Review of Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

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It’s an okay cover. I like the pose of the protagonist, but I could do without the gritty texture.

Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire. ★★1/2

I didn’t find Rosemary and Rue terrible, but I didn’t find it intriguing either.

Rosemary and Rue centers on Toby Daye, a half fae detective who’s trying to live a normal human life. But when Countess Evening Winterrose is murdered, Toby is pulled back into her old world as she hunts for the killer.

What made Rosemary and Rue stand out from many similar urban fantasy novels was the use of Celtic mythology instead of the typical vampires and werewolves. I did like the use of Celtic mythology, but it wasn’t enough to get me involved in the book.

The plot itself didn’t feel very suspenseful or coherent. Instead of a single, driving story, it felt like a bunch of scenes just strung together. Events happen, but they don’t have much of an impact, either emotionally or on the plot.

Some of the most interesting elements were set up by the prologue but were left underutilized. I was really hoping that there would be some sort of reunion between Toby and her daughter – it would give a relationship to center the book around (and one different than the normal romance) and give me a reason to care about Toby.

The characters were forgettable. I’ve already forgotten most of their names, and I’ll probably forget them entirely in a few more months. None of them really breathed, not even Toby, who I never was able to connect with.

I won’t be picking up the sequel, and I wouldn’t recommend it either.

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7 thoughts on “Review of Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

  1. I made the mistake of reading the next two books in hopes that it would get better. I had high hopes given that most “urban fantasy” at the time are about vampires, werewolves, or demons (oh my!). The traditional scary fae seemed like a different path to take in this genre.

    The one thing that really bothers me about this series is that Toby is an incompetent detective (at least in the first 3 novels). Much is made about her half-human thinking giving her an edge in investigating crimes, yet a lot of people die before she figures anything out, and when she does, it is usually too late affect an outcome. Her reputation far exceeds reality. I was really annoyed that her solution in the first novel was a cheap “deus ex magica”… you’d think after all the exaltation of her human-half, she’d solve it using good old fashioned reasoning. I don’t mind characters making mistakes, but give me reason to be impressed.

    I wouldn’t expect any real resolution between Toby and her daughter anytime soon. This is modeled after ‘hard-boiled’ detective fiction. It is convention that these detectives have no family or congenial ties to society; can’t be hard-boiled if you are not bitter.

    1. You’re right – she really stumbles on the answer at the end. Actually, I don’t think she does much reasoning or detective work. She just goes from one person trying to kill her to the next reads the blood from various deaths to propel her case.

      I tend to think detectives are more interesting if they have a tie to society somehow – it gives them something to care about, and emotional connections make it easier for me to like a character.

      1. I’m not a fan of the hard-boiled detective either. Just as my favorite SciFi stories tend to be, on a deeper level, about present society or what it means to be human, my favorite mysteries show the intricate interactions between people of differing social strata. Those types of mysteries are best when the main character has a real stake in society.

        I notice that the hard-boiled genre tends to be popular in the USA, where the mystery can’t be solved by somebody who is part of the system (gov’t… police…), which is similar to a lot of old Westerns where the stranger rides in to town, saves them, then rides away; for some reason the hero can’t be part of the community. The British tend to have detectives that generally are part of society like Morse (even though he is a loner, he’s a cop in the end) or Cadfael (a monk). One notable exception would be Columbo TV series where 95% of the shows are about his betters annoyed with this messy working-class cop getting in their business.

        Anyway, I like the idea of “Urban Fantasy”, but I haven’t found a book I really liked. A friend recommended the Dresden Files series. I thumbed through it, and it looks promising. It is in the hard-boiled mode, but the main character seems to have a sense of humor about it.

      2. For urban fantasy, I’d suggest London Falling. It’s about a team of policemen who suddenly are able to see the other magical side of London and have to solve a supernatural murder. Since they’re a team of four people, there’s much less of the “lone detective” feel.

  2. I absolutely agree with you on October Daye, Steph. RC, a number of your objections to the series hit home. If October is supposed to be a detective, she isn’t very good at it at all. If you want a non-USA detective series, give Peter Grant (by Ben Aaronovich) a try. He’s an actual London police detective, and Aaronovich does a wonderful job of building Peter as a character. The pacing is sometimes off, but I love the humor and feel.

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