Author: Seanan McGuire
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publication date: September 7 2010
MMP 368 pages
Stand alone or series: Book 3 in the October Daye series
October “Toby” Daye is a changeling-half human and half fae-and the only one who has earned knighthood. Now she must take on a nightmarish new challenge. Someone is stealing the children of the fae as well as mortal children, and all signs point to Blind Michael. Toby has no choice but to track the villain down-even when there are only three magical roads by which to reach Blind Michael’s realm, home of the Wild Hunt-and no road may be taken more than once. If Toby cannot escape with the children, she will fall prey to the Wild Hunt and Blind Michael’s inescapable power.
How did I get the book: ARC from the publisher
“You go alone. You can take any help you find, but you can’t ask for it. You fight with what you have and what you’re given; neither steal nor buy any weapon of any kind. You can take each road once, and only once, and some roads not even that often. You go now. Are you ready?
An Artificial Night is the third book in the excellent October Daye UF series. Its main character (and narrator) Toby, is a changeling-half human and half fae, a private investigator and a knight of Shadowed Hills , who in the previous two books have had to learn to live in the world again after spending two decades as a fish after being cursed by an enemy.
In An Artificial Night mortal and fae children are disappearing and Toby is in charge of rescuing them. When all signs point to Blind Michael – legendary leader of the Wild Hunt and one of the Firstborn – Toby knows she probably bit more than she can chew, especially when her Fetch (the harbinger of her death) shows up at her door. Nothing will stop Toby, not when children are involved, and armed with nothing but a Babylon candle (“can I get there by candle-light?” ), her knife, her stubbornness and some frustratingly shady advice she embarks on a journey that might well be her last.
This third instalment presents a clear departure from the previous books in several aspects. Firstly, we have the plot itself: instead of a mystery that needs to be solved, we have a mission that needs to be undertaken. The mission is the story, it is the point of departure and this time around rather than following or reacting, Toby is the sole facilitator of this story: the mission is of her choosing.
Secondly, the setting and the atmosphere of the book. The series is Urban Fantasy and so far all books have had this noir feel. But An Artificial Night is definitely less urban and more fantastic, with the majority of the story set in the Fae lands with Toby completely immersed in fairy tales in more than one way going as far as making her main character spend the majority of the book with the body of her own young self. The author deftly incorporates tales, nursery rhymes and Rules That Must Be Followed and that makes for incredibly clever, imaginative reading. An Artificial Night is quite possibly the darkest of the series so far (given its subject matter) both in terms of what happens but also how it happens and with its very real, very tragic repercussions. Part of these is directly linked to Quentin, a secondary character whose continued development never fails to astound me.
Lastly, but not least, we have Toby herself. Toby, who is already more or less adapted to being back to the world and her arc in this book, is now a much more personal journey of self-identity. Who is Toby? What are the characteristics that define her, what are her motivations? In previous books, we have seen her strengths and weakness, her determination and sense of loyalty but here, we get to see Toby In Extremis, finally having more agency than never before and figuring out something big – something that might have been clear to everybody but her. It involves the very nature of her, the very idea of knighthood and heroism. There is an examination of those ideas in a mythical, historical way (obviously solely in the confines of this world) but more in a very personal way. Heroism involves strength, moral determination and boldness , all of those characteristics that Toby certainly possesses but one can never ever forget that Heroes are often also impulsive, sacrificing and with not a small amount of hubris and even perhaps, suicidal tendencies. That makes for a very complex heroine and one that I can get fully behind – even when she is being frustratingly inflexible. (And I will admit that some things are unnecessarily repeated throughout the book with regards to Toby’s heroism and her being afraid of her own blood) .
With regards to romance in Toby’s life: I love that even though there is a tiny thread of a potential romance in the works, it doesn’t distract her from her mission – she never moons or spends time thinking about anything else but what she has to do. Kudos to the writer for not writing distractions when distractions are not needed. But I can’t help myself. I can’t finish this review without one last word about Tybalt and Toby’s will they-won’t they relationship: ARGH. And that’s all I am going to say on the subject.
Seanan McGuire is an amazing writer and I am not surprised at all that she just won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. This series in one of my favourites and some of the threads in this instalment are still open and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Notable Quotes/ Parts: I love how Toby is very self-aware and ironic:
I turned in a slow circle, studying the landscape. A forest stretched off towards the mountains some distance behind me, made up of the sort of tall, gnarled trees that act as a natural barrier against the world. It managed to look even less welcoming than the plains, and that meant it was probably where I needed to go. Sometimes dealing with fairy-tale cliches is even more annoying than dealing with fae manners. If I ever meet any descendants of the Brothers Grimm, I’m going to break their noses and possibly a few other convenient body parts.
Maybe I had to play along with this stupid scenario, but that didn’t mean I had to like it.”I am so tired of this gothic crap,” I muttered. “Just once, I want to meet the villain in a cheerful, brightly-lit room. Possibly one with kittens.”
Additional Thoughts: The awesome Seanan McGuire will be here tomorrow, Friday September 10th for an interative Q&A – you ask the questions – she will answer them. Plus, a chance to win a copy of the book.
Verdict: An Artificial Night in my mind, cements this series as one of the best UF series around and Seanan McGuire as one of my favourite writers.
Rating: 8 -Excellent
Reading Next: The Glass Maker’s Daughter by V. Briceland