October Daye is a changeling woman, half human and half fae, just trying to make a living as a private investigator while raising her daughter and loving her human fiancé. When she is forcibly enchanted by a man she is tailing for her faerie liege lord, she not only loses fourteen years of her life to being a fish, she loses everything she worked for in the human world, including her family. When an old faerie friend, Evening Winterrose, puts a binding on Toby to find the person who killed Evening, Toby is forced to dive headfirst back into the politics and machinations of the faerie realm and the responsibilities of being a knight of the realm, whether she likes it or not.
For a first novel, Rosemary and Rue is imaginative and inventive. Urban fantasy is being done to death these days, but McGuire managed to come up with some new aspects of Fae that I’ve never heard of before. I won’t spoil the book by giving anything away, but let’s just say changelings are cool. The interactions between Fae and the human world are well described, and the relationships between the characters are believable and even touching at times.
The book tries to take a noir approach to the story, throwing in meetings in dark alleys and gun shots in the park. Unfortunately, Toby doesn’t come off as a very good private investigator at the end of the book. She seems to merely careen from one crisis to another without stopping to gather clues, questions suspects or witnesses, or really think things through at all. All her discoveries and Ah Ha! moments are thrown literally in her path, and she spends a disappointing amount of time being unconscious or injured.
It’s no fun for the readers when their heroine spends more time being rescued than solving the case or rescuing anyone herself. It can be temporarily put off by the circumstances surrounding Toby during her first case back on the job, so to speak, but there will hopefully be some improvement in her investigative abilities and procedures in the next book coming out in March of 2010.
Toby herself is a great character, aside from her tendency to become the damsel in distress rather than the knight in shining armor. There are allusions to several previous great deeds she performed in order to gain her knighthood, so her careless and reckless behavior becomes even more confusing. Hopefully we’ll learn more about her back story as the series progresses, and she’ll get her head on a little straighter. It is heartening to see a character at least cast in the role of knight, even if she’s not playing it that well at the moment. She is otherwise very independent, willing to take physical risks, and does at times display some pretty sharp intelligence.
There are a few characters of color or mentions of other, non-European aspects of faerie, including the Kitsune, a Japanese fox faerie known for its wisdom and intelligence. The character described as a Kitsune is a powerful and sharp woman, ruling equally with her Fae husband. There is also mention of an Undine friend of Toby being Asian in her features, and there are two changeling kids that Toby befriends who may be Hispanic. All four characters play very important roles in the storyline, so that’s a big plus. However, all the romantic relationships portrayed are hetero-normative, which is a little disappointing.
Overall, this is a unique take on a popular sub-genre, and I’m willing to give McGuire the benefit of the doubt when it comes to her P.I. descriptions and character development of Toby. I’ll keep looking for more diverse faerie origins and relationships. I’ll be picking up the second book in March and keeping my fingers crossed.