An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire
Synopsis from GoodReads:
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.
I am happy to say that the October Daye series hit its stride in this book, at least as far as I’m concerned. The first two had their ups and downs and I wasn’t fully sold on them, but since I enjoy McGuire’s other work I stuck with it – and I am so glad that I did.
The fae continue to be their wonderful, weird, terrifying selves in this novel, whether full-blooded or not. It continues to be wonderful to see them in the full range of what the fair folk should be. McGuire’s continued talent with that is delightful and probably a large part of what makes this series for me, considering that all the main characters are fae, either full-blooded or half-blooded.
And I think Toby herself hit her stride, for me, in this novel. She’s accepted who and what she is in a way that she hadn’t previously, and it’s much less jarring now to see her inner monologue contrasted with her actions and decisions. It’s…smoother, I guess is the best way to put it.
Blind Michael was a fascinating villain. His relationships with some of the other characters – new and old – were great, especially since I read the short story “The Fixed Stars” just after I finished this (a short story that includes both a younger Michael and a younger Luidaeg with a very different relationship). And of course everything about his ‘children’ was so wonderfully creepy. This was a Wild Hunt to truly be terrified of, for more reasons than one.
Toby was far from the only character to gain significant development in this novel, although of course hers is what we see the most of given the first-person nature of the series. But Quentin is growing into his own, although I’m curious if his parents will consider him ‘tainted’ by his interactions with humans and changelings. And we’re seeing more sides of Tybalt – although I’m surprised by exactly none of them, given what I called way back in book one. Luna and Sylvester surprised me, to some degree, with what we saw from them, but mostly in a good way – or at least an interesting way. And for a new character May had a lot of changes. I can already tell that she’s gonna be fun if she sticks around. Of course the Luidaeg is probably still my favorite character. She’s so awesome.
My only complaint is the way nature vs. nurture was interpreted in this book. I don’t want to say too much for fear of spoiling things, but I read a certain discussion about one of the characters as an implication that both she and her parents had no choice in the way she turned out because of her bloodline. I really hate this argument because I think that, given her parents, things could have changed – were it not for a different part of her backstory. But that’s personal opinion.
One of the series’ long-running mysteries still feels very jarring and unsettling, but we’re not really looking at exactly how Luna and Rayseline ‘escaped’ or ‘were freed’ from wherever they were pre-series. It just feels like a dangling thread and I’m hoping it gets addressed sooner rather than later.
4 out of 5 stars.