Rosemary and Rue is the first in a series of urban fantasy novels by Seanan McGuire. It is primarily an urban faery novel of the “hidden magical world” variety. It is not, fortunately another “babe with a gun,” urban fantasy romance, though I do sense or think I sense a certain amount of romantic tension between the protagonist and various members of the supporting male cast. (I am happy that while I can see the tension, there is no sense of “will they or won’t they,” that occasionally plagues some books.)
Our protagonist is October “Toby” Daye, a half-Daoine Sidhe private investigator who works for the local Sidhe nobility. The story opens while she is on a case, trying to rescue her lord’s kidnapped wife and daughter. Unfortunately, the bad guy has the drop on her and turns her into a koi. She spends more than a decade literally swimming with the fishes.
We then cut to fourteen years later, and our protagonist is feeling very bitter about her failure and the loss of her mortal family. (She had been married to a human and has a daughter. The husband or daughter had not known she was not entirely human, and there was no way she could tell them what had actually happened for various reasons.) As a result, she is avoiding her liege lord and her old friends, while working as a cashier on the night shift at a grocery store.
Toby is forced to go back on duty when a friend of hers calls up, begging her for help. The friend is a pure blooded sidhe countess named Evening Winterrose, and when she can’t reach Toby, she casts a curse binding Toby to finding the person who killed her, or die herself. (“Friend” is something of a relative term when you are talking about the Fair Folk.)
The case turns out to involve a powerful magical item that had been in Evening’s keeping. In order to solve the case Toby has to call in favors from her liege lord, friends, and not quite enemies like the King of the Cats.
Toby’s first major actions tend to missteps before she gets herself back on track. (The series in general seems to have a high body count.) I found this to be believable, if more than a little upsetting. You’d get to liking a character, and the next page, they’d be dead.
The magic and faerie involved are mostly Celtic and European, with some Western mythological creatures mixed in. There are also a few random kitsune scattered throughout the books. (They feel sort of “tacked on” to me, and there was no history behind it. They were just sort of there.) Despite the Random Kitsune, I really enjoyed the book, which had a lot of action, and many twists and turns of plot. The mystery aspects of the story are really well done, and have an almost film noir touch to them. The heroine is tough and has a very strong “voice” to me–I liked her almost immediately.