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A Daye to Kill For - The Book of the Celestial Cow

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August 30th, 2009


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10:32 pm - A Daye to Kill For
Aside from Death's Daughter, which doesn't really count, I'm not familiar with the popular genre known as urban fantasy. Although Wikipedia claims Neverwhere counts. But I haven't read what most people think of when they think of urban fantasy: Kelley Armstrong, Jim Butcher, Tanya Huff, T.A. Pratt, etc. All those series set in modern-day cities where magic and werewolves and wizards and sexy vampires run rampant.

So I would not normally pick up a book like Rosemary and Rue, by Seanan McGuire, except that Seanan McGuire (seanan_mcguire) happens to be a good friend of mine. In fact, I would probably run away screaming at the blurb, which contains the word Faerie. I don't need your "correct" and "accurate" and "etymologically sound" spellings of mythological creatures, dammit! Also, I don't read about fairies. OR FAERIES.

Not until now, at least.

October "Toby" Daye is a private investigator in San Francisco. There's your urban. She's also a changeling, half-fae and half-human. There's your fantasy. She denies the world of Faerie, however, and chooses to live as a human. But just when she thinks she's out, they pull her back in! A prominent pureblood is murdered, and Toby—having known the deceased—must solve the murder and bring the killer to justice.

There are a few other things I ought to tell you about Toby. Her life kind of sucks, but she doesn't let the world get her down. She's rather sarcastic and doesn't take shit from anyone. She's prickly, you might say. She struggles financially. She puts great trust in her animal companions. She's attracted to a Bad Boy and a Good Guy. The very first time we see her, she's on a stakeout.

Oh yes, I'm going there: this book is like Veronica Mars, Faerie Detective.

This comes as no surprise, given that I met Seanan through VM fandom, but Seanan has been working on this book since long before VM premiered. And when you have a prickly private eye solving a murder in San Francisco, there is really no other option but to make your story hella noir. Which this book is, to my great delight. Toby is nocturnal, so all the action occurs at night. She has issues knowing who she can trust. There are hired killers and seedy establishments. People get shot. Honestly, the book is so good at being noir that I was thrown when some of the more fantasy elements appeared.

And that's because most of the fantasy is blended seamlessly in with the story. It's the setting and background for the story; it's not the story itself. The worldbuilding is very complex and well researched; the denizens of Faerie are divided into various breeds, like cats, all of which have Irish and Gaelic names (thankfully, there's a pronunciation guide in the beginning). Each race has different magical abilities and character traits (although I felt that the "Such-and-suches are always X, and this such-and-such was no exception" idea was overused, as if all the races have homogeneous personalities). They live under a medieval-type system with kings and queens and knights and courts and fiefdoms. There's a fair bit of Shakespearean influence as well. The whole history and society of Faerie is very well thought out, down to the prejudices that are bound to arise between purebloods and half-bloods. It's a little confusing in its complexity, but you just have to keep paying attention since Toby only provides information when it's relevant.

I do love a good murder mystery, and although I did clue in to the culprit before Toby did, it didn't lessen my enjoyment of the story. What really drew me in was Toby herself. I was hooked on the book by the end of chapter two, even before the actual plot kicks in, just because of Toby's voice and her character. This was a woman who had gone through hell and come out intact, just like my dear Veronica.

I don't know how Rosemary and Rue compares to other popular urban fantasies. It's my impression that their protagonists are a little less damaged and they don't normally have a fully realized fantasy world coexisting with the modern world. They certainly tend to have more cleavage-y covers. I think the strengths of the book lie in its strong noir sensibility and the fact that, as Tanya Huff mentions, the urban and fantasy are of equal importance. The two mesh so well that I find myself checking people's ears in San Francisco, wondering if I'll run into a Daoine Sidhe.

Rosemary and Rue is already quite well regarded by people more famous than I. If my descriptions of how good the book is are not enough for you, you can even read some of it yourself and see how well the prose flows. And then you can buy the book on Tuesday for a mere $7.99. It's Seanan's first novel, and she needs the sales.

You see, this is the first book in a series. The next two are slated to come out in six-month intervals already. Seanan is currently writing the fifth book. The better this book does, the more of Toby's adventures you'll get to read. And by the end of the book, you will definitely want to read more of Toby's adventures. Not just because they're bound to be interesting, exciting, and lore-conscious, but because it's Toby. She's not quite a marshmallow, but I still want s'more.
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Comments:


From:sabra_n
Date:August 31st, 2009 01:37 am (UTC)
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Hee hee. That has a lot of elements in common with Butcher's Dresden Files books. (Including the damaged, sarcastic protagonist and the detailed and politically factious fantasy world existing alongside and inside modern Chicago.) I'll probably pick it up, then, since I love Dresden and VM.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 31st, 2009 01:43 am (UTC)
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Yeah, I haven't read The Dresden Files, but from what I've heard, I do think they share similarities. I didn't realize there was a detailed and politically factious fantasy world, though. I just thought there were random magical beasties he had to deal with or whatever.

I think I may like those books, but there are so many!

(Funny thing: Seanan hasn't read those books either.)

