Rosemary and Rue ~ Seanan McGuire

  • Title: Rosemary and Rue
  • Author: Seanan McGuire
  • Series: October Daye #1
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Format: Audio book
  • Source: Library
  • Reviewed by: DarthVal
  • Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Description:  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.

Review:  Rosemary and Rue is the first book of the October Daye urban fantasy series. It is also the first time I’ve experienced any books by author, Seanan McGuire. For a first book, it holds a lot of promise.

The story follows reluctant fae investigator October “Toby” Daye. She is a changling, half fae, who has tried to distance herself from her heritage and hide away from her problems in the human world. Unfortunately, she is compelled to investigate the murder of a close friend and member of the fae royalty or risk her own life.

Toby’s character fits into the fragile strength mold. She is wounded and flawed, but her intelligence and resourcefulness carry her through. The author keeps her focused on the mystery at hand, although she does occasionally drift off into the land of woe is me. While she is not a stand-out character, she has enough potential for the reader to root for her.

In addition to Toby, we are introduced to entire of ensemble of vibrant characters, who I suspect will turn up in future books. Many of these characters are cast with ambiguity, leaving a lot of room for the world to grow and blossom. She also casts many of the fae in a very anthropomorphic fashion. Take for example Tybalt, Lord of the Cats, a character for which I have a particular fondness. His self-interest manifests itself in a fashion totally fitting feline fashion, as do his speech patterns and mannerisms. I sense this cat-like character has at least as many hidden layers as a cat has lives.

The world building uses the basic framework of fae mythology and then diverges into McGuire’s interpretation. She focuses a lot of attention on the challenges faced by the changlings who fit into neither the human nor the fae realm. Again, there is nothing particularly striking about this world, but it has potential.

There is enough adventure in this book to make it fun. Plus, McGuire does a good job of weaving in elements of future intrigue. It is enough to throw the reader off the trail to solve the mystery at hand, yet not so much that it leaves one frustrated by lack of closure at the end. There is clearly more story to be told, as you would expect with the start of a series.

The Lady of the Sorrows ~ Cecilia Dart-Thornton

  • Title: The Lady of the Sorrows
  • Author: Cecilia Dart-Thornton
  • Series: Bitterbynde #2
  • Genre: Fantasy
  • Format: e-book
  • Source: Own copy
  • Reviewed by: Erica, Guest Reviewer
  • Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Description:  Though her memory remains clouded, Imrhien must take vital news to the King. As always, changes of fate and fortune occur and dangers threaten her very life.

Review: Warning: this review contains spoilers for the first book, The Ill-Made Mute.

 Wow, what a difference one book makes! This second part of the Bitterbynde trilogy is a much better effort than the often rather wordy and plodding first part. Where in book one the prose was frequently needlessly complicated and frustratingly obtuse, in this book the language is rich and powerfully evocative. It is still complicated, but the author seems to have found her voice and come into her stride, and I found this a gripping read from start to finish.

In book one we were introduced to Imrhien, a mute youth with a hideous face scarred by a plant called paradox ivy, and no memory of anything that happened before waking up in the bowels of Isse Tower. Midway through the book it was revealed that the lad was in fact a girl, and the book finished when she reached the one-eyed witch whose knowledge cured her facial disfiguration, which also restored her voice.

Thus presentable and able to speak her piece, Imrhien must travel to the royal court to inform the King-Emperor of the vast treasure she and the adventurer Sianadh discovered in book one. To remain inconspicuous she dyes her – very rare – blond hair, changes her name to Rohain and uses her newfound wealth to set herself up as a lady from a faraway region. In this disguise she gains audience with one of the king’s most trusted men, and the treasure is recovered, gaining Rohain a privileged position at the court. This in turn gives her the opportunity to try and find out what happened to Thorn, the brave Dainnan knight who protected her throughout the latter half of the first book.

To say more of the plot would give away too many major revelations, but as before the book is rich with creatures and stories of Celtic legend, and these are often interwoven with the main tale or interrupt it briefly.

About halfway through the book takes a major turn in a completely different direction, which is confusing at first but makes sense once you get to the end of the book. It is an unexpected twist, and it brings the scope of the book up considerably, compared to the first one. In a way it feels like the author wasn’t entirely sure where she was headed in the first book, and in only became clear in the second book.

I personally very much enjoyed this book, but it isn’t for anyone who likes their reading light and fluffy. The language is too complicated, often too old-fashioned to be easy going, and I could have done with a few less prithees and gramercies. I also suspect that I had an easier time with the world itself, as I have some background knowledge of many of the faerie creatures encountered throughout. Still, if you do not mind encountering unknown words and are ready for a very rich world of endless forests, vast stretches of landscape inhabited only by creatures both seelie and unseelie, and are ready for a story that keeps taking things up a level, this is a good book for you. You’ll just have to work your way through the plodding first book first, or you won’t have a clue what’s going on.