October Daye (who goes by Toby) is a changeling, born of a pureblood fae mother and a human father. As such, she belongs partially to both worlds and fully to neither. Her half-blood status makes her a second-class citizen in Faerie, while her true appearance (including pointed ears) needs disguising in the human world. Although her magic is not as strong as a pureblood’s, Toby distinguished herself enough to become knighted in a Faerie court. As the book opens, she works as a private investigator — until an assignment goes terribly wrong and she loses everything she cares about.
Afterward, Toby wants no part of Faerie, its dangers, its cruelty, and its politics. She turns her back on her liege and tries to live anonymously in the human world. But when her fae not-quite-friend Countess Evening Winterrose is murdered, Toby sets out to find who killed her and why. She has to — Evening bound her with a curse that will kill her if she fails.
The strengths of Rosemary and Rue are in its characterization and world-building. Toby is a multifaceted character with interesting and believable flaws who wrestles with both internal and external conflicts. She’s been wounded and feels bitter, but she rises to the challenges she’s presented with. And she learns some things about herself and others that cause her to grow as a character. Although the plot is essentially a mystery, the novel feels character-driven because of its strong portrayal of Toby.
Rosemary and Rue is set in San Francisco, a place where the worlds of Faerie (the Summerlands) and humans intersect. McGuire conveys the complexity of Faerie –and the difficulties that face a changeling living in the human world — without slowing down the story to dump information on the reader. The result is a richly imagined world that feels real.
Rosemary and Rue is the first novel in an urban fantasy series by debut author Seanan McGuire, and I’m looking forward to the next book, A Local Habitation, which comes out in March 2010.
Note: I purchased this book myself and derive no personal gain from reviewing it here.