In Retro-Review: An Artificial Night

Someone is kidnapping children and Toby goes to track the perpetrator down.

An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire

Published by Daw Books, Inc. on September 7, 2010. Paperback of 354 pages at $7.99.

The cover: October Daye holds a candle in her left hand as she tries to see what lurks in this urban jungle. The author’s name and a blurb from the Library Journal are at the top in white. The bottom third of the book has the title in hot pink. Notice how Toby’s right hand protrudes from the second word, showing she wields a knife for protection. The protagonist looks great on this and I love that just a bit of her fae ears are showing. The background is a bit difficult to make out, but looks to be composed of modern day pillars and blocks that have been tagged up. A fine job from Chris McGrath on this. Overall grade: A-

The premise: From the back cover, “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 and his sister falls into a coma-like state, the situation becomes way too personal. 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 gives light and protects her burns away, Toby herself will fall prey to the Wild Hunt and 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…” I’ve enjoyed the previous two Daye books, so I’m more than willing to read another of her outings. My knowledge of the Wild Hunt is based solely on Hellboy comic books, so I’m very interested to see how McGuire uses it. Overall grade: A

The characters: October “Toby” Daye is a fantastic protagonist. She’s a modern day detective with all the charisma and charm of a classic 50’s gumshoe, but she’s also half fae, so she has abilities slightly better than most humans, thought those abilities don’t get her too far with those who are wholly fantasy based. Her dialogue is great, with her wisecracks and self-deprecating humor fantastic. She’s not a perfect hero and that’s what makes her a wonderful character worthy of several books. New to this series is Toby’s Fletch, May Daye. She looks and sounds like Toby and she’s present to tell the detective she’s soon to perish. There’s a quite a bit of humor with this character not only for obvious mistaken identity issues, but as a good sounding board for the hero. Tybalt, a one hundred percent Cait Sidhe — a being that can turn from a cat into a man — and King of Cats, comes to Toby to ask for help in finding the individual who stole four children from his court. He’s a sexy, cocky know-it-all of a man when in human form, so it was great to see him asking Toby for help. Plus it allowed Toby to continue question whether she should have feelings for him. The villain is indeed Blind Michael, a fae looking lord whose ears taper into antler horns. He is much more powerful than Toby and wants the children to change them into new members of his — literally — twisted family, or into horses if they don’t meet his standards. Naturally he wants to fight Toby though games to win the children back. His minions make for a good throng of misshapen obedient soldiers. These characters are all fun. Overall grade: A

The settings: The home of Mitch and Stacy Brown is visited several times in the book as it’s the location where little Andrew was kidnapped. It’s your typical oversized rural home that’s always bustling with little ones, family, and friends. When Andrew is taken this house goes from idyllic to ominous. Very cool! The highlight of the book is Blind Michael’s realm. It’s continually dark, it’s got a massive castle for its ruler, and it is surrounded by a never ending forbidding forest. Death could come from any direction and McGuire makes it delightfully sinister. Overall grade: A

The action: Once Toby meets Blind Michael and accepts his challenge the book begins in earnest with the hero on the run. The action is fast and the quick decisions kept my pulse racing. Sadly, it’s after the first escape that the action began to dim. Toby has to return to the realm, and there’s decent conflict, but she’d already escaped once. After escaping the second time, she had to return a third time for the final battle. I felt like this was one too many times to the well. Overall grade: B-

The conclusion: The final battle with Blind Michael went as I expected, after all there are several exploits of Toby to read. I just wish the fight had occurred in a different location, but there are rules as the reader is told. Overall grade: B

The final line: I enjoyed the characters and the premise, though the tension waned as the book progressed. This was much more enjoyable than A Local Habitation, but not as good as her first adventure, Rosemary and Rue. I did like that it’s not necessary to read the previous books to follow this story. I will definitely return to read more of Daye’s adventures. Overall grade: B+

To see the cover visit my Instagram page: patrickhayesscifipulse

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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