Review: An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire

an artificial night

5 out of 5 Nightly Stars

“How many miles to Babylon?”

The phrase was familiar. I paused, searching for the answer in the half-forgotten memories of the childhood I’d long since left behind, and ventured, “Threescore miles and ten?”

She nodded. “Good. Do you know how to get back again?”

“You can get there and back by a candle’s light.”

This is the 3rd book in the October Daye series.

And shit just got personal. It’s hard to pick a favorite out of your favorite series but this one might just be the one. It changes the tone of the rest of the series and certainly changes Toby and how she feels about her place in faerie.

I love how McGuire takes the tales of faerie and gives them an anchor in her version of the fair folk. The wild hunt, the mystical, wild ride of the fairies, is based in the Bay Area. Blind Michael is a snatcher of children. The immortal become riders… the mortal become the ridden, being twisted and changed into horses. This time, Michael snatched two of Toby’s kids! Ok, not her kids, but kids of her best friends, Mitch and Stacey, and one other, Karen, is unable to wake up. The only way to get them back is to call in all the favors she has owing… and go into debt for the things she needs.

I can’t believe I never talk about the Luidaeg. Each book is: Toby has a problem: first step, go to the Luidaeg. She’s a hero in the series in a way, which really says something when she’s as much of a boogeyman as Blind Michael. She’s drenched in magic and the lore of faerie. I love the whole thing with the forging of a candle whose light will let you travel, and the old rhyme about Babylon – how you can get there and back by the candle’s light. They also use the Ballad of Tam Lin as magic at one point. As someone who just geeks out on faerie stories, I love how they blend into this series.

See, faerie doesn’t do anything for nothing. There are rules, there are shortcuts, but everything costs. I think what I liked so much about this one, besides the bogeyman angle, was the constant danger, and the terrifying land of Blind Michael. Even the roads you have to travel to get there are dangerous, and they aren’t free. Each road in and out of faerie is a toll road. Sometimes, the price is death. As usual, Toby thinks she’s going to go it alone, only to find herself saddled with, you know, people who want to help her. Quentin, her squire, gets caught up in the drama because his human girlfriend was also snatched. Tybalt, King of Cats, comes to her because several of the Cait Sidhe children were taken, including his nephew, Raj, who is supposed to be his heir.

And speaking of the King of Cats… he’s being coy. I love Tybalt – even if he is an asshole. I mean, he’s a cat. What do you expect? For him to be likable? His subjects knock shit off counters and desktops for funsies. There is this unspoken thing between he and Toby, but there are things he’s not willing to talk to her about that have nothing to do with their simmering sexual chemistry. He disappears for long stretches of time, so she questions if this unspoken thing she feels goes both ways (the unspoken thing that has to do with their sexual chemistry). And of course, there is Connor. He’s not exactly free to be with her but clearly wants to be. Being married to a woman with a bone-deep hatred of Toby doesn’t help. The marriage is purely diplomatic in nature (and Rayseline is crazy as squirrel shit) so that leaves a very tempting door open.

However. There is the little matter of the fetch that shows up on her doorstep. A fetch is another bit of faerie lore – a duplicate of you that shows up when you are about to die. So, who knows how much longer she even has on this earth to accomplish these impossible tasks she’s been given.

Of all the things in the series, the only thing that I really don’t get and don’t like is how people hold Toby responsible for things she isn’t responsible for. Rayseline hates her for not rescuing  her from Simon Torquill when she was a kid – but shouldn’t she hate her dad – he’s the one who let his crazy brother kidnap her. Juliet, the Cait Sidhe changeling hates Toby for the death of her lover Russ – but Juliet is the one who led him out into danger and didn’t protect him. And the deepest cut of all is that Toby’s daughter and former fiancé hate her for just disappearing. Again, how is that her fault? I know she can’t tell them she was changed into a fish but people are kidnapped all the time and show up with amnesia. Most people are over the moon when their loved ones return and will forgive all manner of sins. Not that Toby did anything wrong by disappearing.

There is so much adventure. Toby spends most of her time running straight into it, often covered in blood. We learn so much more about her, about her nature and what she truly is, about her missing mother, and about some people she has known for a long time. She also learns how far the people who are supposed to love her will go to get what they want. One of them actually says

“Go in glory, Toby. If you have to die, do it well. If you can come back to us, come home.”

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