Last Monday, on our read and commentary of Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire, Toby was compelled by the dying curse of her friend, Evening Winterrose, to find her murderer. But when Toby went for help to the Queen, she was cast out with only the barest hope.
Since the Queen cast her out, Toby has few options for help. She could go to Sylvester, her liege, but she doesn’t want to admit to him that she needs his help. Instead, she goes to Home, a Neverland of lost changelings ruled by Devin, who’s “more Captain Hook than Peter Pan,” and the man who saved Toby when she ran away from her mother’s home and had no clue how to survive in the mortal world. This time, though, rather than being one of Devin’s kids, she comes with a reputation that unnerves the lackeys standing guard in the main room, and from one of these, Manuel, she learns that Evening was far from the calculating and selfish woman she thought she’d known.
Reader Comments: I like how McGuire thought out the status of changelings, half-breeds, and the challenges and cruel aspects of life they would face. She doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the fae where everyone contentedly serves the glamorous roles they’re lucky to have. Rather, while they serve a role, she doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities. It makes her world more believable and interesting.
Writer Comments: Especially the beginning of this chapter is very rich and evocative. To examine this, let’s look at an example from page 83.
“He took me in, fed me, and said I’d never have to go back there if I didn’t want to. I believed him. Maeve help me, I believed him. Even when I realized what he was doing—what the ‘little favors’ and the increasingly bigger assignments would lead up to, even when he came to my room at night and said I was beautiful, that my eyes were just like my mother’s—I still believed him. He was all I had. I knew I couldn’t trust him, that he’d use me, and that he’d break me if I let him. I also knew he wouldn’t turn me away, because his place was Home, and Home was where everyone stopped. Home was where they didn’t care what color your eyes were, or that you cried when the sun came up, or that your hair was brown like your father’s when the Daoine Sidhe are supposed to be brightly colored and fair. Home was willing to have me, and I knew I could earn myself a life there, if I was fast, clever, and heartless. I could earn my own way.”
So why does this passage work so well? I think it comes down to two things.
First, it is filled with Toby. Her past, her present, her aches, her shattered dreams, and her heart fill the passage. Without going into grueling details, McGuire gives a flavor of Toby’s early life and what returning there means now.
Second, it is full of opposites. The passage carries longing and aversion, past and present, pain and belonging, desire and a hint of contempt. In these conflicting shades rises the real pull of the words.
Toby meets Devin. She’s not the same person she was all those years ago. That person is a gawky teenager pinned on his board of pictures, one for every lost changeling he’s taken in over the long years. But the ghosts of her past still cling to her, especially here. She’s grown up and knows Devin’s tricks and game, but she also knows she isn’t truly free of them. He will help her, of course, but for something like this, something where the murderers were willing to use cold iron to kill, well, that comes with a price. But after seeing what happened to Evening, Toby is more than willing to pay.
Reader Comments: Oh dear, her pride is going to cost her. I bet Sylvester would have helped her for free. But I haven’t met him yet, so I don’t know for certain. I suspect she wouldn’t consider it free though.
Writer Comments: It would be very easy to make Devin a stereotype. Whether he’s Hook or Pan, he could play the part of helping Toby and exacting a price. He could be that weight from her past that still tugs at the part of her that once fell in love with him, but McGuire doesn’t leave it there. No, instead, like Evening and I suspect everyone else, she gives Devin layers. Perhaps he once hated Evening, but now he shows genuine sadness at her death. Perhaps he still plays his mind games and exacts control, perhaps he collects lost changelings like pennies, but Toby clearly is special to him. After all, he spent ten years looking for her after she disappeared, far longer than anyone else. And I suspect we have only begun to glimpse Devin’s layers.