Edited at 2009-08-31 05:45 am (UTC)
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From:chrryblssmninja
Date:August 31st, 2009 02:29 am (UTC)
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I don't think I've read any "urban fantasy." hmm. I'll look out for this one, especially since it's set in The City.

but I did buy Atomic Robo #2 (volume 1) on Friday. YAAAAY
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 31st, 2009 02:31 am (UTC)
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I don't think I've read any "urban fantasy." hmm. I'll look out for this one, especially since it's set in The City.
You should come to the reading at Borderlands this Saturday! I promise Seanan will be very entertaining.

but I did buy Atomic Robo #2 (volume 1) on Friday. YAAAAY
Nice!
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From:funky_donut
Date:August 31st, 2009 09:23 am (UTC)
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Ooh, ooh, yay! You must read Dresden! I know you'd love him/the books!
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From:punzerel
Date:August 31st, 2009 08:42 am (UTC)
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She's not quite a marshmallow, but I still want s'more.

YOU DID NOT JUST DO THAT.

This does sound fun. I will keep an eye out. And someone will have to write a Dresden Files/Toby Daye crossover.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 31st, 2009 11:09 am (UTC)
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YOU DID NOT JUST DO THAT.
OH YES I DID.
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From:actoplasm
Date:August 31st, 2009 12:00 pm (UTC)
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Plus my interview with her should be up September 1st to tie in with the book release at bookbanter.net.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 31st, 2009 12:13 pm (UTC)
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Perfect! I look forward to it.
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From:soundingsea
Date:August 31st, 2009 01:23 pm (UTC)
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Ooh, thanks for the reminder! *pre-orders like whoa*
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From:gymble
Date:August 31st, 2009 08:21 pm (UTC)
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It's my impression that their protagonists are a little less damaged and they don't normally have a fully realized fantasy world coexisting with the modern world.
You should read more fantasy. Or perhaps just better fantasy. Damaged heroines have been fairly par for the course for the urban fantasy that I've read (which doesn't mean that it's a bad thing - just, not the thing I'd emphasize when trying to say that a book's unique). Among other works, the description reminds me of Emma Bull's books, who I adore.

Anyway, I'll certainly look for the book in stores.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:August 31st, 2009 09:38 pm (UTC)
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I think Emma Bull was one of the first big urban fantasy writers, yeah. And as far as damaged heroines go, that's just my impression since I judge by all the sexy covers. It seems like the biggest problem they have is how to resist jumping their vampire partner's bones or whatever. I think Toby is more physically damaged, though; she really gets put through the wringer.
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From:lynevere
Date:September 2nd, 2009 10:01 am (UTC)
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Congrats to Seanan! We just ordered the book off Amazon last night.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:September 2nd, 2009 10:44 am (UTC)
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Yay!!
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From:the_narration
Date:September 6th, 2009 12:21 am (UTC)
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Sounds potentially interesting. I'll have to see if the library has it after I finish the fifteen or so DS9 Relaunch books I have to get read and returned in the next few weeks....

Add me to the list of people recommending Jim Butcher's Dresden Files. They start out a little weak, but get better over the course of the series. Very fun, and fairly quick reads, but with a lot going on.

Do not read Kelley Armstrong's urban fantasy books. They're awful. I made the mistake of checking out a bunch from the library after I read a non-fantasy book of hers I liked, and they suck (with the sole exception of the young adult one, The Summoning). The only thing that kept me from throwing Bitten at the wall was that it was a library book and I was at work. They're basically sex-fantasies with stupid and useless female protagonists. If you get her away from the fantasy genre and/or sex, Armstrong can actually write decently, but with those things she just produces crap.
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From:starfyer
Date:September 21st, 2009 09:56 am (UTC)
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I really, really liked it. I WANT THE NEXT ONE NOWWWWWWWWW!

*ahem*

So thank you for facilitating my purchase. :D
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From:spectralbovine
Date:September 21st, 2009 11:26 am (UTC)
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Yay! You're welcome!
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From:daynr
Date:September 24th, 2009 03:55 pm (UTC)
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alright I bought it and enjoyed it. Always enjoy a good commute rec, so thanks.
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From:spectralbovine
Date:September 24th, 2009 03:56 pm (UTC)
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Yay, I'm glad you liked it! Thanks for checking it out.
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From:serasempre
Date:March 7th, 2010 04:01 pm (UTC)
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I read this book! I'm actually planning a blog post about it (when I get the time to figure out what I want to say...) because I think the author takes it in a little different, and interesting, direction than most current urban paranormals (urban fantasy is different in my head, and starts with Charles de Lint, Terri Windling, and the Borderlands books). If you liked this, you might also like Lucy Synder's Spellbent (http://www.amazon.com/Spellbent-Lucy-Snyder/dp/034551209X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1267988399&sr=8-2).
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From:spectralbovine
Date:March 7th, 2010 04:18 pm (UTC)
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I read this book! I'm actually planning a blog post about it (when I get the time to figure out what I want to say...) because I think the author takes it in a little different, and interesting, direction than most current urban paranormals
Cool! It just tickles me when people I know discover this book on their own. I'm reading the sequel right now. Please link me to your post when it goes up.

If you liked this, you might also like Lucy Synder's Spellbent
Ooh, neat. I'll add it to my ever-growing List and ask about it at Borderlands!

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