Review: An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire

An Artificial NightAn Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire (October Daye #3)

Genre: URBAN FANTASY

Publisher: DAW on September 7, 2010

Narrator & Audio Rights: Mary Robinette Kowl for Brilliance Audio

Source: Bought

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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.

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Toby Daye is back at it again in AN ARTIFICIAL NIGHT, rescuing abducted children, battling new enemies, and even facing off against some old friends.

Things start off with a bang when Toby opens her front door to find someone unexpected staring back at her: herself. Or someone who looks exactly like her, anyway. Toby’s doppelganger is called May Day (really) and she’s there for a pretty pressing reason: she’s Toby’s Fetch. Since someone’s Fetch only appears when their death is imminent, Toby is more than a little concerned. So you know…te name “May Day” suddenly becomes very fitting. All I’ll say about that situation is that I ended up being very fond of May, almost despite myself. Her arrival does mean bad news for Toby, after all! But if there’s one thing that Toby excels at, it’s cheating death.

Time and time again, Toby has proved that she’ll go to the ends of the earth – and straight into Faerie – to save her friends. And there’s nothing that gets her hero complex going more than someone hurting children. Doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Toby’s estrangement from her daughter Gillian has made her overcompensate by trying to save everyone else’s kids. So when Fae and human children start going missing – with all signs pointing towards Fae mischief – Toby is determined to be the hero they need.

Of course, being the hero comes isn’t easy. If she wants to save the kids, she has to go up against Blind Michael, a first-born and leader of the Wild Hunt. The first-born are among the most powerful beings in all of Faerie, the first descendants of Fae royalty like Titania and Oberon. Armed with only a Babylon candle and some seriously vague advice, Toby barrels after him. Blind Michael is definitely the scariest villain that the series has had so far: his lands are shrouded in darkness, he mutates children so that they are changed from human to horses (HORSES!), and he’s generally just an evil person. Being. Whatever. Learning about Blind Michael and his role in the Wild Hunt helps develop Seanan McGuire’s version of Faerie and its lore, and it’s quickly become one of my favourite UF universes.

It’s not just the world that gets developed in AN ARTIFICIAL NIGHT but Toby’s character, as well. We finally see her confronting one of her fatal flaw, the thing that’s inevitably going to get her killed one day. The fact that one of Toby’s closest friends, Lily, brings it makes the moment that much sweeter. Here’s what she has to say about Toby’s hero complex:

“Because, dear October, you’re the most passively suicidal person I’ve ever met, and that’s saying something. You’ll never open your wrists, but you’ll run headfirst into hell. You’ll have good reasons. You’ll have great reasons, even. And a part of you will be praying that you won’t come out again.”

This was such an amazing moment – seeing one of Toby’s oldest friends telling it like it is and getting upset about her reckless behaviour just seemed so realistic to me. Toby really is passively suicidal sometimes. I think most people have reached that point with a friend where they realize that they need to be called out on their shit, pronto. And Lily’s truth bomb brought about a major ‘eureka’ moment for Toby, so fingers crossed that she’ll start taking better care of herself. But I won’t hold my breath! Being too reckless in the name of heroism is a classic issue for characters in fantasy.

Supporting characters are what really makes this a UF series worth binging, and AN ARTIFICIAL NIGHT gives quite a few of them substantial page time. The young Quentin continues to be a wonderful supporting character, and personally I think he’s poised to become Toby’s squire later on in the series. Toby’s taxi-cab driving, troll Fae friend Danny is also unbelievably charming. But of course the crown (hehe) goes tot Tybalt, the King of Cats. I cannot wait for him to become a bigger part of the series! Who would have thought that cat Fae would be so…epic?

A marked improvement from the second book slump that the series experienced, AN ARTIFICIAL NIGHT is the best book yet in the Toby Daye series. The action comes quicker, the characters are more developed, and the stakes are higher. A winner all around.

What are some classic “fatal flaws” in fantasy? What long-running series are you excited to be reading? Give me your recommendations in the comments!

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  • Lynn Williams

    Okay, I seem to be the only person in the world who hasn’t picked up this book – just tell me right now – must I read this??
    Lynn 😀

    • YES! I think you’d really like this series, Lynn. It’s a darker take on the Fae and a wonderful UF series overall. Definitely recommend the audio versions as well!