Urban fantasy may not be to everyone’s taste, but I must admit I look forward new releases by some of the best-selling authors in the genre, including Kim Harrison and Jim Butcher. IMO, both have created fabulous other worlds, peopled with compelling if eerie characters. The novels may be set in the United States, but both authors have created surreal blends of fact and fantasy which challenge the reader’s imagination.
Since I read very quickly and race through the latest offerings by Butcher and Harrison, I am frequently bereft of my urban fantasy fix until a new novel is published. There may seem like there are a lot of similar novels out there, but many of them are paranormal romances. The difference appears small I admit, but I’m rarely in the mood for a novel where the protagonist’s love life drives the plot.
I was happy to discover the October Daye Series by Seanan McGuire. In the first novel, Rosemary and Rue, McGuire has provided a twisty mystery filled with fae, as the fairies and fair folk prefer to be called. Protagonist October “Toby” Daye, is a changeling, half-human/half-fae, woman fighting to find her place in both worlds. After spending 14 years cursed as a fish, Daye finds she must return to her abandoned life in the fae world if she hopes to survive.
The novel is set in San Francisco, and many important scenes take place in Golden Gate Park’s Japanese Tea Garden . I lived in California for 17 years, and have many happy childhood memories of the lush gardens; the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States.
I found it easy to believe magical and mundane worlds lived side-by-side in the garden. Access to the garden is free, and since my post-war parents had four children, they looked for free destinations to anchor family drives. We loved wandering through all five acres of its carefully manicured landscaping.
The same elements we loved as children secure one aspect of McGuire’s fairy realm. A feeling of other worldliness is immediately established upon entrance via the elaborately carved wood gates. You just know something magical is going to take place when you cross their threshold.
Similarly, it is easy to image water sprites, fairies and their fae kin populate the magnificently landscaped pools. It’s almost harder to believe that magic wasn’t involved in their creation. My mother worried about us when we dashed over the stepping stones; she was afraid we’d fall in.
Our greatest challenge in the gardens, however, was to cross the high-arching Drum Bridge. All bold travelers face difficulties on their epic journeys, and with our short-legs we often felt we were worthy of an award if we successfully completed the crossing.
The tearoom has remained a highly sought-after treat. We were always intrigued by its shadowed depths. It was always crowded though, and too expensive for a family of six. Someday, I’ll return to test their menu, even though main character October Daye sniffs at its “tourist” appeal.
Rosemary and Rue
Series: October Daye (Book 1)
Mass Market Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: DAW (September 1, 2009)