Last Monday, we left Toby Daye at the mercy of a curse compelling her to investigate and solve the murder of Countess Evening Winterrose, a pureblooded daoine sidhe. Today, we learn how Toby handles the shock.
Motivated by the curse, but more compelled by friendship, after listing to the murder on her answering machine again, Toby races to Evening’s apartment, hoping it will all be a horrible hoax. But the police are there and the news, and when she reaches the third floor apartment, a bloody murder scene and what passes for Evening’s body. Toby uses blood magic to relive Evening’s death, a dangerous but essential trick since she can determine little else from what the police have left of the scene. Evening gave an important key to a sprite just before her murders invaded her apartment, shot her twice, and slit her throat. Because they killed her with cold iron and concealed their identities, Toby understands she has very little time to stop the coming Faery explosion.
Reader Comments: This take on the fae is especially fun for me. In high school, I got into role playing games. My favorite was Changeling: The Dreaming from White Wolf. I would venture to guess that McGuire has some experience with the game or used similar inspiration. Toby’s use of magic has a lot of similarity to the cantrips and bunks of Changeling: The Dreaming. With a rhyme, she makes the police see her crumpled receipt as acceptable identification, for example. This makes the October Daye series simultaneously nostalgic for me and fascinating to see how McGuire splits from my expectations.
Writer Comments: As writers, there’s a fine line we must walk between believability in our characters and the simple fact that we cannot experience or know everything. If we have a PI friend who’s willing to share endless amounts of tips, we’re fortunate. Not all of us have such friends. I don’t know if McGuire does, but by making Toby no expert in forensics, she accomplishes key tasks all in one.
· First, she doesn’t have to bog down the book with forensic details. In another book and with another audience, forensic details might be expected, but urban fantasy, for all it often utilizes the PI character, is not about the gritty forensics.
· Second, if Toby is no expert and acknowledges it, McGuire doesn’t have to be an expert either. Undoubtedly, this saves her time and protects her somewhat from the diehard fans who really know their crime scene specifics.
· Third, it makes her more relatable to the average reader. While a Sherlock Holmes is fascinating, most readers are more like and can relate far better to a Watson. Expertise is intriguing, but we understand better the horror, the shock, the gut human experience.
· Fourth, it allows McGuire to focus on the paranormal aspects of her world, the fae, rather than getting caught up in the human specifics. For Rosemary and Rue to really be about the fae, the true mystery must come in fae mien, not lie in some trick of mortal making.
Before Toby can begin really investigating Evening’s murder, she must uphold certain formalities, including bringing the terrible news to The Queen of the Mists, who despises her. Despite the difficulty and the unpleasantness of the task, Toby goes and proclaims the words that declare to all that Evening Winterrose is really dead. The Queen of the Mists refuses to help and, in an aching fury, demands Toby leave and say not one more word to her about Evening. Toby flees before the terrible force of the queen, one hope of help gone.
Reader Comments: I love McGuire’s use of taste in this book. All magic has a taste, and each person who uses it a specific flavor, like fingerprints. This makes for a fascinating twist on magic and one that richens the experience of the book as I imagine each flavor, normally something nice and something nasty combined.
Writer Comments: Throwing rocks at a protagonist is always a tried and true method of upping the stakes. So how do you make things worse for Toby? She’s lost a dear friend and enemy, all the same person, had a curse that will kill her if she fails to fulfill its terms forced upon her, has lost her whole life, can’t function quite properly in the modern world, is being forced into Faery against her wishes, and is surviving on a diet of macaroni and cheese. What do you do? You take away those who might help her, or, at least, the ones who would make it easier, like The Queen of the Mists. Further, you make said person angry at her. It will be interesting to see how else McGuire conspires to make Toby’s path difficult. We’re only through page 80. There are a lot of pages, a lot of plot, and a lot of rocks left to throw.
Thank you for joining me for these chapters of Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire. We’ll return to see what happens to Toby and gain some insight into writing through McGuire’s work next Monday. Until then, join me Friday for an interview with Stina Leicht, author of Of Blood andHoney and And Blue Skies from Pain, whose debut novel I covered in my last summary and review. Until then, have a splendid week.