Friday, December 18, 2009

Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

October Daye is a changeling and also a knight, serving the Duke of the Shadowed Hills as his knight-errant. Set to find the Duke's Duchess and their child, Toby finds the man resposible, Simon Torquill, and trails him to Golden Gate Park. But the trail is a trap, and Toby is turned into a goldfish in one of the ponds. There, she lives, forgetting all about the man she loves and her own daughter, for the next fourteen years.

Fourteen years later, the glamour that has been laid on her is broken, and she stumbles out of the pond, coughing up water, completely naked, her mind still hazy, not knowing how long she has been there. Both lives, as a human and a changeling, shattered, Toby is rejected by her boyfriend and daughter, unable to explain where she has been for the last fourteen years. Shunning Faery as it has done this to her, she takes a job where no one will care about her- as a checker in a Supermarket.

But Faery won't just let her lie. Tybalt, the King of the Cats, continues to torment her, but Toby tries to shut out the world... until Evening Winterrose, a Countess, pulls her back in. Cursed by Winterrose to find and bring her murderer to justice, Toby has no choice but to return to the world that nearly killed her.

Part of this involves returning to "Home" a fief run by Devin, who first took Toby in when she ran away from the Court and its scorn of her as a half-breed. Devin used her, and she used him back, finally escaping home to become Knight-Errant to the Duke of Shadowed Hills. That inspires a reverence for her at Home that Toby has a hard time dealing with. She's not done anything to be anyone's hero, ad her shattered life makes her even more uncomfortable with it.

It also means returning to Court, to inform the Queen that Evening Winterrose is dead. But the Queen, at first disdaining Toby, becomes downright crazy when Toby informs her why she is there. The Queen doesn't want to hear that Winterrose is dead, and her reaction to the news is extreme- so extreme that Toby has to wonder why The Queen is reacting so strongly.

And finally, it means to returning to her liege, the Duke of Shadowed Hills, his wife and daughter. They were recovered while Toby was living as a fish in the pond, and while the Duke and his wife don't blame her for what happened to her, their daughter most definitely does. And Toby discovers that her one-time Romantic interest, Connor O'Dell, a Selkie, has married the Duke's daughter, Raysel, and more disturbingly, is still interested in Toby. and she is still interested in him.

But Evening may have been killed for a powerful artifact that was in her keeping, a dowry- box belonging to the first children of Oberon and Titania. Rumor says that it can turn changelings human or make them into full fae of their parent's kind. Toby merely touches it, and her powers increase. Frightened of the choice she could force herself to make, she hides it with the person least likely to do as she asks, and continues to seek whoever killed Evening Winterrose.

But the killer killed her with iron, deadly to a fae, so that means the killer is almost certainly fae him or herself. With seemingly legions of killers on trail, seeking to make her as dead as Evening Winterrose, Toby must find the killer before Winterrose's curse catches up with her and kills her. But more than just Toby's life is at stake, and unless she can root out a hidden killer, Powers could be unleashed that could change the Fae world forever...

I found this an interesting take on the world of the Faeries, and Changelings as well. Changelings are sort of the second-class citizens of the faery world to most pure-blood fae, and very few treat them differently. Changelings can only pass in the human world by using glamours, spells that hide their fae traits and make them look human. Toby is one of the few lucky ones, blessed with attracting the notice of a pureblood Duke who didn't have the usual prejudice against Changelings, and then him knighting her.

At the beginning of the Modern-day portion of this book, Toby is fed up with Faery and never wants to go back. It took the human world from her twice, and she doesn't want to give it a third chance. But her human life is drab and bereft of purpose compared to the life she had before, and when she's dragged back into the fae world kicking and screaming, it seems one thousand times better compared to the life she is living as a human. Without her memories of the fae world, readers have a hard time seeing why she chooses to avoid it.

And yet, the world of the fae is pretty much a lie. Toby sees that very clearly. It's all based on glamour and seeming. Very little in it seems real or true. Half the time seems to be spent hiding what you are or what you feel, especially in the courts, and for a changeling, you receive scorn and sarcasm as your portion from the other fae. It's rather like being a slave in the south, and you can never be free because of your genes.

But the mystery of who killed Evening Winterrose, and why, is excellent. Through her hunt for the killer, Toby must make peace with her being a Changeling. And its quite telling that no matter how much she seems to hate being stuck in her half life, being neither fish nor fowl, so to speak, when the time comes and she's holding the dowry box in her hands- she doesn't choose to change who she is to one or the other. By the end of the book, she seems to have come to peace with who she is, and is ready to take up her duties in the changeling world again.

I really liked this book. The story is fast-paced and engaging, drawing you into Toby's world and making you root for her as she struggles against villains and obstacles on her path to the goal. She's suspicious and mostly sarcastic, but you don't like her any less for it. Highly recommended.

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