An Artificial Night by Seanan McGuire
October Daye, private investigator to San Francisco’s faerie nobility, stumbles upon her most troubling case yet. Two of her friends’ children vanish without a trace, and a third falls into an enchanted sleep from which no one can awaken her. Toby pokes around and learns that other children have been disappearing as well, both fae and human, and that an ancient and sinister power is behind the kidnappings.
Seanan McGuire wisely plays to her strengths — and Toby’s — in An Artificial Night. McGuire is a terrific writer, but concealing the villain’s identity isn’t always her strong point. It works well, then, that An Artificial Night is not a whodunit. Toby and the reader learn pretty quickly who is responsible, and the real questions are whether Toby can defeat him and how steep the price will be. The first two October Daye novels read like mysteries, but this one reads more like a grim, bloody fairy tale. Of the three it’s the closest to “straight” fantasy or to old-school urban fantasy.
As for Toby’s strengths, one of the things that has bugged me about this series is the way other characters seem convinced Toby is the biggest badass who ever badass’d. She isn’t. She’s actually pretty underpowered for her world and often loses fights. Sheer toughness is not what makes her a hero. An Artificial Night features some great exploration of whether Toby is a hero, and if so, what qualities make her worthy of the term.
McGuire also develops Toby’s relationships with several beloved secondary characters (Tybalt and the Luideag are my favorites). In one moving scene, Toby learns that there really are people out there who have her back. I’m not sure what I love more about this scene, the way it ties into folklore or the way it brings home to Toby that she isn’t alone in the world.
The plot is creepy and compelling, and makes probably the best use of faerie lore we’ve seen yet in the series. The fae realm comes to life in all its beauty, and its horror, and its tricky bargains. I liked A Local Habitation just a bit better personally — I think in part because there was more comic relief — but this is a worthy addition to the series and is almost certainly the best-plotted of the three books so far.
I also had the opportunity to listen to the audiobook version produced by Brilliance Audio. I highly recommend it. Toby needs a very specific kind of voice, and Mary Robinette Kowal provides it. Her voice is low, expressive, with just a touch of ironic humor about it. I don’t think I’d have been able to stomach a chirpy, breezy Toby Daye!
This entry in the TOBY DAYE series delves deeper into folklore, concentrating on the Wild Hunt. It has always been plain that fairies aren’t necessarily good guys in McGuire’s world, but they are even less so here. Toby’s character, and her relationships with those around her, deepen in this book as well.
October Daye — (2009- ) Publisher: The world of Faerie never disappeared: it merely went into hiding, continuing to exist parallel to our own. Secrecy is the key to Faerie’s survival — but no secret can be kept forever, and when the fae and mortal worlds collide, changelings are born. Half-human, half-fae, outsiders from birth, these second-class children of Faerie spend their lives fighting for the respect of their immortal relations. Or, in the case of October “Toby” Daye, rejecting it completely. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating into a “normal” life. Unfortunately for her, Faerie has other ideas.The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose, one of the secret regents of the San Francisco Bay Area, pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening’s dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby is forced to resume her old position as knight errant to the Duke of Shadowed Hills and begin renewing old alliances that may prove her only hope of solving the mystery… before the curse catches up with her.