a lot of scope for further novels. Two sequels: A Local Habitation and An Artificial NIght are already out, with two more Late Eclipses and The Brightest Fell due to be released in March and September 2011. I'll definitely be reading and hope that others also discover October Daye.

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