This is one of my new favorite series. It follows October (Toby) Daye, a half-fae changeling who lives in San Francisco and works as a private investigator and Knight for the knowe of the Shadowed Hills. An Artificial Night is the third book in the series. I reviewed the first two here:
Book 1: Rosemary and Rue –
Book 2: A Local Habitation –
The Premise: In this installment, Toby becomes involved when her friends Mitch and Stacy call her in a panic because two of their children are missing from their beds, and a third will not wake up. Shortly afterwards more children are discovered gone, including those of the Cait Sidhe, and Quentin’s human girlfriend, Katie. Signs point towards Blind Michael and his Wild Hunt that runs every 100 years. He is one of the Firstborn and no one who has tried has been able to stop him. To try is certain Death. When Toby’s Fetch shows up at her doorstep, it only confirms her impending demise, but because children are involved, Toby refuses to walk away.
**** If you haven’t read the first couple of books, I suggest you go off and read the earlier reviews. This one has minor spoilers for them *****
My Thoughts: This is a book where the mystery differs from the first two books in that Toby doesn’t spend the whole book trying to figure out who has the missing children and why. The main problem is really How to Get Them Back and Not Die in the Process. It’s refreshing not to have Toby completely clueless about what’s going on, but she does need help from her friends. In An Artificial Night we see a lot of characters we’re now familiar with. She has to go to Lily, the Lady of the Japanese Tea Gardens, the Duke and Duchess of the Shadowed Hills (Sebastian Torquill and his wife Luna), the Luidaeg, Quentin, Connor, and Tybalt. Toby makes much use of these allies, but they are not always able to tell her everything she needs to know or to follow her into Blind Michael’s lands because of certain Rules of Faerie.
It’s interesting to see the dynamics during all of this. First we see the reactions of everyone when they are sure that Toby is walking into her death. That her Fetch has shown up only reinforces their concerns. It’s telling that she has a limited lifespan while those around her do not. Secondly, because they think Toby is going to die, I think we see a few things from her friends that they would usually keep hidden. I think we learn a lot, particularly about Luna. We also gain more information about Faery and how it works. Particularly about some of the first races since Blind Michael is one of the Firstborn. There’s a pleasing mix of nursery rhyme, complexity, and strange rules which continue to make the world build satisfying. I think the grit and otherness and the Terrible Beauty is as Faery should be.
This is a series where much of my thrill is catching hints throughout each installment about much bigger story arcs. One of those is about Toby herself. Her past is something we’ve discovered in bits and pieces – and it’s only the most recent past (being turned into a goldfish for many years), that Toby has directly explained. Her past as a child, and her famous mother Amandine, are things we sometimes catch brief glimpses of and they feel like they may be important in the future. There are some cryptic remarks by many characters, that I don’t think she notices, but they’re repeated enough in this book that I’m SURE they’re important. I’m having a fun time puzzling it out and I have a few theories. The other thing I’ve been keeping an eye out for is hints about Toby’s romantic interests. As in the previous books, Toby runs into both Connor, a married selkie that she had a romantic past with, and Tybalt, King of the Cats. I’m firmly in the Tybalt camp, and I’m guilty of flipping ahead for glimpses of his character. Yep, I’m a flipper-aheader (sometimes). I was a little sad in the flip through that there’s not much Tybalt in these pages, but, after reading through it all, what there is enough to sustain me. So far it’s been very light on the romantic elements, but there’s enough possibility to keep me hooked.
Anyway, this book is not really about romance. In fact there is more emphasis on friendships than romance, particularly between Toby and her female friends. Have I mention that I am loving the friendship that’s developed between Toby and The Luidaeg? There’s a nice buddy dynamic hidden by threats from the sea-witch there. Then there is Toby’s Fetch May, who at first annoyed me (chipper and mouthy is not charming), but she grew on me when she became less of the universe’s way of rubbing in Toby’s Death and more like another friend there to help Toby. It helped that May’s personality became more distinct and different from Toby’s. I have certain suspicions about her in the next book which I’m dying to see if I’m right about.
P.S. There is an excerpt from the next book Late Eclipses at the end of this book which has me salivating to read what happens next (it comes out in March, 2011).
Overall: What an awesome series this is. Every time I read one, it manages to make me feel a jittery need to read the next one. Luckily, McGuire seems to be a prolific writer and so far we’ve seen two Toby Daye installments a year. I highly recommend you start the series from the beginning because there are story arcs and hints that begin in the first book and are cleverly built up on in each successive installment. It becomes a game to guess where things will go, and I do find myself obsessively wondering about things days or weeks after I’ve finished a book.