Review: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

Rosemary and Rue

Book One in the October Daye Series

by Seanan McGuire

Urban Fantasy | 256 Pages | Published by Corsair in 2015

| Rating |
four star

Urban fantasy is one of those subgenres which I love but don’t read nearly enough of. Aside from an extensive foray into The Dresden Files over the last few years, and the odd one or two other novels, my urban fantasy cravings have been left unfulfilled and ostensibly ignored. That was until I discovered the October Daye novels by Seanan McGuire.

Enchanting and entirely captivating from start to finish, Rosemary and Rue is a wondrous foray into the magical lands of the fae, and the gritty, urban sprawl of San Francisco in a narrative which deals out murder, intrigue and excitement in equal measure. This is a novel which rides a wave of pure entertainment, leaves you wanting more and makes you wonder why on earth it took you so long to discover it in the first place.

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.

The Winterrose is dead, murdered by person or persons unknown. With her dying breath she binds October ‘Toby’ Daye to find her killers or face death herself; a challenge not for the faint of heart and one which promises to shake this world, and the world of the fae, to the core.

As a former private investigator, Toby is no stranger to such a request – albeit with less deadly consequences should she fail – but with unknown enemies stalking her every move, a death curse cloying to take hold and a self-imposed exile from those who would aid her, this challenge is going to be anything but easy.

Seanan McGuire has crafted a richly detailed urban setting, one which takes what we know – or don’t know – of San Francisco and intertwines it with the strange, enchanting but ultimately dangerous world of the fae. McGuire effortlessly conveys the charm and grit of the city location whilst simultaneously weaving a thread of magic through its rough streets, narrow alleys and glistening bay to create a vivid picture of a vibrant, gritty and supernaturally dangerous city.

And not to be outdone by reality, the world of the fae is similarly conveyed with rich but short passages of description which seamlessly blend with the narrative – a narrative which maintains a consistent pace throughout and relentlessly drives the story forwards. The hierarchy of the fae, and their courts, politics and lifestyle, are described with enthusiasm, adding another intriguing dimension to a narrative, and emphasising the clash between fae and humanity.

With purebloods and changelings infiltrating the streets of San Francisco, and a protagonist who has obvious deficiencies when compared to the pureblooded half of the fae population, Rosemary and Rue is populated with a vast array of strange and interesting characters whose motivations range from the good, the bad and the completely psychotic. Their strange storylines entwine with Toby’s to create a rich and vivid depiction of a world beyond worlds, and add depth and interest to the fast-paced storyline.

But this is a novel about one (incredibly messed up but ridiculously determined) woman. Toby is a fascinating and complex character; a character who is incredibly hard on herself but remains incredibly likeable throughout – despite her tendency to throw obstacles into her own path. With the King of the Cats, a deranged violet-eyed ex, and a whole host of weird and wonderful fae lurking around the corner, life may be complicated for Toby but it’s certainly never boring.

While the style of the opening prologue didn’t instantly hook me, by the end of the first section I was completely absorbed. The narrative flows easily in an uninhibited torrent of magic, mayhem and excitement. Seanan McGuire’s writing is snappy, dynamic and thoroughly amusing throughout, and with nursery rhyme magic, close encounters of the watery kind, and numerous rendezvous with walking rosebushes, Rosemary and Rue promises great things for this highly entertaining series.

Rosemary and Rue is an wonderful introduction to the October Daye series, a series which provides a light-hearted, humorous and highly enjoyable foray into urban fantasy, and one which will be filling my (virtual) bookshelves for years to come. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a good urban fantasy with a touch of the fae – I’ve certainly not looked back.

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10 thoughts on “Review: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

  1. Oh, I heartily echo your recommendation! I’ve just finished reading this one – as you’ll have gathered from my TT – and really enjoyed it. I haven’t yet written the review due to a major technical glitch to do with a new monitor and an old computer inducing a violent migraine yesterday… Hopefully I’ll be back on track today!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was very entertaining. Urban fantasy tends to be my light hearted comfort zone (even if it can be quite dark!). And you definitely should! I really enjoyed January’s read along 😀


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