Author: Seanan McGuire
Publisher: DAW Books on September 1, 2009
Audio: Brilliance Audio narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal
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.
October ‘Toby’ Daye is half-human, half-fae, a changeling in a pureblood’s world. In the feudal society of the fae, Toby and other changelings are largely considered second-class citizens, fit only for amusement and minor tasks. Changelings have magic, but it is extremely limited; while Toby can create a passable glamour and use blood magic, she suffers the consequences when she pushes herself too far. And when you’re tenacious the way Toby is, you pretty much always push yourself too far.
It is this tenacity that earned Toby a place at Duke Torquil’s court as a Knight, a great honour to bestow on anyone, let alone a changeling, and the cause of considerable pureblood resentment. Her tenacity also led to the single greatest tragedy in Toby’s life: on a mission for Torquil, Toby is captured and transformed into a fish. Sounds kind of laughable, doesn’t it? It isn’t. Toby is gone for 14 years, presumed dead by her human fiancée Cliff and their young daughter Gilly. Her loyalty to her fae liege Torquil costs Toby her human family.
This push and pull between the fae and humanity is clearly going to be a driving force of the series, and I for one think it’s beautifully done. Toby has completely shut down since losing her family, refusing to see Torquil or any of her other fae friends. She’s barely scraping by when she is cursed by the Countess Evening Winterrose, charged to solve her murder or die trying. *Italian accent* Just when she thinks she’s out, they pull her back in.
To pull off this gig Toby’s going to need the help of some old friends – and maybe even some enemies. It’s through Toby’s relationships with these characters that McGuire really shines. We see her guilt at having failed Torquil’s mission; her attraction to and distrust of her former changeling lover and boss Devon; and her wariness of Tybalt, king of the catlike fae called Cait Sidhe. Toby is convinced that Tybalt hates her because of some old argument, but believe me when I say that isn’t the case. It’s pretty clear that the sexy, prowly king wants to cat nip our Toby, if you know what I’m saying. I’m eagerly anticipating the continued development of this and other relationships, and I’m particularly excited to see how McGuire approaches the estranged mother/daughter storyline.
I have to hand it to Mary Robinette Kowal, she did a beautiful job narrating Rosemary and Rue. Her tone conveys the mix of wry humour and subtle fear/anxiety that characterizes Toby, and she also did a great job voicing the younger characters like Manuel and Dare. I’ll definitely listen to more audiobooks narrated by her!
Sadly, few books are perfect and I did have a few issues with this one. If McGuire was going for accuracy, she should’ve titled this book The Taste of Blood and Roses instead of Rosemary and Rue. Of course, then the titles wouldn’t all come from Shakespeare plays. But in all seriousness, the phrase “the taste of blood and roses” is repeated at least 30 times in this book (probably a lot more than that but I didn’t start counting until the halfway mark). Personally I found that repetition really annoying, but maybe it would be less so if I’d read the book rather than listening to it. Regardless, the October Daye series promises to be one that I’ll love and devour – as quickly as I’m able.