"An Artificial Night" by Seanan McGuire

Pros: Emotionally complex; the story grabs you and won’t let go
Cons: It would have been nice to have a little bit more background on some of the characters.
Rating: 4.75 out of 5

Advance Review book courtesy of Penguin Group
Expected publication date: September 7, 2010

 

Just when October Daye is starting to think that her life may be calming down, she gets a frantic call from her friend Stacy. Stacy’s two youngest children have disappeared from their home, and one of her other daughters won’t wake up. Then Toby finds out that that some of the young Cait Sidhe have gone missing as well. It turns out that they’ve been taken by Blind Michael. Now Toby must journey to his realm by one of three roads to get the children out before her candle burns out, or she and the children will be trapped in Blind Michael’s lands forever…


 

Well, Seanan McGuire has done it again. An Artificial Night caught hold of me just as much as A Local Habitation did, and I think that a good portion of that was because even though the book was an urban fantasy, Toby’s world is driven not only by her position and powers in it but by her relationships with others as well. It’s her affection for both Stacy and her kids that keeps her going even when the obstacles look insurmountable, and I also love that even with characters that we may only see for ten to fifteen pages of the book, we still see people worth caring about.

All of the strong characters also make it much easier for me to enter into the different realms of the fae that are present throughout the book, because Ms. McGuire writes in such a way that the characters help the setting to be understood, and vice-versa; the effect for me is similar to looking at an M.C. Escher print. The picture Ms. McGuire paints is complex yet well-detailed despite going off at some unusual and original angles, and I love reading through to pick out and marvel at all of the little details and unusual connections that she includes.

With that being said, every once in a while I wish that there were a few more details about certain things; I’m a blatant novice when it comes to Sidhe mythology, and what drove me a little crazy was feeling as if I didn’t have enough information to understand why Blind Michael was so fearful. It could very well be that Ms. McGuire chose to leave out too much detail to evoke a fear of the unknown, but I found that not really understanding why and how he became what he did actually made me fear him less. I was afraid for Toby, but I wasn’t afraid of Blind Michael. Even a few details would have gone a long way to resolving that for me.

The plot sucked me in almost immediately; there’s something about seeing a threat to a child’s innocence that makes me unable to look away until I know what happens, so I had a really tough time putting the book down. The other thing that kept me glued to the book was the way that Ms. McGuire makes use of changing¬† the stakes of Blind Michael’s games. And as the stakes change, the subtleties of the game start to shift as well. The plot felt at times almost as organic as the characters, and I love the feeling of having a grasp on a story as I’m reading it only to be kept wondering where the story is going to go next.

The thing that absolutely cemented my love of this book (and series!) was the way that Toby was able to take elements from the events of the story and use them as a springboard for some personal growth. Not only was it a direction that I was glad to see Toby move in, but I am also extremely curious to see how it will affect her in the next books. The possibilities could be positive, negative, or both, and with Ms. McGuire’s skills I rather suspect that there will be ripples that neither the readers nor Toby will have considered.

This was another solid and addictive entry into the October Days series, one that I enjoyed very much. The skills of creating lush and detailed characters and worlds are present throughout all of the book, although there were a few more times where I could have used a few more details. Children in danger is a plot element that I suspect will resonate with a lot of readers, especially when they meet some of the courageous children fighting for their survival. And the icing on the cake for me was seeing Toby’s growth as a character, suggesting that Ms. McGuire is going to start taking the series in even more interesting directions. I have to say, this is my new favorite urban fantasy series!

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