An Artificial Night: The fae realm comes to life

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Seanan McGuire October Daye 3. An Artificial NightAn Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire

October Daye, private investigator to San Francisco’s faerie nobility, stumbles upon her most troubling case yet. Two of her friends’ children vanish without a trace, and a third falls into an enchanted sleep from which no one can awaken her. Toby pokes around and learns that other children have been disappearing as well, both fae and human, and that an ancient and sinister power is behind the kidnappings.

Seanan McGuire wisely plays to her strengths — and Toby’s — in An Artificial Night. McGuire is a terrific writer, but concealing the villain’s identity isn’t always her strong point. It works well, then, that An Artificial Night is not a whodunit. Toby and the reader learn pretty quickly who is responsible, and the real questions are whether Toby can defeat him and how steep the price will be. The first two October Daye novels read like mysteries, but this one reads more like a grim, bloody fairy tale. Of the three it’s the closest to “straight” fantasy or to old-school urban fantasy.

As for Toby’s strengths, one of the things that has bugged me about this series is the way other characters seem convinced Toby is the biggest badass who ever badass’d. She isn’t. She’s actually pretty underpowered for her world and often loses fights. Sheer toughness is not what makes her a hero. An Artificial Night features some great exploration of whether Toby is a hero, and if so, what qualities make her worthy of the term.

McGuire also develops Toby’s relationships with several beloved secondary characters (Tybalt and the Luideag are my favorites). In one moving scene, Toby learns that there really are people out there who have her back. I’m not sure what I love more about this scene, the way it ties into folklore or the way it brings home to Toby that she isn’t alone in the world. October Daye Series

The plot is creepy and compelling, and makes probably the best use of faerie lore we’ve seen yet in the series. The fae realm comes to life in all its beauty, and its horror, and its tricky bargains. I liked A Local Habitation just a bit better personally — I think in part because there was more comic relief — but this is a worthy addition to the series and is almost certainly the best-plotted of the three books so far.

I also had the opportunity to listen to the audiobook version produced by Brilliance Audio. I highly recommend it. Toby needs a very specific kind of voice, and Mary Robinette Kowal provides it. Her voice is low, expressive, with just a touch of ironic humor about it. I don’t think I’d have been able to stomach a chirpy, breezy Toby Daye!

~Kelly Lasiter

fantasy book review Seanan McGuire October Daye 3. An Artificial NightThis entry in the TOBY DAYE series delves deeper into folklore, concentrating on the Wild Hunt. It has always been plain that fairies aren’t necessarily good guys in McGuire’s world, but they are even less so here. Toby’s character, and her relationships with those around her, deepen in this book as well.

~Terry Weyna

Published in 2010. Changeling knight in the court of the Duke of Shadowed Hills, October “Toby” Daye has survived numerous challenges that would destroy fae and mortal alike. Now Toby must take on a nightmarish new assignment. Someone is stealing both fae and mortal children—and all signs point to Blind Michael. When the young son of Toby’s closest friends is snatched from their Northern California home, Toby has no choice but to track the villains down, even when there are only three magical roads by which to reach Blind Michael’s realm—home of the legendary Wild Hunt—and no road may be taken more than once. If she cannot escape with all the children before the candle that guides and protects her burns away, Toby herself will fall prey to Blind Michael’s inescapable power. And it doesn’t bode well for the success of her mission that her own personal Fetch, May Daye—the harbinger of Toby’s own death—has suddenly turned up on her doorstep…

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KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.

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TERRY WEYNA, on our staff since December 2010, would rather be reading than doing almost anything else. She longs to be a full-time reviewer, critic, scholar and writer, but nonetheless continues to practice law as a civil litigator in California. Terry lives in Northern California with her husband, professor emeritus and writer Fred White, the imperious but aging Cordelia Louise Cat Weyna-White, and a forever-growing personal library that presently exceeds 15,000 volumes.

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