Friday, March 25, 2011

Rosemary and Rue: An October Daye Novel, Book 1

1.    Rosemary and Rue (June 8, 2010) - 4 out of 5
2.   A Local Habitation (March 2, 2010)
3.   An Artificial Night (September 12, 2010)
4.   Late Eclipses (TBA)
5.   One Salt Sea (TBA)
6.   Ashes of Honor (TBA)
7.   The Chimes at Midnight (TBA)

Author:   Seanan McGuire  
Narrator:    Mary Robinette Kowal   - 4 out of 5
Length:  11:16, purchased on audible

October “Toby” Daye had it hard growing up.  Being a changeling, the daughter of a very powerful fae and a human dad, she was forced to grow up in faery where she was treated as a second-class stepchild while her mother’s grip on her sanity slowly faded from being ripped away from her human husband. It didn’t get easier when Toby moved to the San Francisco area.  She tried it as human, finding a husband and having a little girl.  Then her job as a knight for the Duke of Shadowed Hills got in the way when the Duke's evil twin cursed Toby into living as a koi for 14 years.  Now, with her bounty-hunting business gone, her husband and daughter refusing to speak to her and her human life basically ruined, Toby refuses to have anything to do with her fae life, working as a night-time checkout girl, and living with two cats by herself returning no calls and dreaming that one day her daughter will call her back. And still, Toby can’t catch a break.  Before Countess Evening Winterrose is murdered, she forces Toby to find her killer and bring him or her to justice.  With no choice to do otherwise, Toby is dragged back into the world of the fae.

Love you more than fairytales: 
Once, about a decade ago, I read Christopher Vogler’s The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Maybe a few hours into this audiobook, I was getting flashbacks on The Writer's Journey. The structure of Rosemary and Rue is very formulaic, but for the record, that’s a good thing.  All good stories, all interesting plots, have certain features in common. The story, the twist, the archetypes, are all familiar, even mythical.  There is a very strong call to action here in the form of a binding – Toby must find the killer or she dies. There’s a mentor or two, and there are the gatekeepers involved. Less Odyssei and more Tobys, I say!  Overall, the audiobook presents a great mythical journey set in a modern-day fairy tale.  You get gripped from the first of Toby’s mishaps. Although, I have to admit that even though the storyline was very good, I only truly connected with Toby on the second part of the audiobook, after the awesome car scene over the Golden Gate Bridge.

The use of fantastic elements in Rosemary and Rue is pretty phenomenal. I’ve mentioned before here that I enjoy imaginative use of the fantastic in paranormal books, but I particularly enjoyed Seanan McGuire’s take on some of the more interesting fae.  For example, the kelpie you meet in the book is fascinating – a large black horse with glowing red eyes that just happens to smell like the sea, and of course have very, very sharp teeth. But what sets this kelpie apart from let’s say Patricia Briggs’s kelpie in the Mercedes Thompson series is that we don’t actually interact with Seanan McGuire’s kelpie.  This one is just part of the background of San Francisco’s other world. Oh, and there is nothing cuter than the idea of the rose goblin – a kitty cat covered with rose thrones that rattles them when it gets upset.  I, for one, always wished more cats were like porcupines.  It’s also nice to see a few more tales, tiger stripes, and fox ears on characters outside of anime.
Rose Goblin by Alicia "Kat" Dillman

However, I had this terrible feeling of sadness throughout the audiobook.  I’m hoping that as the journey progresses the listener might get to see Toby return to a more normal world, where she might be reunited with her human family, or find some sort of a happy existence beyond constant nightmares, living alone barely on minimum wage, in fear for her life.  Throughout Rosemary and Rue, it seems like the universe is out to kick Toby when she’s down.  Even the title itself is a terribly sad reference in the book that you only understand at the very end.

On Narration:
This is the first time I’ve heard Mary Robinette Kowal read.  She is also the author and narrator of Shades of Milk and Honey. It was an excellent reading, very appropriate for the character. The narrative voice is light and young-sounding, but with enough of an edge to pass for what I would consider the voice of a half-fairy, tiny, light, bounty-hunting kickass woman.  There are a lot of interesting accents, and moments of injury and weariness in the audiobook, and Mary Robinette Kowal’s reading carries the emotion.  My only criticism is that some of her more interesting or intricate accents, for Tybalt and Lilly, for example, require her to slow down her reading and enunciate very carefully, which does drag out certain parts.

Other Comments:
There are spoilers in this Review.  If you have already listened to this audiobook, read the book, or hate surprises, please click/continue below:

Aside from the sadness of Toby’s circumstances, I found Toby to be too-well liked by everybody for no reason I could specifically understand.  Now, don’t get me wrong, Toby’s one kick-ass chick, and I was all the way on board and rooting for her after that car scene where she decided if she was going to die, she’d be taking her back-seat assassin with her.  Still, I found it hard to accept how many supporting characters seemed to love her.  Loved heroines are not new to urban fantasy, but they almost always have some specific distinction that explains away wide-spread adoration aside from the heroine just being really pretty or really awesome.  I already mentioned Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson, who’s loved by a few supernaturals because of her status as one of the last remaining coyote skinwalkers, which gives her unique powers and a possibility of easier child-birthing for werewolves.  With Charlaine Harris’s famous Sookie Stackhouse, it’s almost ridiculous how many male supernatural characters fall for her until we find out in later audiobooks that she is part fae, which makes her intoxicating - literally attractive to vampires.  Every wolf drools over Kelley Armstrong’s Elena Michaels because she’s the only female werewolf ever. ‘Nuff said. Kim Harrison’s   Rachel Morgan gets the same affliction of attracting supernaturals, which we later on find out has to do with her unique blood disease which was fixed and basically makes her a born demon with special powers.  

At this stage of the series, I'm not seeing what's so special about Toby, except maybe her mother’s ability to ride the blood which she partially inherited.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand how Devon, the man who took her virginity and from whom she alone walked away, would be in love with her.  How Conner, a childhood crush separated by parents and propriety, would still pine after her.  How Sylvester, her lord, who basically became her father after she was taken to faerie as a young child, would love her like a daughter.  I even understand Evening’s interest in Toby, as a savior almost like the duped rich people in Chuck Palahniuk's Choke.  However, I’m just not getting enough backstory to understand why Lilly would sacrifice so much for Toby. Or why Luna is so interested in Toby’s welfare. Or why Tybalt seems so protective of her.  I’m sure we’ll get more a backstory to explain it in later audiobooks, and maybe I’m just too cynical, but I find it much easier to understand Cliff’s, her human husband’s, reaction – him dropping her call after she goes missing for 14 years – than I understand Lilly’s.

Also, the fourth book in the series, Late Eclipses, came out on March 1, 2011.  However, it is not available in audiobook format.  Seanan McGuire explains here that Brilliance Audio has not purchased the rights to the next three books.  I second Seanan McGuire that no listener or fan would be doing anyone any favors by nagging Brilliance Audio or obnoxiously demanding that they buy the rights to produce the next three October Daye books, but I also think a nice and respectful email of inquiry or expression of interest wouldn’t hurt.  

1 comment:

  1. I know, see I agree. It doesn't make sense.
    Also, I hated the whole turned into a goldfish for 14 years thing.
    I hated how little we learned about her backstory, the ending was confusing to me. I get that that guy at the end was someone she'd cared about but why was she even with him and those kids in the first place if she was this beloved fae?
    THen the whole thing about how she let someone get killed on her watch, which triggered the whole goldfish episode. Well...she is supposed to be kickass but she makes some rookie mistakes it seems.


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