Rosemary and Rue, by Seanan McGuire

Rosemary and Rue Book Cover Rosemary and Rue
October Daye #1
Seanan McGuire
Urban fantasy, Supernatural
1st september 2009

I have to start by telling the tale of how I came to read this book, because it describes my life as a reader of things, and I want to share. Okay? Okay.

It starts a few years back; I'm busy trying to read all the Hugo nominees, so I pick up this Feed book, by Mira Grant. I've noticed some buzz around it before, but dismissed it, because it looks like a pretty average zombie novel.  It turns out to be a great zombie novel - full of the kind of things I want, which is tons of information about the spread, the virus, the mechanics of the infection - and good characters in a setting that allows them to do things I like to read about them doing.  So I read the rest of the trilogy and the tie-in stories. I realise Mira Grant is another name for Seanan McGuire.  I read the new series starter Parasite, which also pushes all of my buttons, at least all of my oooh, parasites!-buttons,  and pre-order the coming sequel.   I read Sparrow Hill Road, which almost feels like it's set in the universe of the tv series Supernatural, in a good way.

Haphazardly, I start following the author's twitter and tumblr accounts, and develop a blushing author crush. My short summary: Smart, funny, has cats.   And writes a LOT of books that I happen to enjoy.

I come across a thing she's said about a female protagonist she's written,  October Daye,  and how she was almost rejected at first because of appearing too mean/bitchy/unlikeable.  And how this objection became invalid once it was pointed out that, if replacing the name October Daye with for example Harry Dresden,  the "unlikeable" was suddenly no longer unlikeable at all.

This is relevant in several ways,  and probably darted right into my to-read-soon-sphere because, well, I have enjoyed reading the Dresden files, but at the same time find some stuff in those books, oh, problematic.  Okay.  Inevitably, I want to find out about October Daye.  October Daye pushes through the other books I was planning to read.

...And now that I've read Rosemary and Rue, I'll tell you:  Yes, this is fine.  It's a series starter and has some classic series starter issues, but it's okay: I know how to adjust my expectations when diving into a long-ish urban fantasy series kind of thing.  This is a rich, detailed, secret world in the nooks and crannies of San Francisco; it has creatures I don't know well from other mythology-waffling things.  There is a beautiful lack of vampires (though I imagine I'll forgive even vampires, should they appear later on).    October Daye is a bad-ass changeling who makes it through the book battered by gun shots, cursed by supposed friends, betrayed by others, and harangued by her demanding siamese cats.  Not the only cats in her life, mind you.

Another enjoyable detail about October Daye is that she's undeniably a grown-up. I mean, even not considering the expected lifespan of changelings, she has a full background,  and a bank of experience that informs her reactions and choices.  She's not a teenager, not everything that happens to her happens for the first time ever,  and that's refreshing.  How often do you get an adult female urban fantasy/paranormal protagonist?

I could ask myself - would I have enjoyed this book as much as I did if I had picked it up at random, knowing nothing about it, having no prior knowledge of the author, not having put it into a genre context before even starting?    I don't know!  I don't know that it matters, either.  As leisure readers all know - sometimes your frame of mind and the book you read just clicks.  Sometimes they creak and crumble against each other. Sometimes a book like that will click with you at a later occasion, when things are different.

And a part of my mission on I, fat robot is to rid myself of the idiotic notion that I'm supposed to consider books objectively.  I need to convince myself that's not how it works, and that's okay. So I don't have to list the objective virtues of this book: The prose flows nicely, the characters have a comfortable amount of texture to them, events have plausible consequences, the magic system is internally consistent and interesting.

The series gets better in later books, I've heard - of course it does.  (It's unfair to keep talking about the Dresden files here, but they didn't really hold my attention very well until, oh, the 8th book or so? Before that, I read them at a pace of one in a year, maybe. )  (Do I have to explain why I read those first books anyway? Maybe later.)

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