There are some series that stay forever just one shelf below my to-read pile. Sometimes I regularly hear or read about them, sometimes I already have the first volume bought, but just can’t bring myself to start reading. It doesn’t mean I fear they won’t be worth my time. I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy “Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn”, I’ve just finished “The First Law” trilogy by Abercrombie and it was amazing – but it waited on my shelf for two years before it’s time came. After two years something clicked and I decided it was time to start my adventure with Lord Grimdark.
But let’s face it, choosing your next lecture is always risky. Even if you mostly read books you’re likely to like, disappointments do happen. “October Daye”, urban fantasy series by Seanan McGuire was on my radar for some time. It’s author is a frequent guest on some podcasts I like, seems like a nice person and is convincing while pitching her books. Sounds like intro to another review from way back, but it wasn’t as bad.
Cover is cool, blurb on it – from acknowledged mistress of the subgenre. But contemplating the cover was the high point of my experience, it went downhill from there.
The book is derivative, slightly new variation on themes older than urban fantasy. But that’s ok, that kind of fiction we expect to follow the rules of its genre, with just a dash of originality. And the worldbuilding is strong enough. We have the usual faeries hidden from the eyes of the muggles, and various half-breeds fighting to fight a niche in-between the two worlds, this time in California. October “Toby” Daye, our heroine, is one of them, but – to nobody’s surprise, I’m sure – not a regular one. She used to be quite powerful, for her origins, in the court of a faerie noble, until years ago she failed at a very important mission, lost years of her life, along with her position, job and family. Now she struggles to make a living in dead end jobs in mundane San Francisco, until… her old life gets hold of her again, predictably. And it’s still good, if not new. Experienced, cynical – but deep down good – protagonist, a mystery to solve, old friends and enemies, fights and betrayals. Just as you might expect in a book like this, and there are great reads build on such tropes. Like, Dresden Files.
The real faults of “Rosemary and Rue” lie in the execution of a decent plan. The pacing, motivations, actions and general stupidity of the main character, internal inconsistencies of the plot.
After decent prologue and nice beginning, telling us the basics of this universe, we are taken on a trip where lots of things happen, but usually by accident and not thanks to Toby, who isn’t a very good detective. She wanders around, something happens, she wanders some more. Events are engineered by the author to lead to the book’s conclusion, not a result of the protagonist’s actions. She is, at times, inexplicably passive and often really bad at choosing whom to trust. In a way that suggests incurable stupidity of the character, not a sophistication of the author. Toby’s romances with powerful faeries follow all the clichés of the genre and are as predictable as the failure of her relationship with her mundane, and largely redundant, husband. Reminds me of one other failed urban fantasy.
So, after almost 360 pages, we arrive at the conclusion, and I feel no need to continue with the next volume. It wasn’t the worst urban fantasy I’ve ever read, the world has potential, there were some cool one-liners, it left me a little sad about all the lost potential. For someone desperate for another clichéd urban fantasy – it might even be a good choice.