Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On Changlings: Review of Rosmary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

Rosemary and Rue (October Daye, #1)This week I'm in a fairy frame of mind, so I thought I'd share a review of a book I read not too long ago: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire. Sadly, this book just didn't work for me. So why revisit it, why review it? Well, even though I disliked it, it's a mild dislike. And even though the negatives outweigh the positives, it had some impressive positives. Despite the bad start, I went out and bought the second book and I fully intend to read it. It wouldn't be the first time I disliked the first book in a series and ended up gobbling down the rest of them like candy.

This book has a definite case of exposition overload, a condition common to first books in a series, with a healthy dose of over-telling on the side. It's a book full of unrealized potential and falls just short of being good.

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD: October Daye is a changeling (half faerie, half human) who works as a privite investigator both in the human world and for her fairy superiors. The book opens up with her on a particularly dangerous case for the fairy world, when she is caught spying on the bad guys. They transform her into a fish and dump her into a pond where she's stuck for fourteen years. After the fish incident, which essentially ruined her life, she wants nothing more to do with the faerie world. She's forcibly drawn back into it, however, when an old friend, Evening, is murdered and charges Toby to solve said murder.

Now I want to comment first on the things I liked about the book. It has a great opening that manages to make you instantly involved in Toby's story. You feel sorry for her, and you're curious about what's going on with the villains and why she's in this situation in the first place, and eager to learn more about the faerie world. The world building has so much potential, using a lot of vaguely familiar folk lore and mythology as well as some unique ideas. The characters also had tremendous potential, though there are a few too many to really name.

The first and most pressing issue is Toby herself. In a first person narrative, the main character carries the story--if you like that character, chances are the book will be enjoyable. I did not hate Toby. I sympathized with her, I wanted things to improve for her, and I liked her personality just fine. But as a PI she seems useless. We are told at the beginning that she's good at what she does, despite not having much magic or physical power, but this is never shown. All we see is her stumbling along, not spotting clues until they fall in her lap, and getting injured. You could make a drinking game out of the number of times she's injured in this book. Toby also has some serious issues when it comes to her social relationships, and that was a bit off putting. She's very inconsistent, saying she dislikes a character but then acting in a way that demonstrates otherwise.

If your looking for an intellectually stimulating murder mystery, this is not the book for you. The villain behind it all is extremely obvious to the reader long before Toby catches on, but I guess the mystery isn't the point. The world building was obviously the author's priority. The plot rambles along, convincing you that Toby really has no idea what she's doing, while explaining various details about the faery world. In my opinion, everything would have been better if the author had stuck with the plot introduced in the prologue rather then getting distracted by Evenings murder. I would much rather learn about faeries through a story of court politics and kidnapping then watch a PI dance in circles around an obvious murderer.

The world building is the most positive aspect, but even that has it's issues. Much of it relies on the reader having heard some of the mythology once before. For example the author refers to Oberon or Mab very casually, not taking a lot of time to explain their role, significance, or place in this particular story. As mentioned, I would have preferred to spend more time learning about the faery world and less time chasing the villain. 2 Stars

On an unrelated not, tonight at 8pm is the book club chat over at Smart Bitches. We will be talking about A Night of Scandal by Sarah Morgan, which was my first ever Harlequin Presents. Can't wait to see everyone there. Happy Reading!

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