Sigrid Ellis's Reviews > Rosemary and Rue

Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
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Apr 15, 11

bookshelves: fiction-fantasy, fiction-mystery

So, here's a true fact about me. If your story features: a first-person narrative told by a jaded female narrator whose been kicked around by life, made a lot of bad decisions, and doesn't trust anyone anymore; a light mystery or crime plot with lots of shady characters who are all more powerful than the protagonist and have their own agendas; and a supernatural, fantastical, or superheroic element, I will read it.

Laurel Hamilton's Anita Blake books, before they turned into the all sex, all the time channel.
Brian Michael Bendis's Alias series featuring Jessica Jones.
Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse books, before they turned into the all sex, all the time channel.
The Read or Die TV series.
Cherie Priest's Boneshaker and Dreadnaught.

This is clearly a niche genre I adore.

Yet, here's the thing -- a writer can still go wrong, even for me, with this genre. It's a genre that runs almost entirely on the strength and believability of the narrative lead. She has GOT to be a convincing balance of defensive and curious, not powered or less powered than those around her, yet still tough. She has got to be wary, yet operating in a network of relationships. She has got to unselfconsciously exist in a world of high stakes and high drama while commenting on that drama in a way that makes the reader accept it. If she has sexual or romantic relationships, they have got to reinforce her characterization so far while not diminishing her in the eyes of the reader. Her choices must make emotional sense to the reader in a world of heightened everything.

In addition to the potential pitfalls in the narrator, the writer of this niche genre can go astray in other ways.

The supporting cast MUST be good. They must all possess their own motivations and roles in the world, whether or not we every understand those. Think of the classic noir and hard-boiled stories -- the P.I. drifts in, meets people, and leaves, and we know those other people go on with their lives afterwards.

The fantasy elements must make sense -- the magic, powers, or whatever is is must have rules that we understand. That is a helluvalot of exposition to somehow shoehorn into a novel, or the first novel in a planned series.

The mystery element has to work as a mystery.

I point out all of these potential problems with this genre I adore because Seanan McGuire avoided each misstep. Rosemary and Rue is the first novel she got published (I don't know if it was the first one written) yet it confidently navigates through the genre. The best compliment I can offer to an author is this:

I believed October Daye.

I believed in her inner life, her decisions, her responses to a highly dramatic fairy murder-mystery, her past, her hopes and fears -- I believed in her as a character. Everything else fell into place after that.

Will I be getting the next book in the series. Yes. Are there people and characters I want to see more of? Yes! Is that the hallmark of a strong first book in a series? Yes.

Avoid Rosemary and Rue if this isn't the niche genre for you; if you want your mysteries to be solvable by the reader in an Agatha Christie way; if you dislike noir; if jaded defensive narrators set your teeth on edge.

However, if you like the niche genre as I have described it; if you like books with a STRONG sense of place and setting; if you want more female P.I.'s in your life; or if you simply are craving good urban fantasy, then Rosemary and Rue is a book for you.
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message 1: by Kelly (new) - added it

Kelly this review is made of win.


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