I actually got the first audiobook (Rosemary and Rue) a few years ago, but gave up on it not very far in, because it was so grim. I mean, the book started off with the main character having lost everything, everyone she loved, stuck in a dead-end job and, well, her life sucked. And I wasn't sure how much of that I could take at the time. However, since Seanan McGuire was coming to be Guest of Honour at Continuum XIII in June 2017, I decided to give her work another look. First I read "Every Heart a Doorway" and "Indexing", and did like them, yes, so I decided to give "Rosemary and Rue" another try. And I'm glad I did.
Why? Because Toby (October) ended up in a less grim place than where she started. Because there were people who cared about her, who respected her; that she had made a positive difference in people's lives, even if she didn't believe that she had. See, I don't mind if a story goes into dark places, so long as it comes out of them again; I don't require a happy ending, but I need a hopeful one. And Toby, by the end of the book, had more hope than she had started with. And people she valued, and who valued her.
It's interesting to compare this with the Dresden Files (of which I have read the first one, then gave up part way through the second). Pretty similar setups - urban fantasy, protagonist is a Private Investigator, dealing with supernatural and magic, the fae are real etc. People had raved and raved on to me about the Dresden Files, so I book-splurged (very unwisely). I mean, I liked the first book well enough, but thinking about it now, the vital difference between Harry Dresden and Toby Daye is the relationships. It's been too long since I've read the Dresden books, but I don't recall that Harry had much more than acquaintances (or girlfriends) in his life. Toby, on the other hand... she had found-family relationships. People that she cared about a great deal, and who cared for her, but weren't romantic relationships. Now, that is a vibe that I can really get into.
In regard to the audiobook itself, Mary Robinette Kowal did a great job. I don't think I can imagine Toby as sounding like anyone else, now. Of the other voices she did... I love Tybalt the best.
I am very pleased with myself that I figured out quite a few things before the characters did, while at the same time, not feeling that the characters were being stupid.
- As soon as we were introduced to Terrie Olsen, I suspected that she and Alex were the same person. Why? Because of the scar that they both had, on the same place on their face. The fact that one of them worked days and the other nights and we never saw them at the same time...
- I also suspected that they were some sort of succubus/incubus being, because of the effect they were having on people of the opposite sex.
- And it was because of this effect that I wasn't wanting to shake Toby for being stupid and not noticing, because she was "under the influence", rather than being stupid. Though I did wish she had realised what was going on with Alex sooner. But I'm pleased that she did notice it eventually, and was utterly pissed off about what he was doing.
- I was also pretty certain that April was going to be more important than just an intelligent intercom, because of the quote at the beginning, because of what "a local habitation" meant. "The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing A local habitation and a name." April was "airy nothing" which was given "a local habitation and a name".
- As things progressed, I became more and more certain that April was the killer, for several reasons.
- the manner of the deaths had never been seen before, ever. And there had never been a being like April before, ever. Could the two be connected?
- the blood-memory being wiped made me think of computer memory being wiped
- April could get into locked rooms, and carry things there.
- The killer was most likely someone that the victims knew, and April was the last person that anyone would suspect.
- April does not think like normal mortal beings; she does not have social instincts, she is governed by what she sees as logical, which can lead her to different value judgements about what is important.
- At first I thought her motive might be that she felt that various people were not working hard enough for Jan; that Barbara had been killed because of her poor work record.
- Then I thought that perhaps April didn't remember having killed anyone, just as she didn't remember where people had been located in the past, only where they were now.
- Of course, when Jan was killed, my certainty crashed, though there was the point that Jan's death wasn't done the same way as the others. I also was finding it hard to think about because I was in shock that Jan had died at all, because she was the very last person I expected to die.
- But by that time, we were running out of suspects.
On the other hand, I didn't suspect Gordan at all. Just because someone has a chip on their shoulder doesn't make them a murderer.
I think Alex/Terrie were supposed to be a red herring, because, yeah, they had a suspicious secret, but it wasn't necessarily a murderous one.
Two character moments that I liked a lot:
- Tybalt's reaction to Toby waking Alex up... it's clear that Tybalt is re-assessing what he thinks of her. (Mind you, I've always thought that Tybalt doesn't despise Toby as much as she thinks he does; he just likes getting her dander up.)
- The way that April grew up after her life was shattered by grief.
Yes, more audiobooks of this series are on their way to me.